Wednesday, January 27, 2010

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

While I was off of work yesterday (being sickly) I was able to catch up on a little bit of reading.  That's about the only good thing that can occur when sick.  Regardless, I was able to finish 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  Obviously, this falls within my reading rotation under the classics category. 

This book was originally published back in 1869 and there have been numerous television and movie versions adapted to this original Jules Verne work.  I currently have the 1954 version with Kirk Douglas on que with Netflix.  This should be interesting because there is a lot of technical and specific details in the book that I'm not sure translate well to the silver screen. 

Basically, the gist of the book is that there is a mysterious sea monster, referred to as a narwhal, that has been sighted by numerous sea farers and has actually damaged a couple of ships.  An expedition is planned and there are three main characters included within this excursion by sea: Professor Pierre Aronnax, Ned Land and Conseil (Aronnax's assistant).  Everyone wants to catch this massive narwhal and be credited with ridding the oceans of this horrendous beast, no more so than the harpooner-Ned Land.  Little do these men know they are biting off more than they can chew...

Once this narwhal is "found" and they have begun trying to harpoon her...these three main characters are thrown overboard and discover that the narwhal is actually a large, metal submarine.  Once they are captured and brought inside they discover that this submarine, the Nautilus, was built in secrecy by a reclusive man, Captain Nemo.  Captain Nemo has a reclusive attitude toward society due to a handful of reasons that are never quite fully revealed...though some of his anger issues do appear to surround his wife and children whom are heavily suggested to be deceased.

Once onboard the three men are kept as "free" prisoners.  They are allowed to roam the Nautilus, but not leave lest they reveal to the world all the secrets of Captain Nemo and his Nautilus.  While onboard Professor Aronnax begins to enjoy Captain Nemo's presence and appreciate the myriad luxuries onboard the Nautilus.  The chef prepares wonderous seafood fare and there is an enormous library just to name a couple of extravagances.  However, Ned Land is never content as a to explore in and around the ship or not.  Throughout the book there are several adventures...such as, the submarine getting stuck in the ice near the South Pole and a shark hunt with specially designed guns that can be used underwater.

***Normally I wouldn't reveal the end of a book, but since this is a classic and most have either read this book or know of the story via movie or television...why not.  If you prefer me not to do this...just leave me a comment and I won't do it on the next classic. 

An escape is plotted at the end of the book where the three captives finally are able to escape.  However, the way this is done the reader (nor the other three) are aware of whether or not the Nautilus and it's inhabitants survive.  The reason being...Ned Land successfully brings to shore Aronnax and Conseil after battling a whirlpool off the coast of Norway where they "abandon ship." one knows if the Nautilus is sucked into the whirlpool or it escapes... In the end, Aronnax, who narrates the entire novel hopes that someday Captain Nemo's journal of all his experiences under the sea and onboard the Nautilus will someday be discovered.

I have to say that it took me a little while to get in to this book, but once I was in I was hooked.  Very exciting read and I can see why it has stood the test of time.  If you've never sat down and read it all the way through, or only seen one the movie versions...I recommend!

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