20) Jules Verne – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
This is an old translation now in the public domain and available from FeedBooks. I loved this book when I was a child (although I had a children’s classics edition, which undoubtedly was abridged). But I haven’t read it for decades, so I was curious to see how well it would hold up for an adult reader in the twenty-first century. The answer is “surprisingly well”. The advanced technology described by Verne is now commonplace rather than the stuff of science fiction, and the book suffers from large chunks of info-dumping about sea life that becomes very repetitive after a while, but Verne’s point of view character still does a splendid job of conveying his sense of wonder at the things he sees during his months as an involuntary guest of Captain Nemo aboard the submarine Nautilus. I skimmed some of the infodumps, but many of the scenes still have the power to thrill, and Verne does a nice job of slowly unfolding the personalities and histories of his characters.
This book is one of the roots of the modern science fiction genre, and although time has not been kind to it, I’m glad to have read it again. It’s staying on my Cybook, and I may well go and find a modern translation to read at some point in the future.