Inventing Tomorrow: H.G. Wells in the Twentieth Century

Columbia Univ. Oct. 2019. 400p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780231193122. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780231550161. LIT
With this scholarly study, Cole (English, Columbia Univ.; Modernism, Male Friendship and the First World War) situates the author of sf’s War of the Worlds and The Island of Dr. Moreau among literary modernists such as T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and D.H. Lawrence, outlining H.G. Wells’s (1866–1946) vision of the future and means for achieving artistic and literary success. In addition to writing novels, Wells was also a popular historian (The Outline of History), yet Cole looks beyond these well-known achievements to assert her subject’s mastery of storytelling, often lauded by the literary elite, albeit with caveats regarding his personal life and more conventional conservative views. A lengthy introduction precedes four sections—“Voice,” “Civilian,” “Time,” and “Biology”—in which Cole contends that Wells should be placed alongside British thinkers/artists who today receive more respect and analysis. Note this is not a straightforward biography yet a number of points explore his life and thought. Rather, Cole documents a thorough and thoughtful appreciation of Wells’s accomplishments and skills as a writer to argue for a revised estimate of his body of work.
VERDICT Extensive references and footnotes make this a good choice for readers comfortable with analysis steeped in research. Recommended for larger academic holdings.

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