Captain Nemo: The Fantastic History of a Dark Genius

Captain Nemo: The Fantastic History of a Dark Genius

4.1 8
by Kevin J. Anderson

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Captain Nemo is the fictional life story of one of Jules Verne's most memorable characters from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island. It covers his boyhood friendship with the dreamer, Jules Verne, adventures aboard sailing ships, battles with pirates, and survival on a mysterious deserted island. Each time he returns home to his

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Captain Nemo is the fictional life story of one of Jules Verne's most memorable characters from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Mysterious Island. It covers his boyhood friendship with the dreamer, Jules Verne, adventures aboard sailing ships, battles with pirates, and survival on a mysterious deserted island. Each time he returns home to his beloved France, Captain Nemo shares the tales of his exploits with the struggling writer Verne. 

We follow Nemo's exploration of hidden caverns that lead to the center of the earth, travels across darkest Africa in a hydrogen balloon, and his imprisonment by an evil Ottoman caliph who commands the dark genius to construct a sub-marine boat, the Nautilus, in order to attack merchant ships that venture through the newly completed Suez Canal. 

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Anderson's rollicking whopper of a novel glides along smoothly in a style deliberately modeled on Verne's own. No one would miss the boat by signing on this fantastic journey." - Publishers Weekly 

"Kevin J. Anderson's Captain Nemo should be a companion book in any English class reading the works of Jules Verne. On its own, this is an incredible piece of work and I highly recommend it for anyone who loves adventure, history, steampunk, invention, or just a great story." -Steampunk Canada

"Captain Nemo is a swashbuckling mix of Jules Verne, Daniel DeFoe, and Michael Crichton stirred up by the distinctive storytelling skills of K.J. Anderson." - Terry Brooks, author of The Sword of Shannara 

"Postmodernism be damned! In this enthusiastic, skillful recreation of a Victorian adventure novel, author Anderson removed tongue from cheek and takes our literary ancestors at face value, replicating all their virtues." - 

"Captain Nemo is a riveting tale, packed with action and derring-do. K.J. Anderson seamlessly blends events of Jules Verne's real life with the plotlines of his fictional works. His portrayal of Verne is masterful: a man able to break free from the circumstances that stifle him through his vivid imagination and the inspiration provided by his lifelong friend, Nemo"- Harry Turtledove, New York Times bestselling author of The Guns of the South 

Publishers Weekly
Prolific bestseller Anderson (Hopscotch; the original Star Wars anthologies) pays dashing homage here to Jules Verne (1828-1905), one of the genre's founding fathers and creator of the brooding captain of the Nautilus, hero of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. In this fictionalized biography of Verne, Anderson postulates a "real" Andre Nemo, Verne's boyhood friend who lived the life and then some that Verne wanted but didn't dare to follow. After young Nemo's father dies in a shipbuilding accident in Nantes, Verne runs off to sea with Nemo, only to be jerked back by his dry-as-dust father to the caning of his life, then law school. Both Nemo and Verne love the luscious Caroline Arronax, but her heart belongs to Nemo alone. She patiently waits through his exotic adventures, which Verne eventually shapes into his Voyages Extraordinaires (Five Weeks in a Balloon, etc.), wildly popular whales-of-tales that made the French author wealthy and famous. Anderson's rollicking whopper of a novel glides along smoothly in a style deliberately modeled on Verne's own, yet unvexed by the scientific detail that often bogged down Verne's prose and muddied his narrative waters. Anderson's Nemo, whose stories alternate here with Verne's, is a sympathetically drawn Byronic hero, playing off the pedestrian Verne, a multitude of flamboyant pirates, Turkish caliphs, raging sea monsters and the incomparable Caroline, a proto-feminist shipping executive and composer. No one would miss the boat by signing on this fantastic journey. (Jan. 2) Forecast: This title could get a boost from the publication of Verne's last novel, Invasion of the Sea, in its first English edition (reviewed above), plus the reissue of two new editions of The Mysterious Island (one of which is noted below). Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
As young men, Jules Verne and Andre Nemo pledged to experience a world of adventures together but fate set them on two different paths. Nemo becomes an adventurer, traveling to fantastic places and encountering hidden civilizations and mythical creatures, while Verne builds a reputation chronicling his friend's exploits. The author of Dune: House Corrino (with Brian Herbert) pays tribute to one of the genre's founding fathers in a fast-paced sf fantasy reminiscent of the early pulp stories. Romance, adventure, and a new look at Verne's classic novels make this a strong addition to most sf collections. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.40(d)

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Amiens, France
February, 1873

Damp winter clung to northern France, but a fire warmed Jules Verne's writing study with sultry smoke, orange light, and dreams.

Verne had composed many of his best stories in this isolated tower room, where narrow latticed windows looked out upon the leaden Amiens sky. The bleak view reminded him of the polar wastelands in Captain Hatteras, or the Icelandic volcano in A Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Imagination had taken him to many places, both real and unreal.

Elms graced the flagstoned courtyard of the author's house on rue Charles-Dubois. Thick vines climbed the brick walls like ratlines on a sailing ship, such as the three-masted Coralie, on which a young and ambitious Jules had almost taken a voyage around the world.

Almost. At the last minute, Verne's stern father had snatched him from that real-life adventure, then punished him for "boyhood foolishness." His friend André Nemo had gone on the voyage without him. "A world of adventure is waiting for us," Nemo always said. And Nemo had done it all himself, while Verne remained at home, safe and bored.

Though he was much older now, and wealthy, Verne promised himself he would go out and see exotic lands and have exciting adventures, just like Nemo. One day.

At the age of forty-five, Jules Verne was a world-renowned writer, bursting with imaginative ideas. Persistent gray strands streaked his unruly reddish hair, and his long beard lent him a philosophical appearance. Often depicted in the French press, Verne had seen his fame grow with each successive novel. Lionized for his brilliant imagination, he was a man to whom the world turned for excitement.

And Nemo had inspired it all.

Verne's "inventiveness" was a sham. Nemo was the one who experienced all the real adventures, survived the trials, explored the unknown. Verne was merely an armchair adventurer, living a vicarious life through Nemo's exploits. If only it could have been different...

No matter. Nemo didn't want the applause or the fame anyway.

In the tower study, Verne's maplewood shelves groaned with reference books, atlases, explorers' journals, newspaper clippings — information compiled by others. He had no other way to achieve verisimilitude in his fiction. Verne had been everywhere on the planet, but only in his mind. It was safer that way, after all, and not so much of a bother.

Verne picked at the plate of strong camembert his quiet and devoted wife had left him hours before. He smeared the soft cheese on a piece of brown bread and ate, chewing slowly, deep in thought.

Nemo had once said to him, "There are two types of men in this world, Jules — those who do things, and those who wish they did."

Oh, how Verne wished he could have been there...

Ten years ago his first novel, Five Weeks in a Balloon, about a fantastic trip across unexplored Africa, had established him as a popular writer. Since then, his "Extraordinary Voyages" had made him a fortune.

Despite the fame, Verne found himself oddly envious of his old friend Nemo, the experiences he'd had, the opportunities he'd seized. Nemo had loved and lost, had come close to death any number of times, had suffered tremendous hardships, and triumphed. It seemed like such an exciting life, if one went in for that sort of thing. Nervous perspiration broke out on Verne's forehead just to think of it. Would I really have done it all, given the choice?

Verne had followed Five Weeks with A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, which explored exotic regions underground, and then Captain Hatteras, about a dramatic quest for the North Pole. Next came From the Earth to the Moon, The Children of Captain Grant, and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, all before the Franco-Prussian War had devastated the French countryside.

Ignoring the gray sleet and the skeletal elm branches outside his window, Verne added another length of wood to the fire. He closed the shutters, increasing the gloom in the study...the better to imagine dire adventures.

Downstairs, the family's big black dog barked, and his ten-year-old son Michel squealed. The rambunctious boy had an impish face, chestnut hair, and the soul of a demon. The dog barked again, and Michel shouted, chasing it around the house. Outside, when the regular train from Amiens to Paris clattered by, the engineer took malicious delight in tooting its whistle.

The clamor and disruption of daily life was enough to drive a man mad. Adventures enough for me, he thought.

The latest novel, Around the World in 80 Days, had taken him beyond success into genuine celebrity. Installments published in newspapers generated more excitement than actual news. Chapters were telegraphed around the globe; men made wagers as to whether the intrepid Phileas Fogg would succeed in his quest to circumnavigate the globe. Already, Verne had begun talks with a well-known playwright to create a stage production with real cannons and a live elephant. Very exciting.

Yet another idea he owed to Nemo's real-life exploits. Verne smiled to himself.

The popular favorite by far, however, remained the undersea adventure of the Nautilus and its enigmatic captain who had isolated himself from humanity, a man who had declared war on War itself. To Verne's surprise, the dark and mysterious villain had captured the public's imagination. Nemo, Nemo, Nemo! No one guessed the man was based on a real person.

Verne thought he'd ended Nemo's story by sinking the sub-marine boat in a maelstrom off Norway. His fictional version of Captain Nemo had perished in that vortex of waves, while the erstwhile Professor Aronnax, his manservant Conseil, and the harpooner Ned Land barely escaped with their lives.

Verne hadn't really believed Nemo would stay down, though — not even after his literary death. No, Nemo always came back.

He pushed the tea and cheese away, then stared down at the thick ledger book in which he wrote his manuscript. This massive new novel would be a challenge to his heart as well as to his storytelling abilities.

Verne had never intended to write about his friend again. He had begun this new novel, a shipwreck story, back in 1870 during the horrors of the Prussian war. Buildings had burned; desperate citizens had eaten zoo animals and sewer rats just to stay alive; and in the midst of that turmoil Verne had lost his beloved Caroline forever.

But now, two years later, the world had returned to order. The trains ran on schedule, and once more Verne was expected to release his "Extraordinary Voyages" like clockwork.

He hated to reopen old wounds, but he would force himself to write the rest of Nemo's story, the way it should be told. He knew the real André Nemo better than any man alive, the passions that drove him, the ordeals he faced. Future generations would remember Nemo's life the way Verne chose to portray it, rather than what had actually happened. He would concoct a fitting background for the dark captain. The "truth" posed no undue restrictions — M. Verne was a fiction writer, after all.

He opened a fresh inkwell and dipped the sharp nib of his pen, then scratched the blackened tip across the paper. Beginning a new story, a long story: The Mysterious Island.

Perhaps he could finally lay Captain Nemo to rest and then live his own life, seek out his own adventures. One of these days...

The words began to flow, as they always did.

Copyright © 2002 by Wordfire, Inc.

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