This hugely ambitious project takes the reader behind Jules Verne’s enigmatic, mysterious loner Captain Nemo (called Andre Nemo here). Anderson provides us with an exhilarating tale that spans a lifetime from childhood dreams and fantasies with friends Jules Verne (a masterstroke by Anderson) and Caroline Aronnax, to life on the high seas and adulthood.
The nineteenth century is an age of adventure, invention and wonder. The Victorians world was an exotic place to be explored and Nemo’s story takes the reader right to the heart of it.
Anderson’s Nemo is orphaned at an early age and takes to the seas travelling across the continents. Years pass and he is feared dead. Far from dead the intrepid Nemo discovers the lost city of Timbuktu, the hidden land at the centre of the earth, and is marooned on the uncharted mysterious island.
During his adventures he will face bloodthirsty pirates, prehistoric monsters, Arab slavers, and serves in the British cavalry against the Russians in the charge of the Light Brigade. Against all the odds he survives, becoming the captain of the futuristic state of the art vessel known as the Nautilus.
Anderson displays great imagination with a story that gives readers convincing characters with thrilling heart – pounding action. It is also about the loss of innocence. With the focus on the three childhood friends: Andre, Jules and Caroline it can also be read as a ‘rites-of-passage’ novel with a heart wrenching romance thrown in.
What I really enjoyed was the ingenious idea of Verne and Nemo existing as true-life friends with the cautious Verne staying in France but living vicariously through his friend via his works of fiction. The story has Verne’s quiet life juxtaposed with Nemo’s life of adventure. The two friends are on two very different paths but both achieve great highs and lows through the course of their lives.
There is an excellent quote by Verne at the beginning of the book which neatly sums it all up: ‘What one man can imagine, another can achieve.’
That is very apt but the book is not just about flights of fancy. We learn more about the man and what made him. This reads at times like an entertaining and poignant fictional biography much like John Pearson did with Biggles years ago.
Anderson is a skilled storyteller and this is gripping stuff – it is quite clear why he is such a prolific and successful author and proves he is more than equal to the task of brining Verne’s popular creation to life for a modern twenty first century audience. This is a story and premise that I am sure the French master of adventure and suspense would approve of. Fans of Verne will love the character references to his other works and non-initiates will enjoy a wonderfully entertaining adventure yarn.
Published 2011 by Titan Books
Review by Daniel Cann
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