H.G. Wells: The Complete Short Stories
This has been live on this site for some time, but as the project is nearing its conclusion, I thought it was about time to draw a little attention to it. On this page here, (also linked in the ‘short story reviews’ section in the sidebar over there –> ), reside my reviews of all 62 of the short stories that Wells published in his own lifetime. Every story gets a paragraph with a brief overview of plot, most interesting points or themes, and ocassionally an opinion, arranged by year of publication and all with a linked contents section to aid ease of browsing.
This page is not really intended as something to be read through from start to finish. It is intended largely as a resource for myself, something of an aide-memoire, to remind me about the story as my age increases and the old memory blunts itself. Feel free to dip in and out of it, or to use it as a preliminary research tool, or whatever other use you can find for it.
It is not, as yet, truly complete, as there are another 22 short stories that were never collected still to be added, but these will included over the course of the next few weeks as I wind this project down and embark upon doing the same thing for Arthur C. Clarke’s collection of shorts.
Reading and reviewing these has, in tandem with all my other reading and real life, taken me about 2 – 3 months, reading one or two stories a day, and has been a fascinating process. Wells wrote lots of short stories in his early years of publication when, presumably, he needed the money, but this breakneck pace swiftly dropped off around the turn of the C20th. It is in this early explosion of creativity that most of the interest lies, particularly from a SF standpoint. Stories like ‘The Flowering of the Strange Orchid’, ‘The Star’, and ‘Argonauts of the Air’ are stone cold classic SF, whilst others, such as ‘The Temptation of Harringay’ and ‘The Apple’ draw on religious influences to create a sense of Horror.
Ocassionally, there is something that stands out as completely different from its contemporaries, such as ‘In the Modern Vein’, which feels like a confession, not a fantastic story but a homely little tale positively dripping with emotion and pathos. However, these surprisingly delicate and human touches must be contrasted with stories like ‘Lord of the Dynamo’s’ and ‘Jimmy Goggles the God’, where some very English racism and colonialist attitudes are the main order of the day.
There are several recurring themes throughout the body of work, the most interesting of which perhaps is the idea of remote viewing, or out of body experiences. This cycle of tales starts with ‘The Remarkable Tale of Davidson’s Eyes’ and continues in various forms until its apotheosis in ‘The Stolen Body’, and would seem to indicate that Wells held the view that body and soul, or at least body and conciousness, were two distinct entities.
The story that I would most recommend is the perfect example of SF that is ‘A Story of the Days to Come’, and I would advise against any of the ‘historical’ fictions, purely due to their daftness, but still interesting if looked at as experiments in creating fiction based around empirical knowledge. It has been fascinating reading through this body of work, and I have learnt a lot about the way Wells wrote and approached story telling, and also about Wells himself through some of the thinly veiled autobiographical touches. There’s gold in them thar’ stories, and I’m handing over my sieve.
Most of these stories are available from Project Gutenberg (linked in my blogroll), but I used the rather nice Gollancz hardback ‘H.G. Wells, complete short story omnibus’ for this. A nicely bound collection which stood up to my reading with only minor foxing, and very well curated with amazingly few spelling and grammatical errors. Highly recommended.