Although Nemo, of Jules Verne’s classic Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, has been narrative fodder for decades, this engaging debut novel from Dharma and Deanna Windham puts a new spin on his mythos.
Set in the near future, the story begins as a group of oceanographic researchers fortuitously stumble across a sunken vessel in the South Pacific. After investigating the wreck, they realize that their find is historic, “a myth brought to life”: Nemo’s legendary submersible, the Nautilus. This ship is laden with treasure, but researchers discover the most valuable item inside an iron chest—Capt. Nemo’s journal. The partially destroyed record chronicles Nemo’s heart-rending transformation from an up-and-coming British naval architect named Jonathan de Chevalier Mason to the captain of the most advanced—and feared—vessel in the world. After being betrayed by his best friend, Nemo was convicted of high treason in a secret court and sent to a penal colony on a remote island, where he was expected to die in short order. But, fueled by revenge, he escaped and becomes a legend. Masterfully constructed (the missing or destroyed pages allow the authors to skip over slow spots and focus only on action or significant events), breakneck paced and adeptly characterized, this reimagining of one of literature’s most enigmatic characters is a supreme page turner, with a dash of steampunk thrown in for good measure. The epilogue, however, doesn’t compare to the rest of the book, especially since it will leave readers with niggling questions—an unpleasant dessert after a gloriously appetizing meal.
Sharp, well-shaped adventure that takes on water at the end.