I finally finished this Kindle book that I had started a while back but put aside for the David Drake-a-thon that I just finished writing up.
This is the least ‘light hearted’ of the Verne books I have read. There are amusing moments, but the book as a whole is a little darker.
In the late 1860s a strange sea monster is spotted that alternately evades and damages shipping. Finally a major expedition on the US ship Abraham Lincoln is sent to find and destroy this creature. French Marine expert Professor Pierre Aronnax, his man Conseil, and Canadian harpoonist Ned Land accompany the expedition. After a long search they encounter the ‘animal’ and in the conflict the three fall overboard and end up clinging to the beast, which turns out to be a vessel, the Nautilus, captained by the mysterious Captain Nemo.
Nemo takes them prisoner, and tells them they can never leave the ship to keep its secrets. For a time, the adventure of exploring the seas with Nemo makes up for the imprisonment, but as they learn more about Nemo’s one man war against the land nations, culminating in the attack and sinking of a ship they decide to escape when they can. They get their chance when the Nautilus is sucked – or intentionally driven – into a huge whirlpool and make their escape. Was the ship destroyed too? The book never says.
These days, when undersea subs are an everyday thing the novelty of the voyage is reduced, and the sense of wonder the book originally had is mitigated. Bur even so the glimpses of Nemo – genial host and captor, whale saver and whale killer, refugee and avenger are still compelling.