Wednesday, 13 June 2012

First Men In The Moon by H. G. Wells

One of H. G. Wells lesser known books (in comparison to the likes of The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, War of The Worlds) I still thought it was worth going into it with the feelings that reading his other books gave me.

First off I’d like everyone to remember that this book was published in 1901 and, as with many of Wells’ books, he is well ahead of his time. 

Set in England, Wells introduces us to Bedford – a man who’s trying to find an easy way to earn money to pay off the debt collectors chasing him. He decides upon writing a play, as he believes it to be relatively easy (someone really should’ve told him the truth) but becomes distracted by a figure out of his window. 

This eventually introduces him to Professor Cavor, your run-of-the-mill eccentric scientist who has just hit upon an idea for an invention but has no idea what to do with it. This is where Bedford spots a business investment and a way to not only pay off his bad debt but to also make themselves rich. The new invention is Cavorite, a material that can block ‘gravity waves’ thus making the object float after the correct scientific treatment. To his credit, Wells doesn't do a Verne and try to go into great scientific explanations, making his narrative character excuse himself as the man with the business brains and not the scientific one.

Bedford and the professor (mainly the professor) come up with a plan to make a sphere container out of the material that's large enough to carry them and some supplies up to the moon. With a large explosion and then some very complicated shutter opening and closing in certain sequences the two eventually find themselves on the cold satellite. At first all is as it would appear to the reader of the time, freezing cold, rocky with minimum atmosphere, just enough to be breathable. It isn't until the sun shines that things start to change. With quick growing flora sprouting up the two men suddenly find themselves on a wholly different world and the events that ensue would've caused some readers of the time to look at this familiar rock in their night skies in a different way.

Some of the aspects in this book were very much ahead of Wells' time and I enjoy being able to look back with my 21st Century knowledge and marvel at how things were perceived, either accurately or differently from the reality we now know. The idea of the moon coming to life and being inhabited by beings that live underground in it's hollowed out shell may be pushing the realms of belief too far but this is what science fiction is all about and Wells is one of the original masters as far as I'm concerned.

 Wells style of writing can be hard to get into and it is a slow start with some parts that seem to just be put in there for the heck of it, but I imagine they exist in order to pad out the story or give it some depth... or something. Overall I can see why this book has lasted but at the same time there is a reason it is a little less well-known than his others. It doesn't have that extra something (in the case of War of the Worlds we'll call it fear) that draws you so into the book it becomes something you carry with you.

A book that really can be nothing but early 20th century sci-fi it lives up to the expectations but, in certain parts, can't seem to break through and go beyond. From a modern point of view I didn't find myself overly excited upon finishing this, but I can see how it would have grabbed the imaginations of contemporary readers.

If you're a fan of Wells' other works then please, by all means, read this book. If you're interested in early 20th Century works then, again, read it. If you're interested in any part of this book then I can tell you that you will not have wasted any time reading it, but I don't think you'll come away from it changed or affected by it in any way.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

I've not even heard of this book and I love H.G. Wells. Damn.... and thanks!