Tuesday, 8 May 2018

The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells.

I haven't read that many H. G. Wells novels, but it's a curious thing: not one of the plot summaries on the back of the books appeal to me, yet I always end up loving them, despite being someone who doesn't (as a rule) like science fiction. But, H. G. Wells is a master as we all know, and C. S. Lewis wrote that this novel was "the best of the sort [of sci-fi] I have read". High praise indeed.

The First Men in the Moon was first published in The Strand Magazine from December 1900 to August 1901, not long after his most famous sci-fi novels The Time Machine (1895), The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898). It begins in Lympne in Kent, where Mr. Bedford, a businessman, has come to enjoy the quiet life and work on writing a play. He soon meets Mr. Cavor, an eccentric scientist, who tells him he is in the process of developing cavorite, which in reality is a hypothetical theory that an object can be 'shielded' from gravity: Cavor has made the decision that a spaceship built from this material will project them to space. And so that is what they do: they hurtle through space, land on the moon, watch the sunrise on the lunar landscape, and discover vast amounts of gold, however after they arrive on the moon they soon realise that Cavor was wrong about one thing: he was adamant that there was no life on the moon, until, that is, they encounter the Selenites.

This is an exciting, fast-paced, highly imaginative novel that envisages space travel, but also looks at broad concepts such as what it is to be human, identity, knowledge, and what it is to be, largely done by contrasting the ways of the Selenites with mankind. It's a great work, and my new favourite Wells.

To finish, some illustrations from the 1901 edition:


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