What one man can imagine, another can achieve
There was a time when science fiction didn’t mean outer space battles, or exploration of worlds beyond the farthest stars. The earliest days of science fiction could be said to have taken place on Earth. Jules Verne is one of the most celebrated authors of that time; Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. 20,000 Leagues, in fact, has Verne’s best known antagonist, Captain Nemo. And Nemo is the star of a new book bearing his name.
The book works of an interesting premise-Captain Nemo was real; Andre Nemo is a friend of a young man named Jules Verne, and is his rival for the affections of Caroline Aronnax. The pair of friends come from different backgrounds-Jules from a family of wealth, and Andre from poverty. But Jules is the dreamer; it’s Andre who acts on his dreams; in fact, the early pages of the book details Andre’s work on a prototype diving suit.
Events start moving fast when Andre’s father dies in an accident, and he is forced to seek his own destiny on an English ship sailing around the world. This event starts Nemo on adventure after adventure; most of these adventures later serve as the inspiration for Jules Verne to write his famous novels, changing names as needed. As time passes, Jules and Caroline move on with their lives, as Nemo is given up for dead.
I picked this book up on a lark, honestly. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve read any of the classics, and Captain Nemo gave me an excuse to revisit that time for a while. Kevin Anderson has managed to do a credible job on recreating that time, while populating it with the fantastic events that Nemo keeps running into. The pacing of the book felt a little slow, but I’ve probably been spoiled by the modern day sci-fi books; again, the pacing fits the time that this book is set in. Some readers may not be thrilled by the lack of action in this book.
The characters besides Nemo are not exactly heavily fleshed out; the most significant thing about Jules and Caroline is that they fit the loose triangle together. While romance is involved in this book, it isn’t exactly a major theme. Other characters have a transitory feel to them, as Anderson covers a lot of books in a single novel. We do, however, get a good idea of the character of Andre Nemo, and that’s how it should be.
Fans of the classics may appreciate Captain Nemo. Other readers who will appreciate this book are folks who enjoy novels that are set as historical novels (specifically the late 1800’s). I thought it was pretty nice for a while to go read an older style of science fiction; it’s a nice change of pace.