Archive for January, 2010

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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

January 30, 2010

The Book: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, written by Jules Verne.  First published in 1869.  The edition read was published by Airmont books in their Classics Series in 1963.  No translator credited.

That's pretty deep.

The Setting: The Nautilus, an electric submarine, exploring the depths of Earth’s oceans in 1866.

The Story: A French scientist, Pierre Aronnax; his manservant, Conceil; and Canadian harpooning expert, Ned Land, find themselves guests (or captives) of the enigmatic Captain Nemo on his wondrous submarine.  Aronnax passes the time between exciting adventures and death defying sea bottom exploits by listing every fish, sea mammal, sea bird, and other marine creature in great detail, noting color and flavor.

The Science: Verne wants his readers to believe that every aspect of this story is plausible, and in this he succeeds.  His descriptions are exact.  The Nautilus can probably be built in fairly accurate detail based on the measurements in the book.  Verne takes pains to explain physics, geography, and engineering in such a way that the reader needs to be well educated in order to doubt him.  The age of the book only shows when Verne ventures into speculative geography at the South Pole.

The Reaction: I quite liked this book.  I don’t think I’ve ever read any Verne before, so I had no idea what to expect.  The book started off with the equivalent of newspaper headlines swirling up at you in a cliche film scene.  It moved  in to a mystery; what was this enormous, glowing creature being sighted by so many ships, and attacking some of them?  I do like Aronnax’s theory of an electric narwhal (wouldn’t that be a great band name?), as false as it turns out to be.  The book has a good pace.  I quickly tired of the constant listing of fish and marine life, and ended up skimming over it, but it made the point that there’s a lot of just looking out the window when you’re underwater.  The bits of adventure are quite good – I was very into it during the ice burg scene.  Well done, Mr. Verne.

The Cover: The cover of this edition features a very sleek Nautilus, some divers from the submarine, a giant octopus, and some normal sized fish.  The diving suits aren’t quite as Verne describes them, but they seem reasonably close.  The cover gets points for accuracy and making actual sense related to the book.

Next Up: The Time Machine, by H. G. Wells.

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About Alien Territory

January 30, 2010

The Setting: A cozy living room with a cozy red couch and a friendly black and white cat.

The Background: My husband and I love books.  We gradually become enamored of/obsessed with vintage paperbacks, especially science fiction paperbacks.  Our collection grows with each trip to the used book store.  I get the itch to read all of the vintage paperback science fiction in our collection.

The Project: To read all of the vintage paperback science fiction in our personal library in chronological order.  As of today, there are 148 books which fall under this category.

The Rules:

  1. Each book will be read, from beginning to end, no matter how ridiculous it is or how painful the prose.
  2. Books and short stories shall be read in chronological order of first publication of the work.  This will result in collections of short stories being broken up.
  3. Any new vintage paperback science fiction purchased during the course of the project shall be incorporated into the project.
  4. Books included in the project must be 1) paperback, 2) science fiction (or at least apparently so from the cover and front and back blurbs), and 3) vintage.  For our purposes, vintage paperbacks consist of those published before 1980 (more or less) with neat-o cover art.
  5. I will read approximately one book per week, or approximately fifty books per year.