My first Jules Verne was Journey to the Center of the Earth, but I was too young (middle school) to properly appreciate what I was reading. Yes, Verne writes rollicking yarns, but they’re also wrapped up in nineteenth century novels.
So, after a fashion, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is my first Jules Verne. And it is thrilling, but also terribly didactic.
If you watched the Kirk Douglas, James Mason, you might be surprised to learn that Captain Nemo (James Mason) saves the life of Kirk Douglas (Ned Land) from the squid, not the other way around, as in the movie (though there was an earlier incident where Ned slays a shark en route to eating to Nemo). Also, it’s not a single, giant kraken, but rather a school of large, but not outlandishly, never before seen large squids.
The description of live underwater and the workings of the Nautilus are interesting, but it is Captain Nemo who holds the reader’s attention. As he loses his equilibrium, the captain’s mysterious revolutionary anger and search for some obscure vengeance becomes more compelling. He becomes less of a distant, cold killer and becomes someone whose motives maybe hidden, but whose emotions are eminently relatable.