Sunday, April 20, 2003

The Nautilus Sanction

by Simon Hawke

As I was finishing up 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I got the hankerin' to pull this one off the shelf. This is the fifth book in Simon Hawke's Time Wars series, in which time travelers have adventures in the points in "history" which inspired some of Western civilization's great tales of wonder or heroism. In this case, the Temporal Corps, allied with science fiction writer Jules Verne and whaler Ned Land, have to stop a villain who has stolen a nuclear sub and is hiding out in the waters of the mid-19th Century. Mr. Hawke starts off paralleling 20,000 Leagues fairly closely, substituting Jules Verne for Verne's character Aronnax, but once they encounter the Nautilus, the story ventures far afield as the characters travel to 1807 to encounter pirate Jean Lafitte and finally ends up in a climax reminiscent of a James Bond movie. It is still an enjoyable read and I enjoy Mr. Hawke's characters, but the Ned Land and Captain Drakov of The Nautilus Sanction can't really compare to the "real" Ned Land and Captain Nemo. All in all, it's entertaining waiting room material.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2003

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

by Jules Verne

Hoo boy, talk about a philosophical adventure! A major chunk of this book is the narrator describing the geography, flora and fauna of the world's oceans. A yawner right? Well, no, not really. The story of this book is that in the late 1860's there are reports of ships encountering a mysterious creature. A couple of ships are actually attacked by this beast, so a U.S. naval ship is dispatched to hunt it down. In the course of the hunt, the narrator, an assistant professor at the Paris Museum of Natural History, and two companions are knocked overboard and discover that this leviathan is actually a submarine captained by a mysterious man known as Nemo. Nemo takes the three men aboard, refusing to release them lest they reveal his secrets, yet in all other ways treating them as passengers. As the story progresses, the sub, the Nautilus, travels about and the characters encounter the wonders and dangers of the world's oceans. Between the biology lectures, the mystery of Captain Nemo is also slowly revealed. The climax is somewhat tame, compared to late 20th century fare, but all in all it's a satisfying and well written. Y'all should check it out.

LibraryThing link

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Saturday, April 05, 2003


by Frederic S. Durbin, illustrated by Jason Van Hollander

I'm told that the author is going to be reading this review, so it will have to be a positive one. Fortunately, I don't have to lie. Dragonfly is a great read. The premise is nothing new--a  child has adventures in a mystical realm. But unlike Dorothy, Meg Murry or the Pevensie children, Bridget Anne (also known by the nickname Dragonfly) heads down to a dark realm--the essence of Hallowe'en. Not quite hell, but much closer than any other "faerieland" of which I've read. But it's not all blackness, either. There is love and hope and faith amidst the suffering and death. Mr. Durbin does a very good job of bringing the story to life, weaving together the plot and characters. Nothing is wasted--details that I just thought of as embellishment suddenly turn out to be important to the plot. One of the folks who reviewed Dragonfly at said that the book reminded him of Ray Bradbury. Me, I was reminded of C.S. Lewis, partly because of the basic premise, partly because of the underlying Christianity of the heroes. (And partly because the only Bradbury I can recall reading is Farenheit 451.) But despite Mr. Lewis' skill in portraying good and evil characters, his fiction comes across as a weekend gardener--a tad dirty, but still very prim and proper. Dragonfly, to continue the metaphor, is more like a real farmer, for whom sweat and dust are a part of daily life. I really enjoyed reading this and I'm going to put it on my shelf so I can read it again. I suspect it will only get better the second time around.

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