Saturday, January 21, 2012

eReadings 6

The First Men in the Moon
H G Wells

The title's "in" seems like a typo, but eventually you realize that it's very much intended by the author. We live now with the reality of space travel and men having actually gone to the moon, so keep in mind this book comes from the 19th century, when the moon remained a source of great speculation.

There are some inklings of the scientific knowledge at the time, as far as the lower gravity on the moon, the "thinness" of the atmosphere, but there are plenty of suppositions that are way off base, and if you can't separate yourself from what we now know about the moon, then you may find the book just silly.

There is the expected eccentric scientist, who comes upon some form of alchemy involving helium to create a substance which blocks gravity, much as an opaque object blocks light. Thus, we have a means of leaving the earth to arrive at the moon, with some curious, primitive means of survival on the way, yet Wells does manage a decent description of the implications of being in a state of zero gravity.

But there is an idea that the moon has a breathable atmosphere, and that at least as long as the sun is shining on it the temperature is such that one can walk on the moon without protection, and we might say the second surprise after that is that there grows a profusion of plants on the surface of the moon, at least while the sun shines. Somehow Wells had the idea the the sun shines on the moon continuously for many of our earth days, which figures in the events as the adventures on and in the moon unravel. Surprises continue as you read about the goings on beneath the moon's surface.

Of course, now science fiction and fantasy have to travel to distant planets and galaxies to give us believable stories of life outside of Earth, but if you cast away your prejudices about what it's really like on the moon, the story is nonetheless interesting to read.

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