Too much time has passed since I added to my Ebook Classics collection, but I have a good reason. I've been savoring my reading of 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas by Jules Verne. This is an outstanding novel that in my opinion remains at the pinnacle of the science fiction genre for its scientific foundations, lavish detail, social commentaries, and pure ability to entertain.
Reading this novel took me into the illusion of the ocean's tranquility. The beautiful and vast underwater-scapes of Jules Verne's novel immersed my imagination in the wonders hidden from terrestrial life. I disconnected from the societies of the land while experiencing life on the Nautilus and shared in the distraction of the heroes in the tale who are the prisoners of Captain Nemo. But the wonders of the novel's underwater tour of the world could not entirely make me or the heroes forget that Captain Nemo was mysterious, strange, and utterly disturbing. Nemo and his loyal crew even spoke in a language specific to the Nautilus that emphasized the isolation that the main characters experienced. They were trapped without allies on a seemingly inescapable underwater vessel, and the only man they could converse with was the brilliantly insane Captain Nemo.
Nemo is at the heart of this classic novel. All the characters and settings are lovingly conceived and crafted, but it is the Captain who ignites the novel with the true power to entertain generations of readers. His disdain for human society that caused him to retreat to the oceans made me empathize with him because his criticisms rang true, like in this scene:
I went below to the lounge, from which some chords were wafting. Captain Nemo was there, leaning over the organ, deep in a musical trance.
"Captain!" I said to him.
He didn't hear me.
"Captain!" I went on, touching him with my hand.
He trembled, and turning around: "Ah, it's you, professor!" he said to me. "Well, did you have a happy hunt? Was your herb gathering a success?"
"Yes, captain," I replied. "But unfortunately we've brought back a horde of bipeds whose proximity worries me."
"What sort of bipeds?"
"Savages!" Captain Nemo replied in an ironic tone. "You set foot on one of the shores of this globe, professor, and you're surprised to find savages there? Where aren't there savages? And besides, are they any worse than men elsewhere, these people you call savages?"
Although Nemo seems to lump all people into the category savage, he possesses a soft spot for those who suffer the exploitation of unjust society. This is shown when he gives a bag of pearls to a pearl diver he and the others save from a shark attack. The gift is meant to spare the man from the exploitative work of pearl diving that pays only pennies and will eventually claim his life.
The narrator of the story, Professor Aronnax, is puzzled by Nemo's compassion for the poor diver from Ceylon because Nemo had always expressed his disgust with the people of the world. In this scene Aronnax questions Nemo on this point.
When I shared these impressions with him, he answered me in a tone touched with emotion: "That Indian, professor, lives in the land of the oppressed, and I am to this day, and will be until my last breath, a native of that same land!"
Captain Nemo is indeed an enigma, which always makes for the best sort of characters in a novel.
I highly recommend this novel to all lovers of fiction, not just those who like science fiction. This novel is most deserving of the label classic. To add it to your ebook library in a quality DRM-free format of your choice, visit the page I created for the 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas ebook.