This book has all the things which annoy me about supposed "great" literature.
It is excessively poetic. (Not a fan of poetry).
It is wordy for the sake of it. (Big fan of directness).
There is relatively little direct narrative. (I like a plain and simple central thread).
Its full of clever devices. (Like my English not mucked about with)
But it is magnificent! I'm pretty sure that I didn't properly follow a lot of it but it doesn't matter. Some of the words made no sense but the sounded beautiful. Some of the scenes were meaningless to me but they were magic to listen to. The whole thing was a joy to listen to.
One of the other reviewers suggest that you should be familiar with this book in print before listening to this but I disagree. I suspect that if I had tried to read this from paper I would have made it t about page 12 before throwing it out of a window. It was made to be read out loud and if there is a better version available than this I'm not sure I would be able to cope with it.
Jim Norton gives each character just enough depth to make him distinguishable wthout creating any cartoon Irishmen in the process. There are a few sections read in a female voice. (Marcella Riordan - who should get a narrators credit). Double handed narration can be clumsy but this is perfectly judged. Overall - an excellent listen.
Some classic books are enjoyable just because they are brilliantly written and tell a fascinating story. Some are interesting because they tell us as much about the time in which they were written as they do about themselves. This is in the second category.
I love a good science fiction work. But I'm beginning to suspect that Verne is not my style. There are very large sections of this book which become effectively a shopping list of the names of species. This is OK when it is a name or two but when you wake up and realise that you have been listening to a list of different fish species for the last few minutes it gets a bit frustrating. And then when it carries on for what must translate into several pages of text it just gets annoying. Now when the book was published this probably made great reading because much of the natural world was just being codified. However, once you've seen a David attenborough documentary or two it becomes necessary to grit your teeth and bear up to get through it. There are also many passages that consist primarily of the mathematical formulae necessary to build a submarine which, again, might show the author as being a clever man but kind of limit his appeal as a narrative story teller.
But that is in fact what makes the work interesting. Not because it IS interesting but because it WAS interesting. It gives some idea of the thirst and desire that the late 19th Century had for all this stuff. It shows that in the absence of the National Geographic Channel there was a mass market that wanted to find out how stuff works and what they could do with it. So this book is really a cross between the Great Exhibition and The Public Aquarium at London Zoo. Its a museum piece. It should be read not because its a great story (its OK but no better) or because its great writing (always difficult to judge in a traslation) but because its a barometer of its time and probably a pretty good one at that.
The narration is good. Clear and with no excessive characteristion. There is an introduction by Ray Bradbury which contrasts this work with Moby Dick and draws comparisons. Not sure that it added much for me but it might be a bonus if you have to write an exam paper anytime.
Basically if your interestedin the history of science or literature you should read this. If not, then maybe not.