Jan 10, 2008

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

The First Men in the Moon

First off, I have to say that one trick of Wells' I truly admire was that of having a narrator who is not the main scientist of the story. That allowed him to present an idea like cavorite, an antigravity metal, without having to dive too deeply into a practical explanation. The narrator just says something like, "Oh, and I don't know how it worked, but then, I'm just a businessman," and then get on with the more important stuff like fighting moon-based insect beings or traveling millions of years into the future.

(I hear this bugged the crap out of Jules Verne, who was quoted as saying, "I get my voyagers to the Moon with gun cotton - something you can buy in any store - and Mr Wells uses a totally mythical substance. Pah! Where is this Cavorite? Let him produce it!" Which is probably why I prefer Wells to Verne.)

You know, I'm glad we've been to the Moon and all, but we have lost a certain opportunity to simply guess and invent what might be happening up there on our nearest neighbor.

Anyway, things don't get good and dystopian until the last few chapters, when Wells managed to hide a creepy little statement on colonization and specialization in his adventure yarn. The image of the young Selenites cramped into bottles with just their arms protruding in order to be modified to perform their assigned life task squicked me out the same way stories about comprachicos do (no shock - it's basically the same idea, and I have to guess that Wells was at least partially inspired by Victor Hugo's take on it in "The Man Who Laughs", which was published in the 1860s).

final thoughts: Did Cavor deliberately tell the Grand Lunar about humans' taste for violence and war? And if he did, was it to save us from them or them from us?


Doc Holaday said...

Yeah. I like a lot of things about this book, but in the middle it kind of loses me. All that running around in the tunnels I guess. The beginning and the end are both great.

Nice comments, by the way. I like that bit about Verne's reaction!

downtown guy said...

Thanks. One of the things I'm enjoying about doing this is discovering how much I enjoy Wells. I'd read Time Machine as a kid, and he's always sort of there in the background, but I doubt it would ever have simply occurred to me to pick this one up.