WARNING: Ripping Book Reviews are solely the judgments of Professor VJ Duke on an unlucky book that has caused him much repulsion—in one way or another. Therefore, blame must be put on the professor and nobody else. With that in mind, read on—if you are brave enough to take it.
20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA by JULES VERNE
Jules Verne, The Father of Science-Fiction, one of the most translated authors in the world, caused this professor supreme repulsion in his novel 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.
Hence, a ripping is in order. A ferocious one at that.
First, let’s discuss the title. I’ve always wondered about 20,000 leagues… Just how deep is that? Well, it turns out that 20,000 leagues is about 69,000 miles. Now this presents a problem. The ocean, at its deepest, is only 7 miles. What can this mean? Well, either it means that Verne was fanciful in the extreme, or we are misunderstanding something.
Luckily, for the honor of the novel, we are misunderstanding something. It turns out that Verne did not mean to indicate by the title the depth traveled, but rather the distance traveled! That’s right. The submarine traveled 69,000 miles all about the world; it didn’t travel 69,000 miles down into…well…down into space.
Now, of course, this calls into question Verne’s title. How dare he mislead his audience like that! Why, this professor could have went about saying that in Verne’s novel a sub actually descended to a depth of 20,000 leagues! An extraordinary impossibility! Of course, this professor would have been laughed at and abused.
So, we have two options. Either Verne thought everybody would be able to understand his title, or he was playing a joke. Personally, I like that latter. For, as we shall see, Verne enjoys playing jokes throughout the novel.
Okay, plot breakdown.
An unexplained sea monster is sighted by a few nations; it even damages an ocean liner. So, an expedition sets forth to find the beast.
Early on, it is suggested that the monster is, in fact, a giant narwhal. A joke, perhaps.
Eventually, the expedition finds the monster, and they attack it. The three protagonists, who will be dealt with in a second, fall overboard. They soon find that the monster is not a monster, but a submarine. The protagonists are apprehended and brought aboard the submarine. And thus starts their journey, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.
The captain of the Nautilus (the submarine) is a man by the name of Nemo. Now, here is an interest, and perhaps another joke.
Nemo actually means ‘no-man’ or ‘no-body.’ And this turns out to be a great description of the captain. So, interestingly enough, this is a Verne joke. Nemo received his name because he is utterly bereft of character. He’s a nobody; a Nemo; a joke.
They thought it was a giant narwhal, but it was, in fact, a nobody. That had to be discouraging, fighting a nobody.
I have never read about a more characterless character in all my life! But wait! That’s not true. The other characters in this novel rival Nemo!
Nemo’s whole crew is very enigmatic, strange, and bland. They are a great mystery; they are hardly seen throughout the book, which is good. More characterless characters would be too much; they’d end up sinking the sub from lack of brains and muscular coordination!
Now we move on to the three protagonists. I beg your pardon if you find only subtle differences between them, but it’s really not my fault. Their names are the most unique things they own.
The first is a French marine biologist. His name is Professor Pierre Aronnax. And that’s the most interesting thing about him.
Next is the biologist’s helper, Conseil. Here is a portion about him:
…he had good health, which defied all sickness, and solid muscles, but no nerves; good morals are understood. This boy was thirty years old, and his age to that of his master as fifteen to twenty. May I be excused for saying that I was forty years old?
This tells a little more about the Conseil and Verne.
Conseil had good health but no nerves. Maybe this was supposed to be a joke as well. Humans have a lot of nerves. In fact, to be in good health one would need nerves. Of course, Verne might be referring to the fact that Conseil can’t handle too much action or excitement. If that’s the case, we must take his word for it since we see no evidence of that fact throughout the novel.
What we learn about Verne is that he has trouble telling the reader the ages of his characterless characters.
The third protagonist is Ned Land, master harpoonist, or, as he is frequently called throughout the book, seemingly in a derisive manner, the Canadian. This is what the biologist has to say about the Canadian:
Ah, brave Ned! I ask no more than to live a hundred years longer, that I may have more time to dwell the longer on your memory.
Maybe a joke. Or, maybe characterless characters like dwelling on other characterless characters. In any case, I can’t see what there would be to dwell on for a second let alone a hundred years.
One last scene I’d like to share with you.
The biologist is watching from the sub as Nemo and some of his enigmatic crew bury another crew member. So, when the captain returns, the biologist asks him a question:
…he [i.e. crew member buried] rests now…in the coral cemetery?
Nemo replied in the affirmative.
And the biologist says: Your dead sleep quietly, at least, Captain, out of the reach of sharks.
Pointless to say. But I think the biologist was just trying to be nice. He should have spared it, however. For Nemo takes him seriously.
The captain replies: Yes, sir, of sharks and men…
Now, I wonder why Nemo felt a need to add men right along with the sharks. In fact, I wonder why he felt a need to say that at all. It’s not like the sharks will come exhume the bodies, and dine. And I’m sure most humans would pass up the opportunity too.
Of course, maybe that is something only a nobody would worry about…