If your New Year’s resolution is to read the classics, I recommend starting with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. And even if your resolution is not to read the classics, I still recommend it. It is a fantastic adventure story that’s as entertaining as it is classic.
The seas the world over are plagued by sightings of a huge “thing” that everyone believes to be some kind of sea monster. After it punches a hole in the side of a passenger vessel, the U.S. government funds an expedition to track and neutralize the threat. Professor Pierre Aronnax, an internationally respected marine biologist, and his loyal companion, Conseil, join expert harpooner Ned Land aboard a U.S. Navy frigate that goes searching for the creature. What they finally encounter, however, is not an animal at all, but a technologically advanced submarine commanded by an imposing figure who introduces himself as Captain Nemo.
My favorite part of this story is definitely Captain Nemo. Dark and enigmatic, his backstory, though tantalizingly hinted at, remains a mystery up to the end. When you read about him here, it’s easy to see why his character endures in popular culture 150+ years after the book’s initial publication. His entire history was eventually revealed in Verne’s The Mysterious Island, which is a curious crossover with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and In Search of the Castaways, but I was strangely disappointed to learn that the character’s past was disclosed in its entirety. I think I’d prefer it to remain a point of conjecture, but I’m sure I’m in the minority with that opinion.
Also, I was surprised by how many times I laughed out loud while reading this book. If the dialog in the story is any indication, Verne had a great sense of humor.
Now I want to read the rest of Jules Verne’s work. Which of his stories do you recommend I read next?