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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne “Under the sea
Under the sea
When the sardine
Begin the beguine
It's music to me
What do they got? A lot of sand
We got a hot crustacean band
Each little clam here
know how to jam here
Under the sea”

- Sebastian the groovy Caribbean Crab

The perfect soundtrack for Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas really. I bet Captain Nemo wishes he’d thought of it.

The direct translation of the full title of this here book is Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas: An Underwater Tour of the World*, note the S at the end of “Seas” also, the tour spans multiple seas you know. The book really is what it says on the tin, a large part of it book reads like a travelogue with more marine biology infodumps than I know what to do with. This aspect of it is a little like [b: Moby-Dick|153747|Moby-Dick; or, The Whale|Herman Melville|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327940656s/153747.jpg|2409320]*, the difference is that Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas (eff the extended title) is much more accessible and less dry (haha!). The version I read is translated from the original French by F. P. Walter with an excellent introduction by Mr. Walter that is informative, not too long and creates a nice sense of anticipation.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas, as you probably already know, is the adventure of Professor Pierre Aronnax, his ridiculously faithful servant Conseil, and the ruff 'n' tuff, love-em-and-leave-em, wham-bam-thank you-maam, Ned “Is that a harpoon or are you just happy to see me” Land. That sentence went on so long I train of thought has derailed... Oh yes! The adventures of the above-mentioned fellows in the Nautilus, a super-submarine captained by the mysterious Nemo***. Basically, Prof Aronnax and co go hunting for a creature they believe to be a mega-whale which they believe to have sunk several ships in the ocean and has to be stopped. As luck would have it, their own ship is sunk and the creature they are hunting turns out to be the high-tech submarine the Nautilus. Fortunately for them, Captain Nemo is nice enough to rescue them and take them on board his sub, less fortunate is that he won’t allow them to leave the Nautilus – ever!

From then on Prof Aronnax’s first person narrative takes us along on this extraordinary voyage. The 20,000 leagues of the title refers to the distance, not the depth, covered by Aronnax’s voyage on board the Nautilus, which mostly takes place under the sea. I see what you did there Mr. Verne! I have to confess I am not an enthusiast of marine biology so my mind did float off to other places during some of the more educational passages. In all fairness, the book never bored me though, the tone of the narrative is always affable and pleasant to breeze through. If you are familiar with Disney’s awesome 1954 adaption of the book you will already know what to expect at the climax of the book involving a giant octopus (called devilfish in the book). This scene is brilliantly depicted by Verne, I was surprised how vivid and effective it is even in written form.

The central characters are quite well developed, though I did find Conseil to be subservient to a fault:

“He's in Master's employ, he thinks like Master, he speaks like Master, and much to his regret, he can't be counted on to form a majority.”

In a scene where oxygen was running out of the Nautilus, Conseil says "Oh, if only I didn't have to breathe, to leave more air for Master!" . For heaven’s sake man, get some agency! Ned Land may be a little plebeian but at least he is his own man. The faithful servant Passepartout from Verne’s [b: Around the World in Eighty Days|54479|Around the World in 80 Days|Jules Verne|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1308815551s/54479.jpg|4537271] is very similar to Conseil, but he is much more independent and even goes off on a solo adventure for a while. Aronnax is the least interesting of the main characters, but he makes a good narrator. Captain Nemo is, of course, awesome. A sort of Sherlock Holmes crossed with Batman – with gills (well, no gills but I bet he wishes he has them).

I generally prefer Verne’s [b: Around the World in Eighty Days|54479|Around the World in 80 Days|Jules Verne|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1308815551s/54479.jpg|4537271] to this one, as it has less slack and moves along at a brisker pace. Still I like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas, it is very amiable and entertaining to read.


* “Vingt mille lieues sous les mers: Tour du monde sous-marin” if you want to get all Frenchie about it.

** Can I just plug my awesome terrible review of Moby-Dick here, it’s probably an all-time worst review of this venerated book. But I like it ;) ****

*** Unfortunately the Nautilus is not yellow so I can’t, in all good conscience, quote from another song.

**** My "emojitional" Twilight review is even worse, and it gets very little love, either because it is too far ahead of its time, or too far behind! But Cecily likes it so it can’t be all bad ;)

Audiobook clearly and entertainingly read by Librivox volunteer Ms. Michele Fry. Thank you!