He was incredibly influential. "Test him for prophetic accuracy at any point, and he is nearly always right." (C 19). One book, The World Set Free, with its prediction of atomic warfare written in 1913, so horrified Leo Szilard that when he sought to patent his idea of a nuclear chain reaction he assigned the patent to the British Admiralty in order that it might be kept secret.
Yet somehow this biography failed to enthrall me. It virtually ignored some of his most famous works, such as The Invisible Man, concentrating instead on charting the development of his ideas in some of his later works. I was sometimes confused by the chronology. There were moments when episodes in the books were linked with real life experiences, and it is clear that Wells frequently turned friends and acquaintances (and enemies) into characters, but I still wanted more about the writing and less about the life. Perhaps I am being unrealistic. Perhaps I should read a literary evaluation rather than a biography.
Some more great lines:
- "if an angel were to appear on earth, somebody would be sure to shoot it." (C 5)
- "Jealousy and possessiveness are the natural accompaniment of any love affair" (C 6)
- "the heaven Wells dreamed of in 1900 bears a distinct resemblance to the 1984 hell imagined half a century later by George Orwell." (C 7)
- "The Christian Christ is too fine for him; he had no petty weaknesses." (C 9)
- "He saw all the scandal as emanating from the Old Gang in the Fabian Society - not surprisingly, since he had succeeded in seducing the daughters of two of its most eminent members" (C 11)
- "part of the price for such a misdemeanour has to be paid by those who have not drunk the wine and eaten the cake." (C 11)
- "Self-sacrifice is a dream and self-restraint a delusion." (C 11)
- "He was not powerless against the surge of sex so much as seeking it ... as a sensual release to a mind overburdened by thought." (C 12)
- "Popular newspapers inclined the popular mind to the persuasion that just outside their humdrum lives drama impended." (C13) Panem et circenses I suppose.
- "Sex had got out of the pages of daring novels and into the bed of the common man" (C 16)
- "It was a poor time for prophets, since all of them must be Cassandras." (C 18)
October 2018; 317 pages