20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Finally the big enchilada. The novel, the movie, the cultural force that everyone points to when trying to describe steampunk. Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. I could write five reviews on this, but let's start with the basics.

Steampunk Factor:

Technofantasy: 15 points, Electric engines, steel tolerances, natural science. This is a compendium of scientific knowledge with reasonable extrapolation. Definitely techno, very little fantasy.

Neo-Victorianism: 30 points, Once again, a novel of the 19th century, 30 points.

Retro-futurism: 30 points, This is very much futuristic in 19th century terms, Nemo's craft is amazing and has not yet been equalled by any one  modern submarine. It also features a vision of future exploration, as well as a hope of a better future for the nations and peoples of Earth.

Intangibles: 10 points, For so many reasons. This felt like what I was looking for.

Total: 85/100 85%,  Almost as steamy as Edison's Conquest.

Wow, what a great book. Many thanks to Mike Perschon for suggesting the Completely Restored and Annotated Edition, translated by Walter James Miller and Frederick Paul Walter. This was essential for me, because after slogging through edisonades and a fairly tepid translation of Robur the Conqueror, I needed something to renew my interest in this project.

It did. It was long, but I also read this to my seven year old, who now knows more about fish than any child should, and that's after I expunged as much as I could from the  fish lists. ("Dad, you left out the bony fishes in the Mediterranean!" / Frankly, the kid scares me.) But the liveliness of the translation helped.

Everyone already knows the story, or think s that they do. Three men, castaway from their ship, are saved by Cpt. Nemo and the Nautilus and embark on a 42,000 mile journey around the world. But the book ends nothing like the movie, and there are things in the book that I never realized were in it.

Another thing that the annotated edition really helped with was to give an account of the scientific knowledge of the time.  For example, at the time of the writing the existence of Antarctica was theorized but not proven. This never occurred to me.

All in all I can see why Verne inspires, and am happy to have finally read it.







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