20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

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by Jules Verne

Published 1870

So I have been meaning to read some of Verne’s work ever since I read a biography about him almost a year ago.  I decided to start with what is possibly his most famous work, and the first of his that I read as a child.  My dad, for some reason, LOVES Jules Verne.  I think that as an engineer, Dad appreciates the technical and scientific method of writing.  Combined with the fact that Verne was quite ahead of his time–many times he writes about things that no one had even imagined at the time of his writing–this makes Verne a fun classic author.

The “20,000” part is a bit of a trick, though, considering that the ocean isn’t even 20,000 leagues deep–the narrator of the story actually travels 20,000 leagues around the world while underneath the ocean (sneaky, I know).

Verne’s strength is in his descriptions of places and natural phenomenon; his weakness is in character development.  Most of the  people in his stories (including the narrator) feel very flat.  Even Captain Nemo, with his mysterious hatred for land remains quite mysterious.  As for the narrator and his companions–well, you understand how they are going to react with the first couple of chapters, and they never surprise you for the rest of the book.

Despite this, I still recommend 20,000 Leagues.  When you read it, imagine being a young boy in the mid-1800’s, reading this story as a serial, anxiously anticipating the publication of each new chapter, full of descriptions of an aquatic wonderland far below the surface of the ocean.