What is it about H.G. Wells?

Posted: June 14, 2013 in Books & Reading
Tags: , ,

HG WellsIt’s an honest question — as in, one I don’t necessarily have an answer to.

I’ve been on a classics kick lately. I’ve been reading anything I can get my hands on. I’ve suffered through more than one novel that I just didn’t enjoy. But I’ve read two books from H.G. Wells, War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, and have enjoyed both immensely.

So, what is it about him that I like? That other people like?

I think one of the obvious choices is the fact that he wrote science-fiction. And while he is known for more than just SF, that certainly is the genre he is associated with most. Science-fiction is compelling, I think, to a lot of people because it has a foot in both worlds. It’s part fantasy and part reality. There’s crazy things like spaceships and aliens, and yet it’s usually set in a familiar world. That’s makes it relateable enough that it feels real, but fantastic enough that it also feels like an escape.

Another big one for me is language. I can understand what he’s writing. I have trouble with high fantasy and the classics because there’s just so much detail, so many foreign words, so many names. It makes my head swim, and I focus too much on who’s who, rather than figuring out what’s going on in the story. I was worried I’d come up against a similar thing with War of the Worlds, but we basically just had the narrator going form place to place and meeting people, then leaving them behind. It was easy to follow and he still painted a vivid picture of what was going on.

Those are the two big points for me, but as someone who is not well-versed in his other works, his personal life, or his general reputation and acceptance as one of the father’s of science-fiction, I’m interested in what you guys have to say. What do you like about his works? What do you dislike? Why do you think he’s so popular?

  1. To me, Wells used SF as a device rather than an end – overtly for social commentary on his current era; ‘The War Of The Worlds’ was explcitly a response to the Second Matabele War of 1893 when handfuls of British machine-gunners slaughtered thousands of spear-wielding Matabele warriors. What, Wells, wondered, would Britain do when confronted with the same dissonant technology? His ‘Time Machine’ did much the same to British social structures via the Eloi (‘middle class’) and Morlocks (‘working class’).

    I think the social side of his thinking came out more after the First World War, where he got into debate with Charles a’Court Repington. Wells insisted that the war – then known as the Great War – had been so horrible it must put humanity off fighting. ‘The war to end all wars’. Repington insisted that actually there would be more wars and instead called the combat just gone the ‘First’ World War. Cynical of him, and of course Wells had the right idea, but Repington’s cynicism was quite correct. Curious, given Wells’ own cynicism towards the imperial militarism of his youth.

    Incidentally, if you haven’t already, check out the Jeff Wayne ‘War of the Worlds’ album. Brilliant.

  2. Julie Glover says:

    My high school aged son really like his books. He’s read both of those. I really liked The Invisible Man.

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