I've been reading some H G Wells lately, too. Right now I'm almost finished When The Sleeper Wakes, which is about a guy who falls asleep and wakes up in the twenty-second century, or thereabouts (as you do). In some ways, it's less of a novel than a vehicle for some of his socialist thoughts, so the reading is a little disappointing. It also makes a number of predictions about the future that are just plain weird; Wells seems to see the future as a kind of brightly-coloured version of Ancient Greece, with people wandering about in togas, through gleaming futuristic cities. But then, it's far better than the shitty, colourless science-fiction visions we've been offered of late; why on earth the Wachowsky brothers thought their Matrix future world would look pretty in a drab, mock film-noir green-and-black is beyond me.
Recently read, also, has been War of the Worlds. I read this as a child, but I could hardly remember anything about it; it was only on viewing the Stephen Spielberg film mid-last year that I thought about getting the book. I'm surprised I didn't get traumatised by the book as a kid; because it bloody scared the shit me as an adult. It's basically about an attempt by psychopathic aliens to genocide the entire human race out of existence, and goes into lucid, graphic detail about this war against the human race:
The flying people on foot and in vehicles grew more numerous every moment. 'Black Smoke!' he heard people crying, and again 'Black Smoke!' The contagion of such a unanimous fear as inevitable. As my brother hesitated on the doorstep, he saw another newsvendor approaching him, and got a copy forthwith. The man was running away with the rest, and selling his papers, as he ran, for a shilling each - a grotesque mingling of profit and panic.
And from this paper my brother read that catastrophic dispatch of the Commander-in-Chief:
'The Martians are able to discharge enormous clouds of a black and poisonous vapour by means of rockets. They have smothered our batteries, destroyed Richmond, Kingston and Wimbledon, and are advancing slowly towards London, destroying everything on the way. It is impossible to stop them. There is no safety from the Black Smoke but in instant flight' ...
I'll be moving on to Wells' The First Men In The Moon next, which I loved when I was a kid.
Of all the Wells novels I've read, I have to say the one that sticks with me is not really a novel at all; it's a novelette. The Time Machine, which is just one hundred pages long, but spans millions of years, from the present day to the end of the human race. It's a little like When The Sleeper Wakes, in that it gives a glimpse into the future for humans, but Wells makes his 'Time Traveller' a bit of a nutter, the original mad scientist. After discovering a world war some fifty years into the future (he's from the late 19th century), he pushes like crazy for millions of years into the future. He discovers a world where the human race has actually split into two human races (I wonder what the PC mob would make of this?), the effete but useless Eloi and the savage Morlocks, who enslave the Eloi for their own personal gain. It's a curious combination of socialism and evolutionary theory: sociology meets biology. Because it's so far into the future, Wells doesn't really have to worry about his predictions coming true or not; he just to sit back with his 'Time Traveller' and observe the novel as it unfolds.
What really stuck me with this book, I guess, are the grand details; the portrait of a world in decline (the chapter where the time traveller walks through an abandoned museum amongst decaying artifacts is amazingly spooky); the kind of 'fin de siecle' life lived by the Eloi; the bizarre glimpses into the post-man world, populated by gigantic insects, and presided over by a dying sun; and the outrageous sense of adventure for it all. A great start to the SF genre.
So, what's everyone else been reading lately?
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