H.G. Well's moon book

The First Men in the Moon - H.G. Wells, Patrick Parrinder, Steve McLean, China MiƩville

There are a few books that come to mind when people mention H.G. Wells, but this particular book does not tend to be one of them. It is not a story, or a novel, per se, and seems to wind up with Wells philosophising on the perfect society. The story itself is divided into two parts with the first, and longest, section dealing with a couple of guys who make their way to the moon and explore it, and the second, shorter, section outlining the society of the Selenites, as he calls them, who inhabitant the moon.

The story itself is based around a failed businessman named Bedford whose goal is to write a play. He meets up with a professor named Cavor who has developed a substance named Cavorite that will enable him to fly to the moon. So, they go to the moon and explore it, get captured by the Selenites, and then manage to flee. However Bedford, who is not the nicest of characters, stumbles across the ship that originally got them to the moon, and instead of going off to look for Cavor (they had split up so that they could try to find the ship quicker because, well, they misplaced it), he jumps into the ship (with some gold that he has taken) and flies back to Earth leaving Cavor stranded.

The second part involves Bedford and another scientist translating some signals that they discover are coming from the moon, and it is basically Cavor describing how he learned to communicate with the Selenites and then goes on to describe their society. Basically I can see is it is what Wells envisages to be an evolved society where everybody has their place and they do the jobs that have been assigned to them. Basically everybody, when born, is assigned a role and they grow up and are trained in that role. He does compare this society with the 'barbaric' human society back on Earth, and of course these advanced aliens are somewhat shocked, and horrified, at how barbaric humanity is.

The interesting thing is that when the book comes to an end Cavor is explaining to the aliens the concept of war. This is something that is completely foreign to them (which is probably why they are aliens). Okay, I can't exactly suggest that Wells is taking the idea from elsewhere because no doubt later authors have borrowed his idea and developed it. Basically the idea is that humanity has become technologically powerful, but is still socially and mentally primitive. There are suggestions that the amount of power that we have is actually quite dangerous because we are not mature enough to use it properly. I remember now that Robert Heinlein in Have Space Suit Will Travel explored this idea as well.

Mind you, despite Cavor's apparent mental superiority, compared to Bedford that is (and there seems to have been a breakdown in their relationship, but then again this is not surprising because Bedford did leave him stranded on the moon) Cavor seems to display the apparent maturity of the rest of humanity. When asked why war is necessary, Cavor's response is to thin the population. Not surprisingly the communications come to an end at this point. Further, and more interestingly, Cavor does not seem to want to try to argue that humanity is worth saving, or admitting that humanity is actually doing nothing wrong. We see this in a lot of other books and films, where an enlightened alien discovers our propensity to kill each other for the simple reason that we might grow our moustaches differently and are horrified. Then the human hero begs and grovels, and then argues that while humans may kill each other, they also know how to love each other (without actually understanding what love really is).

The other impression that I got from this book was that the attitude of the characters to the Selenites was simply to exploit and oppress them. Bedford talks about the possibility of returning to the moon with an army to attack and kill the Selenites. Mind you, one wonders if such a battle would be victorious where the humans are concerned. The other thing that comes to mind is the idea that God will come to judge the Earth, and I wonder how the Hollywood idea of trying to convince God that we are not all that bad will actually work when God pretty much knows everything about us anyway (if you believe that). However, that is simply my Christian views coming through, and I suspect Wells is quite right in that we are actually still quite barbaric. However one wonders if we, as a race, can truly ever evolve into maturity when in reality we couldn't care less.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/694153676