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Old 29th Nov 2005, 14:08   #41
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Default Re: Bk 19: The First Men in the Moon/The Sleeper Awakes - H.G. Wells

As it turned out, I only read The First Men in the Moon. I had read both before, but I only remember disliking The Sleeper Awakes.

This is sf as sf traditionally was before 1950. Told * la Sherlock Holmes' Dr Watson by a person without the specialist knowledge of the expert. Examples abound in Jules Verne, etc.

This pattern of narration was broken in the 1950s, when authors like Bester, Blish, Vonnegut, Dick, Pohl and Kornbluth wrote sf in which the reader was immersed in the story's world from the start, without explanation, and had to scramble for comprehension. Asimov went half way. He used the immersion, but tended to make his heroes non-experts, so that they could have the science explained to them for the reader's benefit.

So here we have the classic 19th and first half of 20th century model for an sf novel. The protagonist has no idea how to reproduce the miracle of science - he can only describe it.

As a physicist, I have some dispute with the science of Cavorite. An asymmetrical situation like that amounts to a perpetual motion machine - it's a sort of black hole in reverse. And the energy required to pull the Cavorite blinds should in principle be more than the energy delivered by pulling them. Even as a 10 year old, Cavorite irritated me as a concept. In addition, navigation of the machine would have been a nightmare, because once the sphere started to rotate, as it certainly would, it would have been impossible to maintain a constant heading.

I was impressed, on this reading, by his description of the appearance of space - so many years before moon missions and 2001 A Space Odyssey made the crystal clarity of space a well-known image. He describes how, for example, the dust of stars were cut off, delineating the dark portion of the moon.

So, up to a point, Wells starts writing something which, if a little dubious scientifically, did not actually contradict known facts. It is clear that he knew exactly the distance from Earth to Moon, the Moon's periodicity and behaviour, its gravitational pull compared to Earth, its dimensions, yet when the travelling sphere reaches the Moon, various things happen which he must have known were not the case, viz. the drifts of frozen air, the vegetation, the inhabitants. Even by 1901, astronomical observations would have detected any lunar atmosphere and its composition.

To me, it gives the impression that, the Moon being totally barren in reality, there was no grist for the tale so he was forced to "sex it up" a little. And he had to make it possible for the story to be told without the need to explain why Cavorite was not yet in common use.

The book then trails off with a wishy-washy Utopian view of the Selenites.

One thing I noticed that Wells did rather cleverly was to make it clear that his protagonist, Mr Bedford, was a proper pain in the butt.

Having thus dismissed TFMITM as second-rate sf and bad science, it only remains for me to report that, having first read it in about 1951, I long remembered many of the incidents and descriptions in the book and could have, to this day, named Cavorite as the gravity-shielding material.
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Old 11th Dec 2005, 21:11   #42
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Default Re: Bk 19: The First Men in the Moon/The Sleeper Awakes - H.G. Wells

The First Men in the Moon

I appreciate the book's place in the history of s-f literature and I can see how it could be the source of inspiration for many future writers. Indeed, I was amazed how much C. S. Lewis lifted from it in his Out of the Silent Planet (still, he acknowledged this - I ran to check). But in its own right, the book didn't satisfy me. It never lives up to its promise. The characters aren't very complex, the writing is rather uninspired (that's how it felt to me), the ideas could use some further exploration. The novel seems to lack focus - ok, maybe the intended leitmotiv is the flawed nature of the Earthlings, their eternal greed and mindless aggression. But - it is present there, but not really moving. The whole thing is told from the point of view of the always less informed party - Bedford - which made it easier for the author to conceal any gaps - be it in the science behind the functioning of cavorite, or in the description of the Selenite society - but distances the reader too much from the story, I think. That said I liked quite a few things (some already mentioned in this thread): the dialogue in which Bedford breaks it to Cavor that scientific curiousity isn't for most people what it is for him; the idea of the underground moon; the horror of the boy's disappearance into space; the Grand Lunar.

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Old 28th Dec 2005, 17:37   #43
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Default Re: Bk 19: The First Men in the Moon/The Sleeper Awakes - H.G. Wells

Originally Posted by Blixa
Okay, have managed to do it. The code below may look like gobbledegook to most but it works and that's the important thing.

It's not perfect, however, and some lines get merged but that's easily fixable manually.
Or here is a quick way of doing the whole thing with the usual Find and Replace functions of Word.

Download from then open whatever.txt file in Word.

Ctrl H

(This will open Word’s Replace Tab)


In ‘Find What’ box enter ^p^p (i.e. Shift 6 then a lower case letter p - upper case will not work.)

In the ‘Replace With’ box enter @@ (or some other unique combination not likely to be in the text)

Click Replace All


In the ‘Find What’ box enter ^p

In the ‘Replace With’ enter ^w (again lower case only - or just click the space bar)

Click the ‘Replace All’ button


In the ‘Find What’ box enter @@

In the ‘Replace With’ box enter ^p^p

(i.e. reverse stage 1)

Close the Replace Dialogue box and Save
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Last edited by JunkMonkey; 28th Dec 2005 at 19:52.
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