The first great novel to imagine time travel, The Time Machine (1895) follows its scientist narrator on an incredible journey that takes him finally to Earth’s last moments—and perhaps his own. The scientist who discovers how to transform himself in The Invisible Man (1897) will also discover, too late, that he has become unmoored from society and from his own sanity. The War of the Worlds (1898)—the seminal masterpiece of alien invasion adapted by Orson Welles for his notorious 1938 radio drama, and subsequently by several filmmakers—imagines a fierce race of Martians who devastate Earth and feed on their human victims while their voracious vegetation, the red weed, spreads over the ruined planet.
Here are three classic science fiction novels that, more than a century after their original publication, show no sign of losing their grip on readers’ imaginations.
From the Hardcover edition.
The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth is a science fiction novel by H. G. Wells, first published in 1904. Wells called it "a fantasia on the change of scale in human affairs. . . . I had hit upon [the idea] while working out the possibilities of the near future in a book of speculations called Anticipations (1901)."
Perhaps inevitably, it is mostly through the movies that the story is remembered. The Food of the Gods was released by American International Pictures in 1976, written, produced, and directed by Bert I. Gordon. Based on a portion of the book, it reduced the tale to an 'Ecology Strikes Back' scenario, common in science fiction movies at the time. The movie was not very successful. However, it did receive a Golden Turkey Award for Worst Rodent Movie of All Time, beating such competitors as The Killer Shrews (1959), The Mole People (1956), The Nasty Rabbit (1965), and Night of the Lepus (1972).
The History of Mr. Polly is a 1910 comic novel by H. G. Wells. The novel's principal conflict is Mr. Polly's struggle with life, told "in the full-blooded Dickens tradition." This moral struggle is slow to develop, for Mr. Polly is a stunted, rather than a gifted or self-confident character. He is not without imagination and a flair for language, but his mind is "at once too vivid in its impressions and too easily fatigued."
The History of Mr. Polly received mostly enthusiastic reviews. The novel has been called "a complete comic miracle."
Mr. Polly' has been called a "wonderful incarnation of what might have happened to Wells without education, a Wells driven to use the words bubbling in him and getting them all so delightfully muddled." But Wells said his protagonist was based not on himself, but on his older brother Frank.