The revival for the French father of science fiction that began with the discovery of his unpublished Paris in the Twentieth Century (1996) continues with the first English translation of this short novel, the last Verne (1828–1905) published during his lifetime. Though famous for a handful of tales about visionary eccentrics and their technological triumphs, Verne wrote more than 60 from 1863 to 1919: some were altered by his son Michel; most, according to editor Evans (French/DePauw University) have been either badly translated, or not translated at all, and, hence, unknown to Verne's English-speaking admirers. The Invasion of the Sea, the first in what will be a series of reprints in Wesleyan's Early Classics of Science Fiction, imagines that a canal project has transformed a vast portion of the Tunisian Sahara into an inland sea. While noting the sea's positive effects on French Colonial trade, Verne, still an uncanny seer of our future, finds a villain in Hadjar, a wily Berber warlord. Having previously been content to raid camel caravans and slaughter European explorers, as his ancestors had done for centuries, Hadjar correctly views the inland sea as a threat to his brutal way of life, and turns his ragtag gang of henchmen into a band of terrorists. Journalistic explorations of North Africa and wide-eyed discourse about technology are paced with action scenes as the resourceful French Captain Hardigan tries to stop Hadjar and bring him to justice. Verne, somewhat more cynical here than in his earlier works, ends with a biblical-style catastrophe, suggesting that antimodern fanaticism might be a harder problem than making the desert bloom.
Clear, readable translation of a minor but prescient adventure novel, with useful annotations, a brief Verne biography, and 44 b&w illustrations from the original French edition.