Sunday, February 05, 2017

Book Report: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Jules Verne was the Michael Crichton of his time, writing well-reasoned and plausible near-future sci-fi stories that turned out to be prophetic. He is out to dazzle his readers with his knowledge and speculation of the mysteries of the deep, and makes the dry lecture material more palatable by wrapping it in a vivid, stirring story of adventurers taken as half-willing captives by a domineering genius. There's a parallel to Vernes himself as Captain Nemo, captivating readers on a journey they must accept on his megalomaniacal terms. Throughout the globe-circling adventures, Nemo's prisoners plot their escape, but their efforts are halfhearted because they can't fully commit to stop wanting to see what happens next if they stay aboard the submarine. Nemo is every author, and M. Arronax, Ned Land and Conseil are the warring factions of a reader's psyche, battling distraction and disagreement with the inevitable course governed by one person alone. To read is to give up your agency in return for knowledge and experience you'd never otherwise be able to find on your own. That's the punishing gift Vernes doles out.

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