Book Review: "In the Days of the Comet" by H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells is an extremely well known classic author. He has a household name thanks to such novels as "The Time Machine" and "War of the Worlds." In my opinion, these are among the best science fiction novels ever written. Then, there are the lesser-known H.G. Wells novels, such as the one I just finished reading -- "In the Days of the Comet." Written in 1906, this novel has themes of violence and enlightenment, all tied together with the skillful science fiction that weaves through most of this great's work.

All of "In the Days of the Comet" is told through the eyes of a narrator who has lived both before and after the arrival of the eponymous comet and often refers to life in such a way, hinting that the comet brought about great change, even before it is expressly stated. The narrator, William Leadford, leads an unhappy existence before the comet and describes it, along with the conditions of contemporary working class London, in Book I. You might find its descriptions a mite tedious, but from a social history perspective, it is quite informative.

Book I meanders back and forth between predicaments faced by William and predicaments faced by fellow members of the working class. All the time, a green comet in the sky features as a lesser character, something for passersby to observe. William has the attitude of a man in fevered pursuit of social reform, but what winds up driving him more than anything else is betrayal, an act that he plots to avenge with the utmost violence. The acme of this drama is the segue into Book II.

Books II and II focus more on the comet's effect on William and the world at large. It would be a spoiler to say much more about it. I will say that Wells' work is insightful and perhaps indicative of his personal feelings regarding humanity and its capabilities. Whatever the case, the result is a book that drags at times, but has a very clever premise to help it along.

Shelly Barclay

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