Wednesday, July 15, 2015

On HG Wells, Duly Noted

To say HG Wells is that of an considerately influential and popular science-fiction writer is not a statement of controversy. What is perhaps most remarkable about his continual fame, is that, much of what he wrote, if written today by someone trying to break into the world of science-fiction authorship, would be soundly discounted as amateurish. HG Wells, perhaps most notably in both his novel War of the Worlds, and novella The Time Machine - two of most popular works - uses the narrative devices of sci-fi to push, usually fairly inelegantly, a political point. The Time Machine rambles on for entire passages about the evil of both class hierarchy and communism, with the surrounding story almost superfluous in its existence, only 90 pages long, and with the non-political points all used up rapidly to develop both the world and the one and only character we really get to know - and not all that well do we know him, I might add. It could have existed, rather succinctly, as a period drama, or an essay. HG Wells, like many sci-fi authors, seeks to demonstrate some societal critique by setting his story against the backdrop of some futuristic setting, but the trivial way in which he discusses politics and science often feels like the prattling of a high school student's attempt at writing a dystopian novel. That War of the Worlds has the entirety of its conflict quickly resolved in the span of one insular paragraph near its end is not without frustration. And while the point of the buildup to it perhaps makes the journey more valuable, one still can't help but wonder why Wells was seemingly so bad at showing and not telling, and yet his work is considered to be a hallmark of the sci-fi genre. Certainly, ostensibly political works don't have to be subtle or sneaky about their dealings, but when ideas are presented drily in the form of a rant from an omnipresent narrator, and not naturally through the setting or characters of the story, well, it behooves the present author to say that, in all likelihood, the political message could have been delivered better.

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