Cover Image: The World Set Free

The World Set Free

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

The premise of this book is grand but it was a slow=paced, difficult read for me. The concept of the atomic bomb is a Wellsian premonition leading to his idea of an atomic-powered society. He takes us through a world war and the establishment of a global government system. My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a complimentary copy of this volume.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you Netgalley and publisher for the free copy in return for a review.

This is my first H.G. Wells novel. I chose it because of all the good things I heard about HG Wells. Before reading the book, I did some research and found out that H.G. Wells predicted the invention of the atomic bomb and the destruction it brings. At under 200 pages, this was supposed to be an easy read but it was not. It was slow paced and there was no real protagonist. It was a weird book and I was really bored. It took me several days to finish. I think I am not the audience for this book. Despite this, I still hope for the future that this book foresee.

Was this review helpful?

In this book from 1914, Wells predicts atomic bombs and atomic energy which leads to ‘The Last War’ and after major cities around the world are now unliveable, a world government (led by European men) turns society into an artistic utopia. Sounds good but oh the writing is so tedious! I really struggled to read it without my eyes glazing over. It’s fascinating to read something from early last century that is visionary (if unrealistic, Eurocentric and scientifically wrong) but I wish it had been more readable.

Was this review helpful?

Every story by H. G. Wells I have come across has managed to crawl up my skin and this was no exception; "The World Set Free" is truly unsettling.

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

The World Set Free by H. G. Wells is an exciting prescient story about nuclear war years before the atomic bomb was developed. It’s a heartstopping story about great wars, world powers and peace. There is a very detailed Introduction by Sarah Cole and an Afterword by Joshua Glenn.

Thank you NetGalley & Mit Press for a free copy of this ebook. #TheWorldSetFree #NetGalley

Was this review helpful?

Its amazing that a book that was written more than 100 years ago, had so much about the future as this one, I mean, the narrator explained in such details the outcome of a nuclear bomb, of course there are some things that are not totally correct, but still wells imagination is so over the top, that really makes me wonder, of the modern authors that describe future apocalypses, how many of them will look like wells when he wrote this book… yes it’s a scary though but still a possibility.

It’s clear from reading this book that the theme was something that was a concern to wells, he did a pretty good research about nuclear bombs, the results, and how could the world could recover and even prevent this kind of situations, I do feel that wells was a socialist and the utopia that he dreamt was very much based in those beliefs, but that aside, this book is a pearl, really!, a travel to the past, that feels like going to the future itself.

I highly recommend this book to the future generations, I mean people should be recommending reading this book as much as the war of the worlds or the time machine, the English could feel a bit outdated in some situations but also quite modern.

Thank you NetGalley for the free ARC and this is my honest opinion.

Was this review helpful?

H. G. Wells' novel "The World Set Free" is a fictional historical narration of the century or so after the book is written in 1913. (Yes, the narrator could be our contemporary in a parallel universe!) It is impressively prescient that Wells accurately predicted, before World War 1, the creation and use of atomic energy and weapons. The technical details may occasionally bring a smile to the 21st century reader, but the philosophical considerations are profound. If civilization engages in a world war that wipes out most major cities, leaving them uninhabitable for generations causing immeasurable death and destruction, would (should? could?!?) the survivors band together to prevent the end of humanity? What kind of civilization would it be? Utopian? Dystopian?

This printing is part of the Radium Age Book Series edited by Joshua Glenn and published by the MIT Press. It is fortunate that the editor includes sufficient forewords and an afterword to help the modern reader understand where in history this book was written and hence deepening appreciation and personal contemplation.

As it has been around 100 years since the novel was written, some of the musings and prose require a bit of work on the reader's part. However, this is absolutely a worthy read for anyone who philosophizes on humanity.

I thank MIT Press and Joshua Glenn for kindly providing a temporary electronic review copy of this classic.

Was this review helpful?