Butcher has researched the so-called--wrongly, he maintains--father of science fiction for 20 years and newly translated six Verne novels from the best available sources. He utterly contradicts the impression Herbert Lottman's Jules Verne (1996) gave of the novelist as stodgy, unadventurous, and boring. His Verne is almost too interesting. A deferential but determinedly independent son, a diffident suitor and husband, and a clueless and abstracted father, Verne doggedly pursued fortune as well as fame yet let his publisher Hetzel grab the profits through contracts that committed Verne to a grueling workload and allowed Hetzel to ham-handedly alter the manuscripts before publication. An ardent sailor for 30 years, Verne afforded his hobby thanks to proceeds from others' theatrical adaptations of his best-sellers, especially Around the World in Eighty Days--ironically, since he craved success as a playwright, not a novelist. And he didn't write science fiction, or about science at all, he said, because he didn't know, like, or trust science. His novels made him "the most read of all writers--nine times as much as the next Frenchman." If that statement begs the question of how it was ascertained, Butcher's speculations about Verne's possible homosexuality call for a dash of salt. There are tangential howlers here, too--pace Butcher, John Brown wasn't murdered in 1856; he was executed for murder in 1859--but neither they nor Butcher's overreachings dim the fascination this Jules Verne radiates. Ray Olson, Booklist