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Book Review of The First Men in the Moon

The First Men in the Moon
Minehava avatar reviewed on + 921 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2

In this novel Wells relies significantly on fantasy, presenting us with Professor Cavor, an eccentric (and quite comical) scientist determined to create a substance that is "opaque" to gravity, what we would today call an antigravity material. Cavor is interested in the work for the sake of knowledge pure and simple, but bankrupt businessman Bedford realizes the commercial implications and attaches himself to the project--and when the material is perfected the two men create a sphere that launches them to the moon!

If this is clearly the stuff of fantasy (Jules Verne sneered at it), what the two men find on the moon is not, or at least was not considered so at the time. In 1901 little was known about the moon, and many notable scientists thought it might hold life. Upon their arrival, Cavor and Bedford find an atmosphere of sorts, a host of strange plants, and ultimately an insect-like race of beings that reside inside the moon itself, beings who practice forced evolution upon their own kind in order to create a rigid, hive-like social structure.

As the nature of the "Selenite" society reflects Victorian concepts of fixed social classes taken to a logical and unpleasant extreme, so do the two humans reflect opposing points of sociopolitical view. Cavor is clearly an instrument of science, less interested in practicalities than in knowledge for its own sake--a point of view that Wells seems to hold in considerable sympathy. But for all this, Cavor is ineffectual; he must rely on Bedford's smash-and-grab imperialistic temperament to see them through. As in many Wells novels, the resulting clash of ideology is stalemate: both extremes need each other, but they are incapable of building compromise and neither is able to overcome the other to reach an outcome that will be satisfactory to any one concerned.

All of this sounds terribly dry and dusty, but the book itself isn't. THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON is a remarkably lively novel, a fast-paced quick read that will appeal greatly to most readers as it balances its philosphical questions with great chunks of pulse-pounding adventure. And even though we know that Wells was off the mark re lunar atmosphere, flora, and fauna, it is easy to suspend our disbelief to enjoy the ride. Recommended.

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