Captain Nemo by Kevin J. Anderson

I have never read an alternative history before and this book isn’t even typical for that genre. This is a cross between the scientific fantasy of Jules Verne and alternate history. Of course, that would only make sense since this is about Verne’s Captain Nemo.

For those of you who might have forgotten, Jules Verne wrote Around the World in Eighty Days, Journey to the Center of the Earth, From Earth to the Moon and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (from which the Captain Nemo comes). Anderson asks the question, “What if Captain Andre Nemo was a real person and what if his adventures inspired Jules Verne’s writings?� And so begins a fantastic tale that is a worthy tribute to Verne and his tremendous imagination. I wonder if Verne himself would have approved of this book? I suspect that the answer is a resounding yes.

This is a dark tale, but nothing else is possible if you plan to write about the dark and forbidding captain from 20,000 Leagues. Captain Nemo tells the tale of this boyhood friend of Verne who defies all odds and survives in spite of everything life throws his way. From the beginning of the book, one realizes that things are always going to take a turn for the worse. That is the tragedy of this tale. Fear not though, even though this story is characterized by cruel twists of “fate,� it has enough happy moments to keep it from being a morbid and twisted tale. Nemo floats over the African continent in a balloon and circles the globe in the Nautilus. He survives pirates, shipwreck, dinosaurs beneath the earth, war, imprisonment, injuries and the tedium of building Parisian sewers. Through all of this, you come to empathize with Nemo, Verne and the lovely Caroline. Life seems to conspire against them and their dreams.

When forced to charge with the Light Brigade during the Crimean war, Nemo’s opposition to war moves from a smoldering ember to a raging fire. Personal tragedy piled upon senseless personal tragedy turns Nemo into a cold-blooded killer who declares war on War itself. Despite all of his adventures, trials and tragedies, Anderson does not leave you feeling empty at the end of the story. He closes the book powerfully and beautifully with a truly well written ending. (Don’t spoil it by reading the ending ahead of time….)

Captain Nemo has two problems. First, there are several mild oaths in the book. Secondly, Nemo and Caroline have an affair in two places in the book. The affair is described so delicately, that I was not certain what was occurring until it was referenced later. In the end, both incidences are mentioned but not described in the least. Overall, it would rate a mild PG. Throughout the book, Caroline strives to remain honorable before society and she takes care to remain proper in her conduct with those around her.

If you want to read an intriguing fiction that is very different from most fare being offered, then pick up a copy of this book. You won’t regret it.

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