20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne (1870) K

Date Read: 8.13.10 (reread)
Book From: Personal Collection
Reviewer: Kakaner

Review

I recently made the perilous trek through Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentleman: The Black Dossier, which was a constant reminder that I should reread some Jules Verne. There have also just been a smattering of references here and there so I thought I’d pick up my middle school favorite, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

My experience reading it the second time around was so appallingly different from my middle school read that I couldn’t believe it was the same book. Right before I cracked the cover, I excitedly recalled the dashing, dark, mysterious, yet loveable Captain Nemo, a brave man-gang shaking their fists (harpoons and electric wands too) at giant sea squid, the hulking science-defying metal warmachine of the Nautilus,  a whirlwind of action, climax and resolution under the sea, and what I found were… dry characters and lots and lots of taxonomy. So much that I’m pretty sure there was more science in that one itsy book than in my high school biology textbook. On the one hand, I greatly appreciated the, um, education, but on the other, it was frustrating to move along in the story only to screech to a halt and have to plod through terribly strained dialogue for setting up long monologues of classification. I felt like my brain was being taxed to its limit having to conjure up all these detailed mental images of fish.

This is not to say that I think 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea lacks imagination. I still fully understand why I loved it so much, proceeded to read all of Verne‘s books I could find, and cited him as a favorite author whenever prompted. The concept, story, and scarily accurate scientific predictions were still impressive the second time around, but it would have taken a miracle for the book to have held up to the expectations I built for it.

But no, Monsieur Arronax was not quite the adventurous and fresh man of science I had always envisioned him to be, Conseil was basically a non-character, and Ned was indeed a rather infuriating spoil sport. I’m afraid I must admit that I defeatedly returned my little used copy back to its place on the shelf and called Jules Verne up to end our little affair. However, The Mysterious Island remains on my reread list because I still vividly remember it being a league above the rest of the books and I owe it to Captain Nemo to give him a second chance.

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Jules Verne

Aronnax

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  1. Javi’s avatar

    This definitely happened when I reread A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court — it moved so much more slowly and was so much denser than I remembered. I think this might have a greater effect on satires and works with a more obvious agenda.

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