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Saturday, March 03, 2007

TBR Challenge for February

From your TBR pile choose the book that was written the longest time ago. Go ahead and estimate if your TBR pile is as massive as mine.

To participate, post a comment here or on your blog telling what you read, how it fit the challenge, what you thought of it, and how long it had been in your TBR pile.

I chose:

*** 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. Science fiction.

One of the far too many classics I'd never read. I did read this in February, by the way--just didn't get around to posting it in time.

If you don't know the story, it's about a naturalist, Professor Arronax, and his assistant on a quest to find the giant sea creature that's been menacing the seas. But the sea creature turns out to be a submarine, the Nautilus, and they're joined by the harpooner Ned Land in being rescued/captured by its crew when their attack on it fails.

I definitely encountered this book far too late to fully enjoy it. Like when I tried re-reading Tolkein a couple of years ago, I found I lacked the patience to read through pages and pages of interminable description. There were several times when I just couldn't stand it any longer and I'd put the book down and go do something else. Only sheer stubbornness made me finish it.

The story itself was interesting, though the style of the times was a bit of an obstacle. The enigmatic Captain Nemo is never fully explained, nor are the professor and his two companions. It's left up to the reader to fill in the blanks. The professor's unconcern about his imprisonment on the submarine is partially explained by his fascination with the undersea worlds he encounters; the complacence of his assistant and Ned Land are less understandable. Ned Land does try to escape occasionally, but he's portrayed as narrow-mindedly violent because of that, which I found peculiar.

I do see why films were made from this--condensing those descriptive passages into scenery would make the action and adventure parts of the story stand out more. I've never seen one, but I'm thinking of adding one to the Netflix queue. Any suggestions of which version to try?

In short, I'm giving this 4 stars for the story, but 2 stars for the pain of reading it.

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