A lifelong student with an interest in all things, Herbert George Wells’s research gave him an insider’s view of everything from weapons to household appliances. The author proved to be at the forefront of history, even if many of his ideas weren’t actualized until decades after his death. The heat ray that Wells depicts in The War of the Worlds(1897), for example, became real in 2007, when the U.S. military debuted the Active Denial System, which weaponizes microwave radiation. Preceding modern cloning and genetic modification, The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) showcases one of the first instances of human and animal engineering (although Frankenstein came much earlier). More ominously, Wells’s little-known novel The World Set Free (1913) details nuclear war and the explicit use of atomic bombs years before the Manhattan Project.
But more than just beeps, bells and pneumatic doors, the best of Wells’s novels attempt to tackle giant socio-political issues, all the while maintaining an emphasis on modern humanity’s increasingly close relationship with science and technology. He and other writers of his generation clearly envisioned the post-Victorian world as surrounded by machines and swallowed by the scientific disciplines in all their various forms, fromTaylorized work environments to pseudo-scientific caste systems.