Book Review: The Science Fiction Collection by H.G. Wells

It’s been far too long since my last book review, which is basically the fault of the way I read.

You see, I usually have at least a couple of books going: a physical book, an audiobook, and an ebook. Lately, since I’ve been slugging through a massive paperback – the fourth book in the Chathrand Voyage series – I haven’t been reading any ebooks. And since I had a brief summer holiday recently and work has been slow recently, I haven’t been keeping up with my audiobooks (I read these mostly when I drive or do boring work at work).

But now I finally got through another audiobook: H.G. Wells’ Science Fiction Collection and damn… This thing was much more fun than I imagined.

I read the Audible version of these books, which is a collection of 5 stories. They are as follows:

The War of the Worlds narrated by David Tennant

The First Men in the Moon narrated by Alexander Vlahos

The Time Machine narrated by Hugh Bonneville

The Invisible Man narrated by Sophie Okonedo

The Island of Dr Moreau narrated by Jason Isaacs

If you’ve paid attention, you know that I haven’t read many classics. Off the top of my head I can name 1984, Lord Of The Flies and The Picture of Dorian Gray, and I think that’s it. So even though I recognized the name H.G. Wells and knew that he’s considered the father of science fiction, I had never read any of his stuff before. Hell, I didn’t even know he’d written these things.

Three out of these five stories I knew about from other sources: The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, and The Island of Dr Moreau. Other than that, I was completely blind and didn’t have much expectations. Well, I sure am glad I gave Wells a chance…

The first thing that struck me, starting with War of the Worlds was how captivating the writing was. I think I was expecting something clunky, out of date and aged, but it felt like it could have been written last year. And it was enthralling! Detailed and gripping, occasionally slightly drawn out, but never boring. I was hooked.

I figured War of the Worlds would be my favorite. I know the story partly from that Tom Cruise movie, and I figured it was first in line for a reason. And don’t get me wrong, it was fantastic, but The First Men in the Moon is by far my favorite. It’s so unique, so clever and… Well, this might be a stupid point to make about a guy who’s named the father of science-fiction, but the science part (in all of the stories) really impressed me. It’s hard kind of sci-fi, it’s very convincing and it really sets the atmosphere for all of these stories. I drags you in slowly, taking time to explain a lot of things in elaborate detail. Before you know it, you’re on the edge of your seat because you realize the terrifying implications of this new technology.

The Time Machine was probably my least favorite. It’s a fun and interesting story, but – and I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying this – it kind of defeats itself. It’s told from the perspective of the time traveler, and if you’ve thought as far ahead as I did, then yeah… you’ve probably reached the same conclusion. Sure, the story is fun enough and it’s an exciting premise, but it lacks… Conflict.

The Invisible Man was the one I figured I knew the best, because I love the Kevin Bacon movie Hollowman. Turns out – beyond having an invisible man in it – there’s not much of a connection between those two stories at all (who knew?!) But The Invisible Man was great. A bit slow to start, but it developed really well. And this might be weird to say, but I felt like it worked particularly well in audio format. As if the whole invisibility thing and the terror that follows the story was enhanced by hearing about it, not just reading it.

The Island of Dr Moreau surprised me as well. It’s the kind of story I know of, probably through references and parodies in popular culture, but I had really no idea what I was in for. Turns out, it actually quite terrifying.

All in all, I’m very happy I finally found time to read some Wells. His writing is superb, and I think it’s aged really well. I have a few other sci-fi champions on my list, including Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, and this collection has just made me want to get to them faster.

Do you have any classic favorites? Anything you think I need to check out? Let me know!

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