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The World Set Free (Historical Fiction Books) (Volume 49)

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This chilling, futuristic novel, written in 1913, was incredibly prophetic on a major scale. Wells was a genius and visionary, as demonstrated by many of his other works, but this book is clearly one of his best. He predicts nuclear warfare years before research began and describes the chain reactions involved and the resulting radiation. He describes a weapon of enormous This chilling, futuristic novel, written in 1913, was incredibly prophetic on a major scale. Wells was a genius and visionary, as demonstrated by many of his other works, but this book is clearly one of his best. He predicts nuclear warfare years before research began and describes the chain reactions involved and the resulting radiation. He describes a weapon of enormous destructive power, used from the air that would wipe out everything for miles, and actually used the term "atomic bombs." This book may have been at least part of the original inspiration for the development of atomic weapons, as well as presenting many other ideas that would ultimately come to pass. Some ideas may still be coming, including a one-world government referred to as The World Republic, that will attempt to end all wars.


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This chilling, futuristic novel, written in 1913, was incredibly prophetic on a major scale. Wells was a genius and visionary, as demonstrated by many of his other works, but this book is clearly one of his best. He predicts nuclear warfare years before research began and describes the chain reactions involved and the resulting radiation. He describes a weapon of enormous This chilling, futuristic novel, written in 1913, was incredibly prophetic on a major scale. Wells was a genius and visionary, as demonstrated by many of his other works, but this book is clearly one of his best. He predicts nuclear warfare years before research began and describes the chain reactions involved and the resulting radiation. He describes a weapon of enormous destructive power, used from the air that would wipe out everything for miles, and actually used the term "atomic bombs." This book may have been at least part of the original inspiration for the development of atomic weapons, as well as presenting many other ideas that would ultimately come to pass. Some ideas may still be coming, including a one-world government referred to as The World Republic, that will attempt to end all wars.

30 review for The World Set Free (Historical Fiction Books) (Volume 49)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    I read this when I was about 11 and I can't remember a thing about it, except that Wells predicts atomic weapons and they finally turn out to be a good thing. I suddenly feel I should re-read it! _________________________________________ Looking for something else, I just made a startling discovery. If we're to believe Leó Szilárd's Wikipedia page, Szilárd, a prominent nuclear physicist, read Wells's book in 1932 and was greatly affected by it. In 1939, with WW II clearly about to start, Szilárd I read this when I was about 11 and I can't remember a thing about it, except that Wells predicts atomic weapons and they finally turn out to be a good thing. I suddenly feel I should re-read it! _________________________________________ Looking for something else, I just made a startling discovery. If we're to believe Leó Szilárd's Wikipedia page, Szilárd, a prominent nuclear physicist, read Wells's book in 1932 and was greatly affected by it. In 1939, with WW II clearly about to start, Szilárd drafted a letter to President Roosevelt, urging him to fund a project which would develop an atomic bomb. Knowing that this would improve his chances, Szilárd persuaded Einstein to co-sign the letter; Einstein's illustrious name did indeed convince Roosevelt, and the direct result was the Manhattan Project, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the Cold War. But, so far at least, WW III has not happened. Wells's vision came true. Who says science-fiction writers have no influence on history? And check out the rest of Szilárd's life story - he was evidently a remarkable person.

  2. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    As Iran and America ramp up nuclear war, it is time to reappraise this 1914 novel predicting the atomic bomb. In the wake of the worldwide nuclear catastrophe, Wells envisions a form of world state, a global government, to prevent complete armageddon, not unlike the formation of the UN after WWII. The one snag with this is that before humankind can arrive at a moratorium on murdering the pants off one another, multiple cities must be vaporised and leave a legacy of radiation ensuring anyone ente As Iran and America ramp up nuclear war, it is time to reappraise this 1914 novel predicting the atomic bomb. In the wake of the worldwide nuclear catastrophe, Wells envisions a form of world state, a global government, to prevent complete armageddon, not unlike the formation of the UN after WWII. The one snag with this is that before humankind can arrive at a moratorium on murdering the pants off one another, multiple cities must be vaporised and leave a legacy of radiation ensuring anyone entering Aberdeen in civvies will not see their fourteenth birthday. It is a regrettable aspect of our species that we prefer inflicting avoidable damage for ages before enacting the sensible shit, and then spend years doggedly unravelling the sensible shit to inflict new damage, ad nauseam, until we all die in pits of lime. Happy holidays.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Manuel Alfonseca

    ENGLISH: In the Preface to this book, Wells acknowledges his poor ability predicting the future: As a prophet, the author must confess that he has always been inclined to be a rather slow prophet. Indeed, in this novel, written in 1913 and published in 1914, Wells predicts that World War I would begin in 1956. But he did predict successfully the atomic bomb and its effects. In several places Wells asserts that the British monarchy is the most ancient crown in all the world. This is false, both if ENGLISH: In the Preface to this book, Wells acknowledges his poor ability predicting the future: As a prophet, the author must confess that he has always been inclined to be a rather slow prophet. Indeed, in this novel, written in 1913 and published in 1914, Wells predicts that World War I would begin in 1956. But he did predict successfully the atomic bomb and its effects. In several places Wells asserts that the British monarchy is the most ancient crown in all the world. This is false, both if it refers to the crown as a symbol (there are crowns 6000 years old), and also if it refers to the English monarchy (the Japanese monarchy is older), and even if we restrict the assertion to Europe, there are many other candidates. It seems strange that a man who wrote about the history of the world should make this flagrant mistake. The Prelude of the book, together with a part of chapter 4, is a reduced version of what a few years later will be his book "Outline of History". See my review of Chesterton's "The Everlasting Man." The two last chapters are a summary of Wells political ideas for the future of mankind. As usual in many political movements, a handful of men decide on the future, life and private property of billions of people, in a similar way as what is being intended today by the promoters of the Great Reboot. Wells thinks that Utopia is about to be made real thanks to science, which he considers as the savior of humanity, together with totally renouncing individualism in favour of collectivism. In fact, in his speculations about the future of science, he anticipates transhumanism. In chapter 5, section 12, he points at Christianity as the initiator and precursor of this social movement, in the following words: Christianity was the first expression of world religion, the first complete repudiation of tribalism and war and disputation... The common sense of mankind has toiled through two thousand years of chastening experience to find at last how sound a meaning attaches to the familiar phrases of the Christian faith. The scientific thinker as he widens out to the moral problems of the collective life, comes inevitably upon the words of Christ, and as inevitably does the Christian, as his thought grows clearer, arrive at the world republic. In other words, he thinks that Christianity anticipated his ideas, but has lagged behind. ESPAÑOL: En el Prefacio de este libro, Wells reconoce su poca habilidad para predecir el futuro: Como profeta, el autor debe confesar que siempre ha sido un poco lento. En efecto, en esta novela, escrita en 1913 y publicada en 1914, Wells predice que la Primera Guerra Mundial comenzaría en 1956. Pero sí predijo con éxito la bomba atómica y sus efectos. Wells afirma en varios sitios que la monarquía británica es la corona más antigua del mundo. Esto es falso, tanto si se refiere a la corona como símbolo (hay coronas de 6000 años de antigüedad), como si se refiere a la monarquía inglesa (la monarquía japonesa es más antigua), y aunque restrinjamos la afirmación a Europa, hay muchos otros candidatos. Parece extraño que un hombre que escribió sobre la historia del mundo cometa este error flagrante. El Preludio del libro y parte del capítulo 4 vienen a ser una versión reducida de lo que unos años más tarde será su libro "Esbozo de la Historia". Véase mi crítica de "El hombre perdurable" de Chesterton. Los dos últimos capítulos son un resumen de las ideas políticas de Wells para el futuro de la humanidad. Como es habitual en muchos movimientos políticos, un puñado de hombres deciden sobre el futuro, la vida y la propiedad privada de miles de miles de millones de personas, como intentan hacer hoy los impulsores del Gran Reinicio. Wells piensa que la utopía está a punto de hacerse realidad gracias a la ciencia, a la que considera la salvadora de la humanidad, junto con la renuncia total al individualismo en favor del colectivismo. De hecho, en sus elucubraciones sobre el futuro de la ciencia anticipa el transhumanismo. En el capítulo 5, sección 12, señala al cristianismo como el iniciador y precursor de este movimiento social, con las siguientes palabras: El cristianismo fue la primera expresión de la religión mundial, el primer repudio completo del tribalismo y la guerra y la disputa... El sentido común de la humanidad ha luchado durante dos mil años de dura experiencia hasta descubrir por fin qué sentido tan sensato tienen las frases familiares de la fe cristiana. El pensador científico, al ampliar su visión a los problemas morales de la vida colectiva, tropieza inevitablemente con las palabras de Cristo, de igual modo que el cristiano, a medida que se aclaran sus pensamientos, llega inevitablemente a la república mundial. O sea, piensa que el cristianismo anticipó sus ideas, pero se ha quedado atrás.

  4. 4 out of 5

    John

    Like nearly everyone who has already reviewed this book, I found Wells’s prescience astonishing! Admittedly, this was my first H.G. Wells book and I expected the prose to be stronger. Nonetheless, one cannot help but suspect that all the prophetic aspects of the work (atomic energy and atomic weapons) were simply the frame wrapped around the driving force of his social commentary (calling for a World Government). Concerning this World Government, which could be bothersome for some readers, it s Like nearly everyone who has already reviewed this book, I found Wells’s prescience astonishing! Admittedly, this was my first H.G. Wells book and I expected the prose to be stronger. Nonetheless, one cannot help but suspect that all the prophetic aspects of the work (atomic energy and atomic weapons) were simply the frame wrapped around the driving force of his social commentary (calling for a World Government). Concerning this World Government, which could be bothersome for some readers, it should be noted that his vision also embraced some libertarian ideals as well. For example, the narrator points out that as time passed, this government was decreasingly needed or used. This government included progressive ideals also, including the electoral mode of proportional representation. Despite the faults and shortcomings (which seem a bit hypercritical since it was written nearly a hundred years ago) in Wells’s social criticisms and predictions, I amply commend The World Set Free for offering us such a positively hopeful vision of a post-apocalyptic World. If this is indeed the first nuclear based apocalyptic novel (which I feel safe in assuming), its vision of a post-nuclear war environment is indeed beautiful and unmatched in comparison to any post-apocalyptic work written after 1945 that I’ve read. Certainly there is good reason for this, but the vision is no less remarkable for it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Pogan

    I hadn't read anything by H. G. Wells since high school but this sounded intriguing so I tried it. Wells was quite prophetic in his prediction of world war and atomic bombs when he wrote the book in 1913, before either had occurred, but he was off on the details. He predicted the war to occur in 1956 when the first world war actually began shortly after he wrote the book. I find it very entertaining to read books about the future, especially those written 100 years ago so we can look back to see I hadn't read anything by H. G. Wells since high school but this sounded intriguing so I tried it. Wells was quite prophetic in his prediction of world war and atomic bombs when he wrote the book in 1913, before either had occurred, but he was off on the details. He predicted the war to occur in 1956 when the first world war actually began shortly after he wrote the book. I find it very entertaining to read books about the future, especially those written 100 years ago so we can look back to see how accurate they were. It just shows how hard it is to predict accurately. Wells was right about atomic bombs but in the book he had them being tossed out of aeroplanes by the passenger sitting in the open air seat behind the "steersman". So evidently planes hadn't progressed beyond those of 1913. There were lots of similar miscalculations of future developments but that should be expected. The actual purpose of the book was a proposal by Wells of a world government that he had forming after the mass destruction of the war. Although I found much of what he was proposing to be rather naive I think the idea of a world government is a good one. It was a very entertaining book with some rather humorous predictions but, also, very profound.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Brian Clegg

    H. G. Wells is recognised as one of originators of science fiction. His remarkable novels, written around the start of the twentieth century, set the bar extremely high. The Time Machine, The Island of Dr Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds and The First Men in the Moon, for example, are all classics, while some of his science fiction short stories are arguably even better. However, his style underwent a major change after 1910. Rather than write scientific romances (as science ficti H. G. Wells is recognised as one of originators of science fiction. His remarkable novels, written around the start of the twentieth century, set the bar extremely high. The Time Machine, The Island of Dr Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds and The First Men in the Moon, for example, are all classics, while some of his science fiction short stories are arguably even better. However, his style underwent a major change after 1910. Rather than write scientific romances (as science fiction was styled at the time), he moved to writing portentous future histories - books that feel more like non-fiction than fiction. The World Set Free is the archetype of this style. Great chunks of it feel very similar to plodding, tedious Edwardian history books. Where there are sections with actual characters, those characters are truly two-dimensional and feel like they are actors in a fairly awful stage play, rather than real people. This presents the reviewer of The World Set Free with a particular challenge. The novel is generally held up as a remarkable book because, published just a few months before the start of the First World War, it gives us the concept of a war to end all wars - admittedly set in the 1950s, rather than 1914. Seemingly even more startlingly prescient, it describes the use of 'atomic bombs' which result in the end of the war. In Wells' utopian (from his viewpoint) vision, this also results in the founding of a world state (set up, of course, by important men of the elite from around the world) with concepts like ownership of property a thing of the past. While the idea of atomic bombs do appear at first sight to be based on remarkable foresight (and Wells seems to have originated the term), it is easy to read too much into it as prescience. The publicity material for M.I.T.'s Radium Age series, of which this republishing is a part, tells us that Wells 'foresees both a world powered by clean, plentiful atomic energy - and the destructive force of the neutron chain reaction' and that one of the characters is a 'proto-Brexiteer'. But that is putting far more weight on this book than its fragile construction can stand. The character Firmin is described as a proto-Brexiteer because he thinks the nation state still has a role - which is a rather more widespread view. And Wells' atomic bombs did not involve a chain reaction - a concept that wouldn't be developed until the 1930s. The bombs (which were entertainingly 'two feet across' and dropped by hand over the side of planes after being set in action by pulling out a plug with the teeth) are based on the radioactive decay of a fictional element called carolinum, which meant the bombs didn't explode but rather gave off intense heat for days after being dropped, producing mini-volcanoes. This is still a ground-breaking book in its description of all-out war and of a kind of nuclear weapon (the idea for the bomb was based strongly on a collection of lectures by chemist Frederick Soddy, who with Ernest Rutherford came up with the concept of isotopes, which Wells acknowledges). This means I feel somewhat guilty about only giving it three stars, but it is a distinct chore to read. It's far too wordy, spends pages with nothing much happening and is turgid in the extreme. It is a classic that is deservedly little-read - but one that any student of science fiction needs to have read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Noah Goats

    I've been reading a fair amount about the development of the atomic bomb recently, and the title of this book keeps popping up. In The World Set free Wells predicts (in 1914!) the development of atomic energy and weapons. He also predicts the importance of air power (planes weren't every used in a significant way in war before WWI), and the coming of WWI itself (he thought it would come in the 50s, instead it came months after this book was published). I enjoy reading classic science fiction and I've been reading a fair amount about the development of the atomic bomb recently, and the title of this book keeps popping up. In The World Set free Wells predicts (in 1914!) the development of atomic energy and weapons. He also predicts the importance of air power (planes weren't every used in a significant way in war before WWI), and the coming of WWI itself (he thought it would come in the 50s, instead it came months after this book was published). I enjoy reading classic science fiction and discovering how intelligent men 100 years ago predicted the kind of world we would be living in now. I enjoy it when they get things right (Jules Verne predicting our voyage to the moon) and when they get things wrong (we would get their via an enormous cannon that would shoot us up in a huge artillery shell). And on this level, there were aspects of this book that were very interesting/entertaining. For example, I particularly liked how the atomic bombs were flown over their targets in WWI style open cockpit planes, and then just chucked over the side by hand after the bombardier had pulled the pin with his teeth. The first half of the book is packed with this sort of thing, and I liked it very much, the second half, however, really gets bogged down as Wells, having destroyed the world, recreates it as a utopia. This is boring, and the utopia (an anti-democratic, benevolent, totalitarian, technocratic, communist, one world government) is as naive as it is monstrous. Why Wells thinks that humans, who have a hard time agreeing even when grouped in relatively homogeneous nations, would get along singing kumbaya when forced into a world-state, is beyond me. And why he thinks world government would lead necessarily to peace instead of just making all war civil war, is also baffling. It's almost like he has never met another human being and doesn't know how we speak and act, and how passionate we can get about things like government, education, religion etc. Why would a world government make us act rationally? He never explains this. Also, this whole thing is written woodenly, and the characters are flat, bloodless and boring.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Vicky Hunt

    Who’s Watching Now? I undoubtedly will be spoiling the entire book, (including and not limited to the last paragraph) so if you want to read The World Set Free spoiler-free, then save my review for later. But, Wells’ ideas are not trivial and beg to be discussed.Though his writing was remarkably intelligent and he handles his topic brilliantly, he comes to very illogical conclusions, he seems dispassionate and cold in his writing, and it was stiff and almost boring at times, unlike his other bo Who’s Watching Now? I undoubtedly will be spoiling the entire book, (including and not limited to the last paragraph) so if you want to read The World Set Free spoiler-free, then save my review for later. But, Wells’ ideas are not trivial and beg to be discussed.Though his writing was remarkably intelligent and he handles his topic brilliantly, he comes to very illogical conclusions, he seems dispassionate and cold in his writing, and it was stiff and almost boring at times, unlike his other books, which is why I gave it only a 3 star rating. I have read only a few of H.G. Well’s many books, and find most of them imaginative, if not downright enjoyable. But, this was the first time I’d read his nightmare. He was a brilliant man, and a prolific writer. As you probably already know, if you are looking at the book reviews, the story is an imaginary World War scenario written in 1913, and it was published in early 1914… before the outbreak of World War 1 on July 28, 1914. Of course, everyone was expecting war at that time. It was not a shocking prediction. What was shocking was his prediction of the beginnings of mass destruction by mankind. Here, his words were poignant: “All through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the amount of energy that men were able to command was continually increasing. Applied to warfare that meant that the power to inflict a blow, the power to destroy, was continually increasing. There was no increase whatever in the ability to escape.” This book very quickly reminded me of John Lennon's Imagine And, here he begins to imagine a nightmare scenario, a nightmare in all its many facets, in which he imagines each of the following conditions… Mass Destruction on Earth? Wells predicted that mankind would “snare the sun,” by which he referred to the harnessing of the sun’s atomic power. His dream scenario starts with the beginnings of man and proceeds to this “final war,” and on into the development of atomic energy in the form of a bomb, which would be used to great destructive effect in war. He included the all too ghastly radiation fallout, with bombs that detonated repeatedly over many days, due to the half-life of uranium. “The gaunt face hardened to grimness, and with both hands the bomb-thrower lifted the big atomic bomb from the box and steadied it against the side. It was a black sphere two feet in diameter. Between its handles was a little celluloid stud, and to this he bent his head until his lips touched it. Then he had to bite in order to let the air in upon the inducive. Sure of its accessibility, he craned his neck over the side of the aeroplane and judged his pace and distance. Then very quickly he bent forward, bit the stud, and hoisted the bomb over the side. 'Round,' he whispered inaudibly. The bomb flashed blinding scarlet in mid-air, and fell, a descending column of blaze eddying spirally in the midst of a whirlwind.” The Beginning of the End? But, his fantasy didn’t end there. This destruction would cause “an epidemic of sanity to break out among the rulers of states.” Here is where his reasoning seems most bizarre to me. Somehow, this rather intelligent man thought that mass destruction would teach those bent on war anything. This sudden enlightenment would ultimately result in mankind coming together as one, in a full brotherhood of men. These godlike men would lay aside all claims to crowns and estates, and work together to bring peace and harmony on earth. This atomic energy would be applied to the useful energy source for mankind. Death in the Air? But, here it gets really interesting, because Wells set the date for the development of atomic energy as 1933, and in 1956 an atomic bomb will be used in war. Many people focus on the fact that he pushed the date so far into the future, as if he were hedging on a date. I didn’t see it that way, though. World War 1 ended on November 11, 1918. That war spawned numerous inventions. The big tanks began to roll, devastating battle fields in a way like never before. Wells had predicted the use of tanks in battle 13 years before in his short story, “The Land Ironclads.” The first modern hand grenade, the Mills Bomb, was invented 1915, and over 75 million were made during World War I. Likewise, Wells predicted the advent of battles in the air, in this book. WWI indeed saw the rapid growth of air warfare. Wells describes his vision of a dogfight as: “The aeroplanes were fighting at last, and suddenly about him, above and below, with cries and uproar rushing out of the four quarters of heaven, striking, plunging, oversetting, soaring to the zenith and dropping to the ground, they came to assail or defend the myriads below.” “Men rode upon the whirlwind that night and slew and fell like archangels. The sky rained heroes upon the astonished earth. Surely the last fights of mankind were the best. What was the heavy pounding of your Homeric swordsmen, what was the creaking charge of chariots, beside this swift rush, this crash, this giddy triumph, this headlong swoop to death? And then athwart this whirling rush of aerial duels that swooped and locked and dropped in the void between the lamp-lights and the stars…” Wow! Beautifully descriptive imagery, for such devastation. Among these archangel-like planes are 5 that carry atomic bombs. WW1 came and went without atomic energy being developed. But, the physicist Leó Szilárd read Wells’ book in 1932. In 1933 Szilárd conceived the idea of a neutron chain reaction, and patented it in 1934. He and his team then sent a letter to FDR urging him to take charge in the development of this particularly dangerous weapon, and the rest is the history of the Manhattan Project (1942-1946.) World War II lasted from 1939 to 1945, and ended with… a couple of atomic bombs wiping out two Japanese cities in August. The first chapter seemed quite dry, and it was difficult to hold interest through much of it. But, the bomb was dropped midway through the second chapter, and from there he had my attention. The book is probably one of the worst case scenarios of the prejudicial thinking brought about by evolutionary teaching in that time period. This is really quite common in that day though, and in all Wells’ books, as it was taught in Science. Throughout, the book is riddled with examples of white supremacy, which he hints at in the preface with: “…the native common sense of the French mind and of the English mind— for manifestly King Egbert is meant to be 'God's Englishman'— leading mankind towards a bold and resolute effort of salvage and reconstruction.” The Beginning of a Police State? This “Egbert” is a puppet fool, and quite a disgusting character, in my own opinion, though Wells seems to think highly of him. Wells envisions this king renouncing his titles and privileges, and hurrying on foot to lay his crown at the feet of the new world order, for the good of the world. Meanwhile, his assistant carries Egbert’s beer as well as his own, in the same style of servitude to which he was already well accustomed. Egbert himself points out that he will still be leading, as in having a part in the new world order government, just with a different title. Therein is the rub, as Shakespeare would say, for in one world government, we are merely trading a score of corrupt leaders who fight for control, for one corrupt leader with total power to dominate and subjugate the whole Earth. I wouldn’t want to give that kind of power to any old Egbert, be he king or jungle chief. But, the point of Egbert is that Wells believes the world can be rid of evil, greed, domination, and the wars of “flag and country” by a simple decision to live in peace. He seems to not be aware that all these evils are inherent in man, and will be in the world, so long as man is here. The following bit is eerie when we see Wells’ ideas forced upon mankind, and a king killed for rebelling against handing over his country. So, it’s the usual fare, with ‘submit willingly or die.’ This is an evil and sadistic philosophy in and of itself. And, world peace at what price? Wells was not only a Socialist, but believed in liberal Fascism, and promoted a police state type of “enlightened Nazi” one world government. The End of Private Property? Some of the other developments Wells wishes upon mankind include the end of most occupations, especially those involving farming and ranching where man works with animal excrement, which he thought of as a filthy occupation. Man would spend his days making art. He also ends money and ownership of private property, and we get to keep an apartment: “In the old days the common ambition of every simple soul was to possess a little property, a patch of land, a house uncontrolled by others, an 'independence' as the English used to put it. And what made this desire for freedom and prosperity so strong, was very evidently the dream of self-expression, of doing something with it, of playing with it, of making a personal delightfulness, a distinctiveness. Property was never more than a means to an end, nor avarice more than a perversion. Men owned in order to do freely. Now that every one has his own apartments and his own privacy secure, this disposition to own has found its release in a new direction. Men study and save and strive that they may leave behind them a series of panels in some public arcade, a row of carven figures along a terrace, a grove, a pavilion. Or they give themselves to the penetration of some still opaque riddle in phenomena as once men gave themselves to the accumulation of riches.” This destruction of wealth, private property, and freedom sounds all too familiar, in terms of political philosophies. Basically, he turns the Bible principle, “If a man doesn’t work, he won’t eat,” into the motto, “eat, drink, and be merry.” The End of Love? (After Free-Love?) Much of the writing style is quite emotionless and scientific, at least until the bomb is dropped. He sees love and emotions as something to be restrained for the business of scientific breakthrough and war. He says we have to move past our emotions because, 'You cannot stay at the roots and climb the tree.' He predicts that the need for love and human sexuality are just an adolescent “phase” mankind is going through, meant to balance out the dying by providing the temporary means of reproduction until we solve the dilemma of death. He believes that at first, after man is truly free, a time of “free love” will come: “…there is a vast release of love-making in the world. This great wave of decoration and elaboration that has gone about the world, this Efflorescence, has of course laid hold of that. I know that when you say that the world is set free, you interpret that to mean that the world is set free for love-making. Down there,— under the clouds, the lovers foregather… this release of sexual love and the riddles that perfect freedom and almost limitless power will put to the soul of our race. I can see now, all over the world, a beautiful ecstasy of waste; "Let us sing and rejoice and be lovely and wonderful." . . . The orgy is only beginning,” But, what is it the beginning of? He believes mankind will also put those appetites away, and live in a higher plain, as he “matures.” There in those “last days” Wells believes that mankind will have longer lifespans and live happy and healthy lives focused on art. That’s it… just art. I know, I know. It reminds you of Kindergarten doesn’t it?! Actually, it is beginning to sound like a prison rehab pottery class or more likely Hell. I already know I don’t want to go there. The End of the Battle of the Sexes? As if it were possible for two sexes to become one, Wells wanted to remove any differences in the human sexes. This leaves the question, if two become one, then which one will they become? On the topic of the feminist movement and the role of women, Wells’ character had this to say: "'I do not care a rap about your future— as women. I do not care a rap about the future of men— as males. I want to destroy these peculiar futures. I care for your future as intelligences, as parts of and contribution to the universal mind of the race. Humanity is not only naturally over-specialised in these matters, but all its institutions, its customs, everything, exaggerate, intensify this difference. I want to unspecialise women. No new idea. Plato wanted exactly that. I do not want to go on as we go now, emphasising this natural difference; I do not deny it, but I want to reduce it and overcome it.'" Wells wanted no division of the sexes, no need for reproduction, and no holidays or customs to distract us. If you haven’t got the picture yet, you will because you will be painting it if Wells gets his way. Incidentally, one of H.G. Wells many affairs (with his wife’s consent) was with Margaret Sanger, the feminist and birth control advocate. His ideas of free-love and his politics were evident in this book. The End of God? In this new age of the brotherhood of man, there will be no Father above. Therefore, having no source, like bastard sons who have no fathers, mankind will be disinherited from all the purpose for which the Creator designed him. Wells considers religion to be, ‘dead ideas,’ and says that “The inertia of dead ideas and old institutions carries us on towards the rapids.” I have to disagree with this assumption, as ideas don’t die. The Russian author, Feodor Dostoyevsky would have agreed with me on that one, had he lived to read Wells’ book. Ideas grow and circulate, never dying, and always reappearing. If you’ve ever taught public school and seen the comings and goings of “educational philosophies” in a full circle fashion, then you know that ideas are like neckties, out of fashion this year will be back in fashion eventually. They can only grow so wide before they must become narrower. Wells seemed in-desirous to admit the fact he was an atheist in his public answers, but the conclusion is obvious from quotes in this book. They are quite sad, mournful complaints of a mind that felt abandoned, or perhaps ignored by Heaven. Here are a few of those complaints from his own words: “If some curious god had chosen to watch the course of events in those northern provinces while that flanking march of the British was in progress, he would have found a convenient and appropriate seat for his observation upon one of the great cumulus clouds that were drifting slowly across the blue sky during all these eventful days before the great catastrophe. For that was the quality of the weather…” Here he wanted merely to describe the weather as being a cloudy day, and instead placed God upon the clouds in observation, as if God were some fickle quality of men’s imaginations, as changing as the weather. Continuing his motif with descriptions of what God would have seen, he says: “It may be that watcher drifting in the pellucid gulf beneath the stars watched all through the night; it may be that he dozed. But if he gave way to so natural a proclivity, assuredly on the fourth night of the great flank march he was aroused, for that was the night of the battle in the air.” If it doesn’t seem sacrilegious enough that he accused God of sleeping, look a little further… “…it was decided to 'nail down Easter.' . . . In these matters, as in so many matters, the new civilisation came as a simplification of ancient complications; the history of the calendar throughout the world is a history of inadequate adjustments…” The bitter double entendre of that is heart wrenching! It is as if he wanted to add nails to Jesus’ hands with his words. Sadly, it was Wells himself, and you and I who nailed Jesus on the cross, and here is the worst of his nightmare… as Wells is dead and his ashes scattered to the wind. With all his predictions, he did not see the signs in front of his face. He should have been more concerned with his own future, than with the future of mankind and the bomb. Death is not the prerogative of science. His vision, his discernment, his intelligence and wisdom, and his choices had a time limit. Science won’t be able to change that. Yet, Wells thought to do away with religion and God. The End of the Book? (And this long review... I promise) Here again, we see Wells consistently tearing away at all the old institutions of society as we know it. Was anything in his dystopia the same as our world? Yes, there was one similarity. There at the very end, in the last chapter, the character Karenin the cripple is preparing to undergo surgery to attempt to save his life. They do not expect the surgery to be successful, and he is expecting exactly death. So, it is no surprise that death is in the last 7 words of the last sentence of the book. He undergoes surgery, which is “successful,” and then dies from a blood clot. Here I am suppressing a hysterical laugh. Seriously now, how ironic is that?! They harnessed the sun, for crying out loud, and can’t stop this simple problem of blood clots after surgery that kills so many people even today?! What’s more, he is a ‘cripple.’ Please! You’ve freed mankind from cows and horses and can’t save his legs? It looks like you might want to keep God around a little bit longer!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Warren Fournier

    This is one of the more unsettling pieces of sci-fi I've read. I say "unsettling" not because of the early predictions of use of atomic power as energy, and (as most often cited by other reviews) nuclear war, but by the future echoes of Brexit, Marine LePen, and the question of a viable European union. This book is as relevant today as it was in World War I. This novel was written in what many consider to be a low point in Wells' career, because Wells was by this point quite well off and well re This is one of the more unsettling pieces of sci-fi I've read. I say "unsettling" not because of the early predictions of use of atomic power as energy, and (as most often cited by other reviews) nuclear war, but by the future echoes of Brexit, Marine LePen, and the question of a viable European union. This book is as relevant today as it was in World War I. This novel was written in what many consider to be a low point in Wells' career, because Wells was by this point quite well off and well recognized. He thus fell victim to what we see in our celebrities of today. His art became less important than his agenda. Narrative took second billing to his own voice. Therefore, much of this work is expository. His self-importance emboldens him to rattle on about his own politics rather than couch his message in a story in which readers will sympathetically invest. In fact, it was hard to connect to anything in this novel at all. Wells was sympathetic to a one-world state, so he introduces "antagonists" who many readers do not necessarily identify as "bad guys." For example, a Slavic king (presumably of Serbia) is depicted as being the sole stubborn enemy of a world government. Wells would have us believe this king of an ignorant and barbaric people is stubbornly clinging to romantic notions of individual sovereign states. His cold-blooded demise at the hands of the United Council is chilling to the reader, but supposed to be justified. The days of independent nations warring constantly with each other must inevitably end or the human race will face extinction. Therefore, such populism must be controlled by a group of unelected intellectual elites who know better. Wells hates monarchies and colonialism so much that it is unclear if he ever realized his "inevitable" solution was being portrayed by his own hand as quite terrifying. This novel even suggests that the needed impetus to evolve humankind to the necessary New World Order was the nuclear holocaust, and that perhaps a few strategic atomic explosions here and there might be needed in the future to keep the masses in check. So Wells unwittingly fell into the same fallacious trap as seen in the 1951 film "The Day the Earth Stood Still." In that famous production, the alien Klaatu essentially tells humankind to join their One World Order "or else." Klaatu is from an intergalactic network of disarmed worlds living together in "peace." However, this peace is maintained by a band of robots who will destroy anyone who even looks like they will descent. Generations of fans have seen this movie as a Cold War morality tale, an indictment on the paranoia and aggressiveness of humans who still wage petty but deadly wars with each other. But do not fail to see the ultimate irony of Klaatu's "peace," which is that the One World Order is under marshal law and under constant threat of violence. But when this movie was made, the United Nations was still young, a reaction against the horrors of WWII. Similarly, "The World Set Free" was a reaction to WWI. And both stories wittingly or unwittingly espouse the propaganda of "give over control and obey!" "The World Set Free" pretends to sympathize with the common man, the laborer, the exploited, and the forgotten in an era where technology has created unlimited potential wealth and energy so quickly that our antiquated system of laws and economy could not keep up with the welfare of most the working-class. Yet, throughout the novel, the "masses" are portrayed as peasants, ignorant, incapable of anything other than their ancestral ape-like tribalism, and thus incapable of taking care of their own needs. Thus, this novel tells us how terrible and tragic it is that whole civilizations must succumb to rule of a few, but that is what will set the world free. Whether or not you share Wells' vision in this novel, it is definitely worth the read. It just goes to show how old this debate goes back in the history of industrialized nations, and invites modern readers to think seriously about what they want their own future to be.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dee

    I have read other HG Wells books, and this one was on par with his part storytelling, part documentary-philosophy format, which is admittedly not always an easy read. Wells wrote the book in 1913, and the alternate history story he writes predicts such things as atomic bombs, an increase in capitalism, environmental degradation, and a one world order. Like most deep thinkers of his time, when he thought of the future, he foretold how bad it could be. But then he envisioned what he felt was a utop I have read other HG Wells books, and this one was on par with his part storytelling, part documentary-philosophy format, which is admittedly not always an easy read. Wells wrote the book in 1913, and the alternate history story he writes predicts such things as atomic bombs, an increase in capitalism, environmental degradation, and a one world order. Like most deep thinkers of his time, when he thought of the future, he foretold how bad it could be. But then he envisioned what he felt was a utopia and waxed philosophically along those lines for huge portions of the book. We do not have many characters to anchor ourselves in his vision, which for me made the reading difficult at times. In the beginning, we are introduced to humans generically, as a species. We’re taken through the species’ progress from early human onward towards a more scientific society and mindset. We are briefly given the storylines of some scientists, notably Holsten who unravels atomic energy, to help us grasp the scientific advance in the species' evolution. Then war breaks out and things escalates fast. We are given a view of this quickly changing world through the eyes of Barnet, a soldier, who at points recounts his experiences in the war. Fast forward, and we are provided a glimpse into the establishment of a one-world republic through the eyes of characters such as Leblanc and Egbert, but again, we're not given enough detail to invest in these characters - they serve as vessels to help us relate to the history that Wells is conveying. The last quarter of the book is shown in part through the eyes of a character called Karenin, and this is where I feel the book really started to fall apart in terms of helping the reader understand the society Wells envisioned. Karenin has many lofty ideas, some of which made me stop and think and others of which made me roll my eyes. He is the only character through which women are discussed in any amount. Before his part in the story, women are barely mentioned except as property or consorts of human males in general. Some of Karenin’s ideas of women again put Wells’ vision of society ahead of his time. The book ends abruptly and left the reader never having fully envisioned the society and world Wells finally brought readers into. We get no real glimpse as to what the day-to-day life of the average human is in the world he has created - we get only a lot of high level philosophical waffling. And considering that I really kept reading the book simply to get a glimpse of that world, I literally read the last few words and exclaimed "You've got to be f*cking kidding me" because I have never read a book that ended quite so abruptly and which left so many questions in the minds of readers, the foremost of which is "Why did I waste so much time reading this book????"

  11. 4 out of 5

    Randy

    I enjoyed reading this book even though I was thoroughly aware of the predictions about nuclear weapons. In fact, that was some of the reason I picked the book up. I wanted to read this legendary story about humanity and nuclear warfare. What did surprise me were the predictions that are not discussed with the same regularity. For example, he discusses automation and how a great many people are not needed to produce products. There was a great disparity of wealth due to this decreased need for l I enjoyed reading this book even though I was thoroughly aware of the predictions about nuclear weapons. In fact, that was some of the reason I picked the book up. I wanted to read this legendary story about humanity and nuclear warfare. What did surprise me were the predictions that are not discussed with the same regularity. For example, he discusses automation and how a great many people are not needed to produce products. There was a great disparity of wealth due to this decreased need for labor in his story. This is a subject the world is dealing with at this time. Yet, there is a bit of a dreamer in Mr. Wells. I read how the world would gladly embrace a world government based on socialism. Like a many political dreamers in the past who wrote about an elite group of enlightened men, they assumed they would act on humanity’s best interests. Everyone’s needs were fulfilled, and people fell into activity to provide service to humanity as their skills allowed. I even took the barbs at our election process in stride. From the outside looking in, I am sure it is as much a circus to outsiders as it is for us Americans. But we Americans know something these men dreaming of communism, socialism, and oligarchy of philosopher kings seem to forget. It comes from our fore fathers being students of history. Our government is not one modeled on the belief that men are good. It is the belief that men are evil and need to be checked. I enjoyed your book Mr. Wells, and you had an excellent ability to look forward, but you can keep your World Government, which would eventually degenerate from a Utopia into a totalitarian dystopia. I will stick to the messy, loud, irritating American habit of politicians calling each other out, and the news reporting endlessly on corruption.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline

    This was an unusual book which at times is written in a very historical textbook-like manner in some distant future looking back upon our times. In other places, the narrative becomes more story-like and focussed upon certain individuals who have an impact on major events. This book is renowned for Wells' predictions of global warfare, the use of planes in battle and the development of nuclear weapons. It also places a strong emphasis on a social move towards gender equality and predicts genetic This was an unusual book which at times is written in a very historical textbook-like manner in some distant future looking back upon our times. In other places, the narrative becomes more story-like and focussed upon certain individuals who have an impact on major events. This book is renowned for Wells' predictions of global warfare, the use of planes in battle and the development of nuclear weapons. It also places a strong emphasis on a social move towards gender equality and predicts genetic engineering. This book also very graphically describes the violent consequences of war very well. It was ab interesting read, but despite the fact that Wells is one of my favourite authors, I do not believe from a literary stance that this is one of his stronger novels. Completed January 17 2014.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Al Burke

    Wells' foresight can be prescient at times. This book is no exception. Certainly not his best work though. Wells' foresight can be prescient at times. This book is no exception. Certainly not his best work though.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Denis

    I picked this out of my library to read as 2014 is the centennial of this novel’s publication. It is by no means considered an H.G. Wells classic such as “The Time Machine”, “The Invisible Man”, “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, “War of the Worlds” and so on. (I believe that it wasn’t reprinted in paper until the seventies – please correct me if I’m wrong). My first impression was that, at times, it reads like a collection of shorter works linked chronologically by a narrative of what seemed to be deco I picked this out of my library to read as 2014 is the centennial of this novel’s publication. It is by no means considered an H.G. Wells classic such as “The Time Machine”, “The Invisible Man”, “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, “War of the Worlds” and so on. (I believe that it wasn’t reprinted in paper until the seventies – please correct me if I’m wrong). My first impression was that, at times, it reads like a collection of shorter works linked chronologically by a narrative of what seemed to be deconstructed essays. It begins with man at his most primitive. This section is a bit reminiscent of his earlier “Stories of the Stone Age”, and moves on up through time resembling something more akin to his very ambitious “History of the World”, but in this case, it is more of the history of man. However, the subject of the book becomes more about general societal speculation. Wells looks closely as to how man has arrived to his current state the present time (1913 in the case of book) then Wells proceeds to project the trend fifty or so years into the future. “The World Set Free” is the first attempt of an idea Wells later took even further with “The Shape of Things to Come” published twenty years later (I admit I have not read this book but have seen the film that was based on it and consider it one of the most interesting films of its time (1937-9). What this novel is primarily noted for is that it is the first novel that employs the use and development of “atom power”. Aircraft, cars and eventually weapons are powered by the energy released from uranium and other heavy metals. This theme was very popular in the sf genre during the early 1940’s by the suggestion of Astounding’s then notorious editor John Campbell Jr., who encouraged his “stable writers” to explore this new and very real possibility in fiction. Heinlein once noted that all types of sf stories have all been told in one or another. Until I discovered this book, I would have challenged that this was a sure shot theme that Wells would not have covered, naively thinking, that this subject would have been entirely unknown at such an early date. Beyond that obvious point, was the segment where Well’s characters discussed sex and feminism. Wells’ take on this was, to me, surprisingly progressive. The sf writers of the so called “golden age” (1939-1950) rarely handled the subject of the future of femininity as well as Wells did here. He also mentioned the environmental consequence of the current rate of consumption of natural resources, which I also find notable. Aside from the remarkable prophetic foresight of some elements of the this novel, there are some that fall extremely short and ridiculous. This is to be expected, as making a call as to how the future might be is anybody’s guess. Try it for yourself. Pick any date, say twenty or thirty years hence and list all of your guesses, then seal them in an envelope not to be opened until that date. What you wrote will probably be the most comedic writing you’ve ever managed to come up with. Overall, “The World Set Free” is a mixed bag. Some of it is the stiffest writing of Wells I’ve read thus far, as other segments are absolutely beautiful and brilliant. However, it was a very interesting and enjoyable read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nora

    The most notable thing about this sf novel is that in 1914 Wells predicted atomic energy and atomic warfare. It’s too bad no one heeded his warning. In fact it seems his ideas inspired the scientists who worked on the atom bomb. This is the only book of 1914 I encountered that admitted the possibility of a war that would kill millions, even as such a war got underway. This book doesn’t have a plot or main characters in a traditional way. It’s a history book from the future, and the first chapter The most notable thing about this sf novel is that in 1914 Wells predicted atomic energy and atomic warfare. It’s too bad no one heeded his warning. In fact it seems his ideas inspired the scientists who worked on the atom bomb. This is the only book of 1914 I encountered that admitted the possibility of a war that would kill millions, even as such a war got underway. This book doesn’t have a plot or main characters in a traditional way. It’s a history book from the future, and the first chapter (the “prelude”) covers actual history. The rest of the book covers the development of atomic power which essentially creates free energy that destroys the world economy, and then atomic war destroys all the major cities, killing everyone and leaving a radioactive landscape. However, after that the book becomes remarkably upbeat as the survivors create a world government that unifies the planet. You get snapshots of life from different people throughout the book. Other than a kind of dismissive attitude toward India, this book isn’t even racist. The edition I read had an actually interesting introduction, by Greg Bear, comparing Henry James and Wells, who were frenemies. Bear says that this was the moment when speculative fiction and literary fiction parted ways. Spec fic (along with my bff Arnold Bennett) was dismissed as trying to get people to believe in something and too action/plot oriented. Literary fiction was elevated for being sexless, bloodless, and more about money and people’s inner lives than stuff happening. Bear puts forward the non-dual POV that there’s no reason these two styles had to be opposed to each other. Anyway, I thought it was notable that this was one of the few books of 1914 that has been reprinted by a reputable press with attention paid to the book design—because actual normal humans might want to read this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Akrabar

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Well what can I say? Another HG Wells classic. Written in 1913 and this is what he predicts - 1) He talks about the Dass-Tata engine that Bengali inventors have invented to run automobiles on nuclear energy. 2) Predicts patent litigation 3) Predicts an energy crisis 4) Predicts that even if we have limitless energy, society will be completely disrupted 5) Predicts aerial warfare 6) Predicts nuclear warfare 7) A new currency that is based on energy (not physical coins) 8) Imagines a world where people li Well what can I say? Another HG Wells classic. Written in 1913 and this is what he predicts - 1) He talks about the Dass-Tata engine that Bengali inventors have invented to run automobiles on nuclear energy. 2) Predicts patent litigation 3) Predicts an energy crisis 4) Predicts that even if we have limitless energy, society will be completely disrupted 5) Predicts aerial warfare 6) Predicts nuclear warfare 7) A new currency that is based on energy (not physical coins) 8) Imagines a world where people live for self-expression and try to distinguish themselves based on their skills and creative contributions (artistry, science, etc). Where money and causing hurt to others is not the object. He says its not an evolution of human beings. They just had to suppress some urges and promote something else. 9) Predicts that we will become a pill obsessed world. People will have always have pills in their pockets and will be bombarded with advertisements on medications 10) Great insight into how and why civilizations (Nineveh, Rome, etc) collapsed and how they were a mere shadow of what we can ultimately achieve 11) Laments how extreme and rampant individualism is to the detriment of collective good Ultimately this is an utopic novel. He hopes and dreams that one day mankind will rise from his lowly self and become something great. A classic.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Φίλ

    Slow, pedantic, naive and disappointing. Despite a few prophetic ideas this book was underwhelming. The world government was a bit too Euro-centric for my taste and it was proclaimed with too much dispatch. The ex-King Egbert, the King of the Balkans, the American president and "Home Rule" Indians were instances of racial, or national, prejudices... more than just an annoyance. I find Wells uneven in his writing, he could be brilliant as in 'The Time Machine' and 'The Invisible Man' (and please Slow, pedantic, naive and disappointing. Despite a few prophetic ideas this book was underwhelming. The world government was a bit too Euro-centric for my taste and it was proclaimed with too much dispatch. The ex-King Egbert, the King of the Balkans, the American president and "Home Rule" Indians were instances of racial, or national, prejudices... more than just an annoyance. I find Wells uneven in his writing, he could be brilliant as in 'The Time Machine' and 'The Invisible Man' (and please forget the terrible movies!) and he can be awful as in this novel or 'When The Sleeper Wakes'. As in the last title, this book was not engaging and it was difficult to feel for any of the characters. Disinterested would be a fair assessment of my mood while reading it. The ending was, for lack of a better word, blah and I was glad for those two beautiful words on page 138: THE END.

  18. 4 out of 5

    MJD

    Excellent book by H.G. Wells. If you like another book by Wells you will like this one. While it can seem a bit dated with fears of nuclear technology leading to massive economic turmoil with unemployment through atomic tech replacing workers in the workplace and international turmoil with nuclear technology being used in warfare (i.e. we have been living in the "age of the atom" for a few decades now and it hasn't happened yet); I think that similar problems - and possible solutions - that he w Excellent book by H.G. Wells. If you like another book by Wells you will like this one. While it can seem a bit dated with fears of nuclear technology leading to massive economic turmoil with unemployment through atomic tech replacing workers in the workplace and international turmoil with nuclear technology being used in warfare (i.e. we have been living in the "age of the atom" for a few decades now and it hasn't happened yet); I think that similar problems - and possible solutions - that he writes of could be applied to artificial intelligence technology in the workplace and in the military given all the warnings that some contemporary scientists and economists have voiced about AI. Through substituting references to atomic tech with AI the book can still serve as a warning, and as a book of suggestions, to the contemporary reader (note: the warnings about atomic bombs should not be dismissed of course, but countries for the most part have acted more responsibly with them than Wells predicted). Also, it's worth pointing out that the book can be interesting to read solely based on the idea that a book published in 1914 about an imaginary history of the rest of the 20th century could get so much right.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Vivian

    He books always as message and the future. In this book, he used a word for the first time in this this world "atom bomb" and we see this in the second world war where this thing was used. Before writing and thinking the book he read a paper on radium and the energy it posses we lead to forword thinking something called called aton bomb which was unknown then , the radioactivity study before it was there simply blows away your mind, it was unbelievable. Whatever he thought in that time has become He books always as message and the future. In this book, he used a word for the first time in this this world "atom bomb" and we see this in the second world war where this thing was used. Before writing and thinking the book he read a paper on radium and the energy it posses we lead to forword thinking something called called aton bomb which was unknown then , the radioactivity study before it was there simply blows away your mind, it was unbelievable. Whatever he thought in that time has become possible or will become possible, he was the first one to think about the attack from Mars (in science fiction ) though idea was of his brother Frank, but he took it to the next level a the heat rotating gadget use by the them in the book. He also was critical about the misuse of the invention we do and believed that our invention will end our civilization , he visualized the world wars in his book before anyone and a brilliant idea of the time machine and the 4th dimension as such to locate the position of the object the space.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Selena Beckman-Harned

    Wells' 1914 tale of a world first ultra-modernized by atomic power, then mostly destroyed by it, then remade into a fabulous utopia with one language, one common government, and apparently no societal problems is on the one hand eerily prescient and on the other a bit laughably unbelievable. It's completely astonishing how Wells predicted nuclear war, but the utopia he describes is just cartoonish in its simplicity and lacks any details that would help me believe it could really come to pass. He Wells' 1914 tale of a world first ultra-modernized by atomic power, then mostly destroyed by it, then remade into a fabulous utopia with one language, one common government, and apparently no societal problems is on the one hand eerily prescient and on the other a bit laughably unbelievable. It's completely astonishing how Wells predicted nuclear war, but the utopia he describes is just cartoonish in its simplicity and lacks any details that would help me believe it could really come to pass. He skates around issues of race and religion and sex and basically just assumes that white European guys know what's best for everybody and will fix the planet. A fascinating, if plodding at times and infuriating at other times, read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    One of Wells lesser known works this is worth the read for those who enjoy the socio-political commentary of one of the worlds great writers. It's in the public domain for those who are interested...good stuff! One of Wells lesser known works this is worth the read for those who enjoy the socio-political commentary of one of the worlds great writers. It's in the public domain for those who are interested...good stuff!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kurt Rocourt

    Similar to Starship Troopers but written well before it. This is a story about what could be or could not be when governments decide to work together instead of against each other. Also an idea of what could have happened if World War 1 could have been avoided.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Shugga

    I hope this wasn't HG Wells best work because if it was the rest of his writings must be horrid!! If you ask me what this book was about, I will tell you I have not the glimmer of an idea! I hope this wasn't HG Wells best work because if it was the rest of his writings must be horrid!! If you ask me what this book was about, I will tell you I have not the glimmer of an idea!

  24. 5 out of 5

    John

    Remarkable sci-fi by H.G. Wells written in 1914 in which he imagines what will happen when the world obtains nuclear energy. Biplanes dropping A-bombs, for example.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Peter Macinnis

    Well, what can you say about a book, published in 1913, which predicted the atomic bomb? OK, he had it being used on Berlin in 1956, but not bad, not bad ata all.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Willa Guadalupe Grant

    Such an amazing author! How did H.G. Wells know the things he knew? This story was horrifying & amazing & I really loved it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brittnie

    Instead of reading the book Read Vicky Hunt's goodreads review. Instead of reading the book Read Vicky Hunt's goodreads review.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chaitalee Ghosalkar

    The rating is more for the frighteningly close to reality vision of the author than the actual content.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tbfrank

    In 1914 Wells published what reads like a string of fanciful essays pretending to be a novel. Collectively, it is an indictment of the state of human affairs: economic inequity; broken, outdated institutions; and the militarism sweeping the world about to culminate in the cataclysm of 1914. It is a cautionary story about the danger of unintended consequences when science hands devices of incredible power and effect to humanity driven by old ideas and old prejudices. There are few characters to ca In 1914 Wells published what reads like a string of fanciful essays pretending to be a novel. Collectively, it is an indictment of the state of human affairs: economic inequity; broken, outdated institutions; and the militarism sweeping the world about to culminate in the cataclysm of 1914. It is a cautionary story about the danger of unintended consequences when science hands devices of incredible power and effect to humanity driven by old ideas and old prejudices. There are few characters to carry the story. Wells uses a memoir by an Englishman named Barnet to provide the historical backdrop detailing how cheap atomic power remade the world, first through massive economic dislocations then as horrific weapons of war. Barnet, formerly a member of the well-to-do middle class, unemployed and homeless like thousands of his countrymen struggles to survive. He is suddenly aware that his previously comfortable position blinded him to the true state of affairs for his fellow man: " 'In the days of my own prosperity things had seemed to me to be very well arranged.' Now from his new point of view he was to find they were not arranged at all; that government was a compromise of aggressions and powers and lassitudes, and law a convention between interests, and that the poor and the weak, though they had many negligent masters, had few friends." When one is well-treated, it is easy to assume everyone else is, too. If they are not, it is through some fault of theirs, not the system - the essence of privilege. Wells accurately predicted the opening of hostilities with the Central Powers attacking the Slavs and the British and French, the Entente including Russia, coming to the Slavs' aid. He also described how the unemployment problem was suddenly solved by the advent of war, somewhat like what happened prior to WWII. The entrenched forms of government, hereditary rulers, politicians, and lawyers all receive condemnation. He writes the problem arises from "the conflict of human egotism and personal passion and narrow imagination on the one hand, against the growing sense of wider necessities and a possible, more spacious life." Here he introduces the issue of religion without delving into the impact competing faiths have had on human events. He states "any road in life leads to religion for those upon it who will follow it far enough. . . ." and that "[T]he scientific thinker...comes inevitably upon the words of Christ..." Christianity receives full mention without regard for the world's other major religions and neither does away with nor explain the place of religion in the new society. Early on, Wells has the scientist who discovered the principle of atomic power which forcibly remade the world, consider the consequences of publishing his findings. He decided to do so for the potential benefits were staggering as well as unpredictable, and if he did not others surely would. He could not prevent his discovery from being turned into a weapon, and in the final chapter Well's observed, "Everywhere there were obsolete organisations seizing upon all the new fine things that science was giving to the world...and turning them to evil uses." Two-plus decades later Charles Lindbergh would argue steps should be taken to prevent the spread of mass destruction through the air. Wells captured the attitude this way: "It is wonderful how our fathers [the world as it was before the last war] bore themselves towards science. They hated it. The feared it. They permitted a few scientific men to exist and work...spare our little ways of life from the fearful shaft of understanding. But do tricks for us, little limited tricks. Give us cheap lighting. And cure us of disagreeable things." The attitude Wells described has not changed, ignoring facts in favor of personal interests and beliefs: "...for the most part the world went about its business...just as though the possible was impossible, as though the inevitable was postponed for ever because it was delayed." In the final chapter Wells broaches the relationship between the sexes in a dialogue/monologue between Marcus Karenin, a Russian member of the World Republic responsible for education, and several men and women. The conversation rambles and is somewhat unsatisfactory. The essence of Karenin's ideas seem to be that men and women should progress from identifying themselves through sexual roles. There is a sense that man and woman have been conditioned by society to view these roles as innate (i.e., gender roles) which imposes unnecessary limitations. Escaping that restriction will liberate all of humanity. Not an easy read but full of relevant thoughts. It struck me as a trifle naive given humanity's oddly rational reaction to the atomic disaster in embracing the idea of a World Republic in which parts bear a resemblance to Soviet collectivism. Honestly, I liked Greg Bear's introduction best.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Frasier Armitage

    Let me start by just coming out and saying it — I’m a big HG Wells fan. So I was really excited to read a Wells book that’s been hidden in the shadow of his more famous works. The World Set Free is a prophetic depiction of a future society which breaks free from war — a hopeful, philosophical, and idealistic read that’s packed with imagination and ideas. In other words, it’s a classic. The story was first published in the early 1900s, but this volume is part of a new collection — a new series of Let me start by just coming out and saying it — I’m a big HG Wells fan. So I was really excited to read a Wells book that’s been hidden in the shadow of his more famous works. The World Set Free is a prophetic depiction of a future society which breaks free from war — a hopeful, philosophical, and idealistic read that’s packed with imagination and ideas. In other words, it’s a classic. The story was first published in the early 1900s, but this volume is part of a new collection — a new series of books — that were all written in the period of what’s been coined The Radium Age. There was a time when scientific discovery was inspiring creative minds to invent stories of proto-science-fiction, and this book most definitely fits into that category. There’s a scholarly introduction to the text by Sarah Cole. The analysis of the book is done with a clarity that is both incisive and fair. Sarah praises it for what it does well, and candidly highlights its flaws, but more importantly, gives reasons for why it succeeds or fails. Sarah’s commentary covers a wide breadth of topics raised by the story, and it’s a great way to prepare the reader’s mind for what’s to follow. The preface is an introduction written by HG Wells in 1921, a few years after the story’s initial publication. In it, he admits that, comparing what he wrote with how events turned out, the book seems like a work of idealism rather than realism. He accepts that there were things he got right, and things he got wrong, and so we go into chapter one with no false expectations. Then the story begins. If you can call it a story. It’s more of a manifesto than a narrative — a history textbook that tells of the future rather than the past. This is HG Wells at the peak of his powers, writing prophetically with imagination and flair. Sadly, the book lacks a main character to centre the plot around. Instead, it takes a broader approach to the story, and it ups the scale to a global level. Each part introduces us to various players along the way, some of whom are stronger than others. But, as the title alludes to, this is the world set free, and the story is very much centred on the world rather than the people in it. Its scope renders it with a speculative, political, and journalistic edge which some may find difficult to connect with, but, personally, I quite enjoyed. In terms of language, it’s beautiful to read. Wells possesses a gift for turn of phrase which he employs artfully here. The pictures he paints of the destructive power of an atomic bomb (which he imagined many years before they were invented) are vivid and visceral. But, even with all the ingenuity and artistry on display here, the thing I enjoyed most about the story is its hopefulness. This is a book about humanity’s rise from the catastrophe of warfare, and there’s a real sense of expectation about the story that things may yet improve if only people would abandon the contrivances that divide us. There’s an enthusiasm about unification that gives an excitement to even the most clinical sections. Wells’ belief is truly palpable. An intriguing afterword by Joshua Glenn pinpoints the role of games in the way the world develops, and how Wells played with this idea. Overall, the book lives up to its status as a classic. It has its weaknesses, but fans of HG Wells won’t be disappointed. While it may not match the greatness of his other works, it’s a noble book with big aspirations, and a testament to ‘the radium age.’ Come for the atomic bomb prophecy, stay for the politics of a utopian dream. This is a book that might not have set the world free, but it’ll definitely liberate your imagination for a while, and for that, it’s most certainly worth exploring.

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