BooksOfTheMoon

The World Set Free

By H.G. Wells

Rating: 2 stars

This may be a prophetic book, but I didn’t hugely enjoy reading it. Wells foresees atomic energy and the horrors of atomic bombs, although in very different shapes to reality, as well as the use of aircraft in warfare. I must confess that I nearly gave up after the prologue, which just felt didactic and leaden, but the first proper chapter (after a dull introduction to radioactivity, as understood at the dawn of the 20th century) was interesting, as it sketched the problems of humanity and nations in that era. However, it didn’t really last. Wells’ “war to end all wars” didn’t happen until the 1950s (bear in mind this book was written in 1913, before the First World War) and his war really did end all war, by creating a new world government that set about creating a utopia in fairly short order.

With the advantage of hindsight, we see what would really happen after a globe-spanning war with the use of nuclear weapons – what always happens: politicians squabble and jostle for advantage. What unity there is never lasts, which makes the speed and ease by which the world government is set up difficult to suspend disbelief for.

The last chapter is somewhat odd as well, as it focuses on an individual in the new order, as he is dying. Said person holds forth on the nature of humanity, and that knowledge, not love, is the driving force behind it. This is puzzling, because it doesn’t really fit well with what came before, and seems sort of pointless. It’s not like Wells needs a mouthpiece for his views – the whole book has been nothing but, and the narrator has quite happily fulfilled that role previously.

Disjointed, didactic, stuffy and generally not a captivating book. Has historical merit, and is of interest for its prophetic power, but not as a novel.

Book details

Publisher: Collins Clear-Type Press

The Dream

By H.G. Wells

Rating: 4 stars

Sarnac is a scientist in a distant, utopian future. At a critical point in his work, he needs a break so goes on holiday with his partner and some friends. After an excursion to a recently excavated site from the early 20th century, he is disturbed by the images he saw and falls into a deep sleep from which he awakes, hours later, having lived an entire lifetime in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as one Harry Mortimer Smith. This is the story of that life that he tells.

I really enjoyed this book, with its framing narrative of the utopian future that allows Wells to comment on and criticise his own present through alien eyes. Harry Mortimer Smith is an everyman, and through him, we, as well as Sarnac and his friends, can see the reality of life in the early 20th century.

Much of Sarnac’s incredulity about Smith’s time would stand just as valid about the early 21st century as well. We are still ridden with jealousy and self-doubt, often poorly educated and neurotic to the point where we appear not to care about our planet and our own lives and those around us. Wells’ cautionary tale is just as relevant to us as it was when it was published.

Book details

ISBN: 9780755103997
Publisher: House of Stratus
Year of publication: 1924

The War of the Worlds

By H.G. Wells

Rating: 4 stars

It took me a while to get into this, although I suspect this is more to do with the way that I read the book (in brief snippets, widely separated) than the book itself. Once I sat down and got stuck in, I got absorbed pretty quickly. The story is well known but this is the first time that I’ve read it in a while, being more familiar with Jeff Wayne’s musical in recent years ;-). One thing that I had forgotten about was the character of the narrator’s brother, who provides a narrative of what’s happening in London while the protagonist is on his way there which is quite nice. It’s still a rollicking story, although you can’t help wondering how modern weapons and warfare would cope with the Martians.

Book details

ISBN: 9780375759239
Publisher: Modern Library
Year of publication: 1897

The Time Machine

By H.G. Wells

Rating: 4 stars

One of the great classics of SF, this remains a gripping and moving novel. The unnamed Time Traveller tells his story of his visit to the far future in a style that still feels eminently readable. The future he visits is, upon first glance, a Utopia, but it hides many secrets. The Eloi who live in what appears to be a Garden of Eden have lost the intelligence and cutting edge that made the Human race masters of the Earth. The Morlocks who live underground, tending the machines have devolved into cannibalistic monsters, the serpent in this Eden.

Wells has extrapolated his (and our) society to the nth degree and yet it’s plausible enough to be uncomfortable. Wells’ musings on the future of society are interesting but never get in the way of the story, which is well-paced and easy to read.

Aside: It’s mildly amusing to think that if someone left the house today with the stuff that the Time Traveller (or indeed, any hero of a book written up to the second half of the last century) carried routinely, matches, pocket knife etc, he’d probably be regarded with great suspicion.

Book details

Publisher: Signet Classics
Year of publication: 1895

The Bulpington of Blup

By H.G. Wells

Rating: 2 stars

I’m really not sure what to make of this book. It took me ages to read and I’m still not sure whether I liked it or not. It follows the life of a man (Theodore Bulpington) from a childhood in the late 19th century to about the 1930s. Theodore is someone who can’t quite face life so deals with it in childhood by creating an “idealised” version of himself (the eponymous Bulpington of Blup) and later by remembering only what he wants to remember (including things that may not have happened, eg that he kept out of the Great War for the first year because “the doctors rejected him”) and creating a shell of lies around him that effectively suppresses his own personality.

Like I say, I’m not sure what to make of it. The main character, whilst not really nasty, is unpleasant and unlikeness (I found) and I found it difficult to plough through. I’m not sure if I would recommend this other than as an oddity by Wells.

Book details

ISBN: 9780755103966
Publisher: House of Stratus
Year of publication: 1932

Powered by WordPress