Lair of the Geek

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Kevin J Anderson- Captain Nemo: The Fantastic Adventures of a Dark Genius

The title is quite wordy, and automatically it made me pause and consider. This is not a book I would usually read, so I was a little wary about it. The cover was dark and appeared a tad bit gothic, and reading the information on the back cover gave me a slight insight to what I would be reading. It all appeared quite mysterious and exciting.
Before reading the book I took a little time to acquaint myself with the author as this was a new genre for me, I had never personally come across him before, and I was staggered with his previous portfolio. Kevin J. Anderson is the author of several epic series and collaborated with luminaries such as Brian Herbert and Dean Koontz so his pedigree was exceptional. This assuaged my previous cautious feelings about the book.
The first chapter showed us a mature Jules Verne, aged and successful in his writing career, himself the author of many books. And so the book we are given is a reminiscence on his youth and in particular, of his friendship with the eponymous Nemo. We are transported to France of the late 19th century and this is truly where Kevin J. Anderson excels. The setting was richly and elaborately described, from the sights and sounds to the very smells, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience that was being crafted for me, and this was one of the subtle pleasures this book offered me. However, I do have a slight criticism, and I emphasize that this is in fact a very slight criticism, was that at times the story would drift to historical fact and I would be left wondering of this was a book of fiction or fact.

 

The book is written expertly from the point of view of three characters, Jules Verne himself (though at a much younger age), Andre Nemo and Caroline Aronnax. These names may be very familiar with those who have read and studied the actual works from Jules Verne, and I have to say I was impressed by the amount of research Kevin J. Anderson has placed into writing this book. The three characters introduced to us are realistic and three dimensional, each having their own aims, goals and desires as well as the negatives that truly made these people come alive. I could empathise with the decisions they made, I could understand their motives and I was captured by the individual stories each one presented.
After the slower tempo of the first few chapters, the pace is surprisingly quickened with the very sudden and dramatic change for Nemo. I was offered a new and interesting story line in which I was quickly engrossed in. Each of the main characters diverged and became unique and self-reliant, independent from the other two characters. It was with Nemo that I finally saw the dark genius from the book title emerge. Here was a resourceful and practical young man who could create wonders from seemingly impractical items.
One of the many highlights of the book was when Nemo is shipwrecked on a tropical island, the wonders he created for himself gave subtle hints as to the practical intelligence he had. There were many allusions in these chapters to certain books that Jules Verne himself would write. During the time while Nemo is shipwrecked we are also viewing the younger Jules Verne hiring a boat in his hometown and how, due to his inexperience he lost control of his vessel and scuttled it by accident on the shore of a remote island. The experiences of Nemo and Verne are a testament to the many differences there was between the two characters. On one hand you have Nemo, shipwrecked on a tropical island but with all the comforts of home, and on the other hand, Verne who is completely clueless and at a complete loss stranded so close to home. It was this comparison that emerged several times that I particularly enjoyed.
The book does not stay so light and airy however, there are many shifts and changes of the fortunes of the three characters and it was delightful to see and read how they interacted and reacted to certain situations. A section that tugged at my heart was near the end, a silent meeting between two of the characters where a certain truth is offered. It was a simple few paragraphs, but in my honest opinion, it was a really profound read, especially considering the events that occurred before hand.
So in summary, I will not go into great detail regarding the book as I truly feel that to offer in depth information would spoil a thoroughly good read. The book made me smile, frown and blink in complete surprise a few times. Yes it is emotive and sometimes a little frustrating but all in all it was a very good read. Would I recommend the book? I most certainly would.

TITAN BOOKS Released 16th September 2011 £7.99

By Mart

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