Suffused, of course, with the scientific spirit, '20,000 Leagues' presents the sea itself as the alien environment to be explored. There is plenty of vivid writing here, though this central notion - the sea as exotic world - is not quite enough to carry to entrance the modern reader. Another dated classic then, of historical importance, no doubt, but plagued with an obsession with measurement and classification. The moments where we are engaged are, interestingly enough, the moments when Verne drifts into the fantastical: his depiction of Atlantis, giant cuttle-fish, the 'maelstrom'. Still, what engrosses the reader is the un-explained mystery of Captain Nemo who has rejected human society and at the same time aligns himself with the oppressed. Nemo's hatred of imperialism and colonialism at times becomes nihilistic - and the source (and underlying story) is something which always hovers off-page, luring us on. In captain Nemo, we have one of the great anti-heroes of literature, and his allure is not to be found in the scientific, but in the social, political and psychological.