Yesterday I decided that I wanted to reread Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. I had read it eons ago, and I figured it would be interesting to read it from an adult perspective. I got as far as the Table of Contents before realizing that either Jules Verne had been a perfect moron, or the book had been translated by one.
That may seem like a shocking assertion, but what I found while going over that TOC was that Chapter XX in Part II had the following title: From Latitude 47° 24′ to Longitude 17° 28’… say what? Latitude and longitude define a single point, so there’s no going from latitude to longitude, end of story. Having read that I headed for Project Gutenberg and looked up the original. In French that chapter is called Par 47°24′ de latitude et de 17°28′ de longitude (In Latitude 47° 24′ and Longitude 17° 28’). That was a relief, I had spotted my moron and it certainly wasn’t Verne.
A bit of additional digging (i.e. a quick trip to Wikipedia) confirmed that the book had been essentially gutted by a man by the name of Lewis Page Mercier in what is in fact the standard English translation, but in addition to that I also found that there was a far more accurate version which was produced in 1966 by Walter James Miller… and that he had also been kind enough to release it into the public domain. It is available via Project Gutenberg here: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2488.
I haven’t tackled it yet, but I am looking forward to it. The thing is that if you read this one as a kid you may want to go back to it and have another look. I also want to thank Mr. Miller, and whoever else happens to be responsible for this decision, for making this work available for free.
About a month ago I decided to take a small break from the classics and tackle Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy instead. Over all it was an interesting experience. I enjoyed the hard approach to science fiction, and the fact that the science part of the equation is pretty much up to date was a nice change of pace from the ’50s take on the future I had been dealing with lately (the books were published between 1993 and 1996). As many have said before me, reading this series comes as close to going to Mars as most of us are likely to get, in fact at times it is a little too detailed for my liking.
The books chronicle the colonization and terraforming of Mars (Red refers to the original surface, Green refers to the appearance of plants and Blue to the presence of liquid water on the planet’s surface) as viewed by the original colonists and some of their descendants, and to say that the author has done his homework in that regard would be putting it mildly. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books, though I have some problems with the third one. So what went wrong? Continue reading Red, Green and Blue→
While in the midst of a classic SF binge the other day I wound up reading Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End.
Without giving too much of the plot away, the book deals, among other things, with the impact on Earth of the arrival of a protective alien species, known simply as ‘the Overlords’, that essentially reshapes human society.
As is the case with most visions of the future dating back more than fifty years (the book was first published in 1953) this one obviously gets quite a few things wrong… but I was amazed by how many details it actually gets right. Things like the advent of effective contraception and DNA testing, the ease of modern surveillance and the impact of our media saturated culture on our lives (to say nothing of our waistlines)… only we have managed to do it ourselves, no alien Overlords required at all. Continue reading Let’s tell the future→
Laira 4 was overwhelmed when the 5 was placed in her arms for the first time. She had seen babies before, of course, but the mere notion that something so tiny could actually be a human being had always amazed her. She was reassured by the presence of the others, all five of them were together, as they were meant to be. It had been almost thirteen years since they had had a 5. Granted, there would be one only for a few years, but that didn’t really matter. Continue reading Laira (excerpt)→