Sunday, May 7, 2006

The First Men In The Moon, H. G. Wells

Title: The First Men In The Moon
Author: H. G. Wells
Rating: Lousy

This book went on forever, and it wasn't fun reading. Wells continues to bang his drum about evolution and politics, here setting it all on the moon.

The book is broken into two pieces, and for all I can tell they were written at different times. It's almost as if he wrote the first part, decided it was too short, or didn't cover something he wanted to discuss, or someone paid him to write more, so he did.

If you've ever heard the term "cavorite," it comes from this book. It is a material that is impervious to all forms of radiation, including gravity. As such, it is used in the construction of a space ship to take our heroes to the moon. Once there they meet a complicated society, fail utterly to understand it, and one of them leaves the other behind. Later he picks up radio broadcasts from the one left behind documenting more about the moon's inhabitants. (That's the second part of the two part story.)

Wells cannot seem to write about people I care about or for. I am willing to put up with a lot from my hero (or anti-hero) depending on the outcome and what sort of changes they go through. Wells writes about dull people who do not change and who are vaguely nauseating from today's perspective. Cavor and Bedford both fit that bill.

Beyond that, the science is just awful here. The book was written in 1901 so I should give it a break, but I simply cannot do it. There is just no way to rescue the science presented here.

So, combine poor characters with weak science and a long winded tale in which the author tries do drive home some (still unclear to me) point about society, evolution, and conflict, and you get a lot of wasted time. Of all the Wells I have read so far, this is the least interesting. Only time will tell if it continues to hold that position in my hierarchy.

Oh, I should mention that there are elements in the moon society here that strongly resemble things from Brave New World. If Aldous Huxley knowingly cribbed from The First Men In The Moon while creating his dystopian vision of the future, then (a) I am really sorry he spent the time reading it and (b) he did a much better job than Wells did.