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Nemo Rising
byC. Courtney Joyner
Tor, HB $27.99, 368 pages
Published: December 2017

Sea Monsters attack,
Nemo sent by President
to prevent world war.

What if the basis for the story of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was fact, not fantasy? What if the actual Captain Nemo had somehow been apprehended before 1865, taken prisoner by the United States of America for crimes against humanity? And how would political, religious, and military leaders react if, after the capture and sentencing of Captain Nemo, the destruction of international shipping resumed, all of it in US-controlled waters?

In 1870, President U.S. Grant is receiving urgent and increasingly threatening telegrams from around the world, demanding that the attacks on their ships cease and reparations be made. At the urging of his sensible confidant, John Duncan, Grant reluctantly sets out to visit the notorious Libby Prison, where prisoners of war continue to be incarcerated and where Nemo has been interred, sentenced to death, pardoned by Lincoln, sentenced to death anew by Johnson, and now entirely Grant’s problem, as if he didn’t have enough of those.  The question is: Is Nemo somehow behind the deadly attacks by sea monsters? As nearly every European nation prepares to avenge their dead, a passionate Grant strikes what he calls a devil’s bargain with the dispassionate inventor, promising to return him to his Nautilus if he will use his resources to put an end to the uncanny attacks at sea.

But the President does not speak for all Americans. Many of them want to kill the strange foreigner, the xenon, who has caused the death of so many of their countrymen in the past, and they have no intention of honoring Grant’s promise of parole— never mind that most of them were simultaneously trying to kill their own countrymen. If Nemo can survive their hypocritical wrath, he still has to restore his submarine to working order, put together a crew, and cope with a stowaway before he can track the sea monsters and lift the veil to find the mastermind behind their machinations. There are surprises, twists, and well played character-pawns — actually, the whole chessboard, including queens. As for the central character, whatever you love most about Captain Nemo, his philosophy, his love of nature and mastery of science, his ingenuity, his martial arts, they are all here again, as fresh as when Jules Verne first penned his masterpiece.  

This is an intensely visual novel: I could see nearly every moment of it in my mind’s eye. The most disturbing passages, to me, were the displays of anger and seething violence at the prison (well-written, but grim). My favorite scenes involved Sara Duncan, a crewman named Top Knot, and any time Nemo was centerstage.  ~~ Chris Wozney

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