The Great Eastern Q3: Story

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Language and larger concerns aside, what did you think of The Great Eastern as a story? Was it the pulpy, swashbuckling, page-turner you were led to expect? In its rising action, climax, denouement, etc. did it satisfy?

Comments

  • 1

    I have to say, not really. But it was definitely clever. The climax with both Ahab and Nemo dying felt inevitable, albeit not in how it happened. The bit I liked best was the historic detail on the Great Eastern itself; I looked up the actual history of the ship, and I'm impressed by how well that was woven into the narrative. I'm not sure what purpose the Paris Commune details served.

    I was reasonably engaged, though it was a bit heavy-going in places. I got something out of it.

  • 1

    Paraphrasing Ryan Dancey, it was 20 pages of story packed into 350 pages.

    (The writing.)

    (Oh dear.)

  • 1

    @NeilNjae said:
    Paraphrasing Ryan Dancey, it was 20 pages of story packed into 350 pages.

    (The writing.)

    (Oh dear.)

    I need not say another word!

  • 1

    The falling action was too long. Like others, I’m not sure what the section on Paris was about. The details about the ship’s later uses were unneeded. Are we to feel like the ship was a character in its own right? I never felt that way about it.

    I enjoyed the overall story. I didn’t read the blurbs promising pulp, so I didn’t feel cheated when I didn’t get it.

  • 2
    For me, the story itself was too inconsequential. Engineer is kidnapped by angry dilletante then helps get his sub ship-shape. They head off to put a stop to progress, which is (ironically) defended by a conservative madman. The engineer is forced to choose, but before he does they all die (or nearly so) in a tidal wave. And the two madmen antagonists never meet. That’s it, right? Did I miss something?

    To me, this book is the opposite of most fiction. Where most books offer up a story against the backdrop of a setting, this book offered up a setting against the backdrop of a story. Which I don’t exactly mind, since I do love settings, but I think a little less Deus ex Machina would have served the plot well.
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    @Apocryphal said:

    To me, this book is the opposite of most fiction. Where most books offer up a story against the backdrop of a setting, this book offered up a setting against the backdrop of a story.

    Amen.

  • 1

    I agree the denouement was too long. Why did he want to narrate the end of all the characters - even some of those who had just had ends. The Paris section was obviously there to say that Nemo survived and, I suppose, joined the Communards in Paris, then fell fighting in the streets - a noble fighter to the end. But why associate Nemo with this particular event? Why, in fact,_ resurrect_ him again and insert him here? That's what's lost on me. And it adds to my feeling that this, and many of the other episodes, are here to reveal the setting, which is probably the real protagonist in this story.

  • 1

    Plus Nemo's end was told by Verne in a different story. I don't like Rodman taking that away.

  • 0

    A few things here, with negatives first.

    1) I had hoped to get some insights into Brunel in terms of the sub refit, but in fact it was all handled with a quick "he had done all the work", as though Rodman couldn't be bothered to write that bit

    2) There was the whole "let's rescue the villagers" sub-plot which (I think) was supposed to establish both Nemo and Brunel as forward-thinking chaps who would want to look after their workforce. But again, all we hear is a kind of "it all worked out OK" line.

    3) Like everyone else, I was baffled why he chose to kill off everyone, and then resurrect them to give entirely different ends. Wouldn't it have been much more cool to have them all just vanish enigmatically? After all, the original premise was that each of their apparent ends didn't happen.

    4) It was too long. This was basically a novella, padded out to full length with material which didn't really add much

    Some plus points:
    1) I liked the way that he took two characters, both of whom were assumed dead without proof at the ends of their respective stories, and tweaked them so as they didn't die after all, but carried on having adventures. As was said by the Dutch prog rock band Kayak of King Arthur "we don't know if they every lived, but they certainly never died..."

    2) I thought the basic premise of whether laying the cable was a good thing or a bad thing was worth writing about

    3) I liked Nemo's back-story

  • 1

    I mostly agree with the group assessment of the book - I didn't like it much. Everything was kept too far off from us - I didn't find that there was any sustained presence in the book. I don't have this reaction to either Verne or Melville. Very different writers, but I know where I am, and where they are, and it's not in a fog of confusion.

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