In this collection of six stories, Wells provokes us to think and entices us with "what ifs." And, as in all good science fiction, these pieces contain just enough truth and reality to make them on the edge of believable.
The Country of the Blind takes place in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador. In a valley rich
and fertile, so said the legend, a small thriving group of people lived, cut off from the rest of the world, when a strange disease hit that made all
children born blind, and also blinded some of the older children. Eventually the entire community was blinded and lived for fifteen generations. Until a
person from the outside ventured into their valley. . .
Nunez was climbing with a small expedition when he suddenly disappears off the snowy rock shelter. The others assumed he died, but he landed on a slope a thousand feet below. Climbing safely into the valley, he observes the strange people and recognizes they are blind. Thinking he will be hailed as King since he is able to see, he approaches them with confidence. He announces who he is and that he is from Bogota where there are a hundred thousand people. As he continues to describe the outside world, he realizes these people think he's insane, mentally undeveloped, because they have no concept of "sight." Nunez continues to try to teach them the truth but finds it only brings punishment.
Eventually, he takes notice of a girl named Medina-saroté. They fall in love, but in order for her family to agree to their marriage, he must consent to have his eyes removed (because they are the cause of his insanity). He nearly acquiesces, but instead escapes, and is much aware of the visual beauty around him. But he also notices something that is greatly disturbing: the wall of the mountain is beginning to crumble. He dashes back to the community to help them to safety, but is greeted with rage and violence that nearly kills him. He does escape with Medina-saroté however, just in time to see the village crushed and obliterated. Nearly dead, they are rescued by climbers. At the end of the story, Medina-saroté is offered the opportunity to have her vision restored, but she refuses saying, "It may be beautiful. . .but it must be very terrible to see."
One can barely imagine what it would be like for a person who has been blind or deaf from birth to suddenly be able to see or hear. Or, what would it be like for someone who has the use of all five senses to wake up one morning and find they have an additional sense? The world would become a terrifying place. The brain would not know how to process this new information.
But at a deeper philosophical level, this story is symbolic of the masses of people operating at some level of "blindness." We are blind to the corruption of our politicians, bankers, and corporate leaders. We turn a blind eye to the atrocious behavior of many celebrities, sports heroes, and religious leaders. We live in blind denial of a bad marriage, addictions, and poor life choices. It is much easier to live blindly in that secluded valley than to open our eyes, because "seeing" the truth requires responsibility, action, and inner change.
The Star is about a dark planet that collides with Neptune, forming a ball of fire. It begins hurling toward the sun and creates an apocalyptic-like scenario as it passes too near the Earth.
Wells must have been fascinated with the idea (and ethics) of using science to
create super beings. (He himself was a biologist). In the humorous, The New Accelerator, Professor Gibberne
wants to create a drug that will speed up the human process so that twice as much work can be accomplished. He believes it would come in handy, for
instance, when one is pushing a deadline, and also believes such a drug could be financially profitable.
When he finally does perfect his concoction, it speeds things up thousands of times faster! He and a friend decide to try it out together. As they look at the rest of the world, it seems to be in a suspended animation, because they are moving so quickly. So fast, in fact, that no one can see them. They go to an outdoor concert, but can't hear the music anymore because normal sounds are too low pitched. Gibberne decides to grab his annoying neighbor's dog, and they run with it, but are going SO fast, they start to burn up! As the potion wears off, Gibberne throws the dog which lands on a parasol and upsets everything. This is a very comical story, but also gives one cause to think.
In The Remarkable Case of Davidson's Eyes, during an electrical storm while working in a lab, Davidson's eyesight suddenly
travels to the other side of the world to a South Seas island, (and stays there for months!), while his body and other senses remain in England.
(Wells certainly is a pro at creating uncomfortable situations, is he not?)
Under the Knife is about a man who believes he has died in surgery and experiences his body leaving the Earth and traveling outside the solar system, then leaving the universe all together.
The Queer Story of Brownlow's Newspaper is a silly comical tale about a man who sits down to read his newspaper on November 10, 1931. It doesn't seem normal or make sense until he notices it is from 1971 --- 40 years into the future! What makes this one perhaps more unintentionally amusing is Martin Gardner's 1997 commentary, which states that Wells mostly missed the mark on his prophesies. Maybe as of 1997, but here in 2012. . . Well, you read it and judge for yourself!!
These six stories provide some really captivating entertainment, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading them!
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