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

The First Men in the Moon (1901)

by H. G. Wells

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  1. 10
    A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (artturnerjr)
    artturnerjr: Two early 20th century works of speculation on extraterrestrial life from two of the great unfettered imaginations of English-language literature.

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The Science Fiction elements of this story are somewhat dated. The notion of a virtually hollow Moon and a substance that is opaque to gravity's "rays" both ring, today, less like science fiction and more like fantasy. The truly wonderful thing about these older SF works (Verne, Wells, even Capek), however, is that as they age they attain this additional status as artifacts of an era and its expectations. The fact that the mechanism by which Cavor and Bedford travel to the Moon is, today, patently absurd is fascinating rather than detracting from the work. To see what seemed possible at that time and turns out not to be is as interesting as the instances in which these visionaries got it right.

Then again, Wells was never quite so concerned with making his stories plausible as Verne generally was. The essence of Wells's stories is, rather, thinly veiled social commentary (for instance on social stratification in The Time Machine). Here, Cavor's transmissions toward the end are a priceless example and the weird eyes of the Grand Lunar a terrific lens through which to see ourselves. Also of note in this story is the extent of detail he put toward the physiology of his alien race and how it relates to social structure. Finally, I can't say enough for the character work. The trope of the unreliable narrator is exquisitely employed. Bedford's annotation on Cavor's transmissions and the ways in which they contradict the version he put forward when he thought no one could question it is the sort of thing Nabokov might have written. ( )
  CGlanovsky | Jan 7, 2014 |
A sort of Trip to the Moon meets First Contact story. Amazing to think it was written in 1901. It was probably hard SF of its day and even now sounds very plausible in its ideas except obviously for life on the moon. ( )
  jerhogan | May 4, 2013 |
Rereading H.G. Wells has been quite an experience. When I first read this one, I remember, I was most impressed by the adventure story. This time around, 45 years later, I was struck by Wells' humor. There were times I almost laughed out loud while reading, a reaction not to the pseudo-science but to Wells deft handling of social satire and irony. A very good read. ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
This was decent, but it didn't hold me. I'm trying to give various classic scifi authors a try, though. Is there a Wells anyone recommends?
  amaraduende | Mar 30, 2013 |
Following his success with The Invisible Man, The Time Machine and War of the Worlds, H G Wells turned his attention to space travel. Like his three previous novels; First Men in the Moon is firmly set in late Victorian England and it is an unconventional scientist who once again proves to be the catalyst for the story. Mr Cavor working in his country house with a team of untrained assistants, invents a material that negates the effects of gravity, which he names Cavorite. His lonely walks along the sea front attract the attention of Bedford, a bankrupt business man and the two men soon become associates and so starts their mad adventures fuelled by a sort of comic book fantasy that is never remotely believable.

The two men are soon hard at work in Cavor’s backyard building a space capsule which will feature window shutters made of Cavorite with which they will be able to manipulate in such a way as to escape the earth’s gravitational pull and fly to the moon. Today this sounds like pure hokum and it cannot have sounded any better in 1901 when Well’s book was published. This is what Well’s astronaughts were wearing inside their sphere:

“The interior was warm, the thermometer stood at eighty, and as we should lose little or none of this by radiation, we were dressed in shoes and thin flannels. We had however, a bundle of thick woollen clothing and several thick blankets to guard against mischance.”

They did take some oxygen cylinders, but these were not needed when they found breathable atmosphere on the moon. Yes of course they made it to the moon and with some desperate manoeuvrings with the Cavorite blinds managed to land safely enough. This is Mr Cavor on the moon enjoying it’s lesser gravitational pull:

“Good we cried to each other ‘Good’ and Cavor made three steps and went off to a tempting slope of snow a good twenty yards and more beyond. I stood for a moment struck by the grotesque effect of his soaring figure - his dirty cricket cap, and spiky hair, his little round body, his arms and his knicker-bockered legs tucked up tightly - against the weird spaciousness of the lunar scene. A gust of laughter seized me, and then I stepped off to follow. Plump! I dropped beside him.”

Wells is having tremendous fun with his “Boys Own” adventure and this is the main problem with his book. There are some passages where the characters reflect on the folly of man and his rapacious needs and there is the juxtaposition between the two characters, but I never got the sense that this is what the book was really about. The story is told by Bedford in the first person, now safely back on earth and so we realise that at least one of the adventurers lived to tell the tale.

Our two unlikely protagonists find life on the moon which is a honeycomb of tunnels and caves inhabited by the Selenites: sort of intelligent ant like beings. It is Cavor by his dispatches from the moon that describes their society their natural history and finally his meeting with their ruler: The Grand Lunar.

First Men in the Moon has the feel of a pot boiler; Wells seems here to have taken his fantasy writing as far as it would go and is stretching all bounds of possibility with this novel. It is however never dull and Well’s easy flowing style carries the reader along with him. It is amusing and if you don’t mind the silly story it is a fun read. 3 stars. ( )
6 vote baswood | Mar 3, 2013 |
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H. G. Wellsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
McLean, StevenNotessecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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As I sit down to write here amidst the shadows of vineleaves under the blue sky of southern Italy it comes to me with a certain quality of astonishment that my participation in these amazing adventures of Mr. Cavor was, after all, the outcome of the purest accident.
So utterly at variance is destiny with all the little plans of men.
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This is the main work for The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells. It should not be combined with any abridgement, adaptation, omnibus containing additional works, etc.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141441089, Paperback)

When penniless businessman Mr. Bedford retreats to the Kent coast to write a play, he meets by chance the brilliant Dr. Cavor, an absentminded scientist on the brink of developing a material that blocks gravity. Cavor soon succeeds in his experiments, only to tell a stunned Bedford that the invention makes possible one of the oldest dreams of humanity: a journey to the moon. With Bedford motivated by money, and Cavor by the desire for knowledge, the two embark on the expedition. But neither are prepared for what they find—a world of freezing nights, boiling days, and sinister alien life, in which they may be trapped forever.

First time in Penguin Classics
Includes a newly established text, a full biographical essay on Wells, suggestions for further reading, and detailed notes


(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:26:05 -0400)

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"When penniless businessman Mr Bedford retreats to the Kent coast to write a play, he meets by chance the brilliant Dr Cavor, an absent-minded scientist on the brink of developing a material that blocks gravity. Cavor soon succeeds in his experiments, only to tell a stunned Bedford the invention makes possible one of the oldest dreams of humanity: a journey to the moon. With Bedford motivated by money and Cavor by the desire for knowledge, the two embark on the expedition. But neither are prepared for what they find - a world of freezing nights, boiling days and sinister alien life, on which they may be trapped forever."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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An edition of this book was published by McFarland.

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