Length: 340 pages
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
A mysterious sea creature, believed to be supernatural in size and ability, haunts the oceans of the world. When Scientist Pierre Aronnax gets the opportunity to embark on a voyage to capture this narwhal, he simply cannot refuse. But a strange turn of events lead to him being captured, along with his manservant, Conseil, and Canadian harpooner Ned Land, and taken aboard the Nautilus. Prisoners of the mysterious yet charismatic Captain Nemo, who calls the Nautilus submarine home and claims to have renounced all land, the three men find themselves on a journey of the world – taken through its oceans. They experience the incredible world that they didn’t even know existed under the surface of the sea, with each day bringing greater marvels than the previous. And yet, none of them can fathom what future has been decided for them by Captain Nemo – their captor whose enigmatic exterior hides a torrential fury and hatred that grows with every passing day.
I spent almost two months (maybe more) on this book. That is a very long time for a book that’s just 340 pages. To be honest, I didn’t care for it much at first, and almost gave it up after about 75 pages. But that’s when I realized that 20000 Leagues Under the Sea isn’t a book you read as you would a present day thriller. You need to read it slowly, word by careful word, and absorb each sentence as you go.
This isn’t an easy task considering the book isn’t written in a simple manner. Most of the sentences are exceedingly long, often convoluted in presentation, and kind of make you forget where you started by the time you finish them. Maybe that’s because it’s a translated piece of work. Whatever the reason may have been, the result was that it was cumbersome reading.
But since the book had come very highly recommended, I gave it another shot. This time, I read it slowly; and this is what I discovered.
The book can become monotonous when it goes into pages and pages of fish and sea animal descriptions. There is a lot of race stereotyping based on the circumstances of the time during which it was written. I say race stereotyping and not racism because it was more matter-of-fact, and was based on actual global conditions, rather than hatred born out of the personal inability to accept diversity. There is a lot of hunting involved which, I suppose, was the norm then, but can come across as a bit barbaric today.
And yet, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea deserves a 4.5-star rating. Because the book is the embodiment of the idea that a book can take you around the world, to beautiful and fantastic places, while you’re sitting in a chair.
Something about the book is so engaging that you experience every single emotion felt by all the characters. Each character is very much his own, making it easy to associate with them even though they come from a different era. And, you are pulled into the depths of the events that transpire, giving you the feeling of almost being there, witnessing it with your own eyes.
Then there’s the fact that the book beautifully depicts the complexity of the human mind and emotions. Life isn’t in black and white, hatred is born through sorrow, and curiosity can trump the greatest of fears – these are just some of the aspects of life (that by its very nature is complicated) that are wonderfully shown rather than told.
On the science fiction side, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea was definitely ahead of its time. The descriptions of the engineering that created the Nautilus are pretty amazing and while you may not even understand most of it, you’ll still find yourself being impressed by its detail and magnitude. The book truly depicts, in a variety of ways, how an elaborate imagination can conjure up brilliance and how parallels can be drawn between fiction and fact. Add to that the myriad of emotions that the story goes through – humor, sorrow, wonder, anger – and you have a novel that is thoroughly immersive. In fact, I went through the latter half of it in about four days!
Normally, I’d end my post with a mention on who would enjoy the book being reviewed. But here, I have to say that everyone who’s a reader should read 20000 Leagues Under the Sea at some point in their lives. The only tip I can offer is how to make the experience less cumbersome (because a part of it will be so) and more enjoyable. So… when you pick this book up, make sure that:
- you go slow and try and really absorb each sentence
- you read when you have time to spare, because this isn’t a book you can read fast
- you make the most of the paragraphs-long descriptions of sea creatures, because there are some pretty beautiful sights in there
Let us know what you thought of 20000 Leagues Under the Sea and/or this review. Drop us a comment below! And thanks for stopping by!