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

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