Being a fan of sci-fi I knew I had to read some of Wells’ works, as they are considered science fiction classics. I wasn’t sure what to expect of his books, but since I find space travel and alien life really interesting I decided to start with this one. Now I can say I’ll, without a doubt, read more H. G. Wells.
We peered out upon the landscape of the moon.
The First Men in the Moon is Bedford’s account of his and Cavor’s adventures in the moon, how they began and how they ended. Cavor is more or less a mad scientist, who accidentally creates what he calls Cavorite, a gravity-defying substance, which he intends to use to build a spaceship. In comes the bankrupt and materialistic Bedford, who sees this as his chance of making a lot of money. These two completely opposite men reach the moon to find the Selenites, a genetically engeneered race living in an endless system of cavers inside the moon.
If you think this book might not be for you just because you’re not sci-fi fan: you’re wrong. This book is more than just space travel; it’s about how humans react when faced with the unknown, how we sometimes find normal things in other cultures horrifying. And how they, in turn, are equally horrified when hearing about us. In the end we still share this common characteristic: the instinct to protect our community from outside intervention.
The world outside the sphere, I knew, would be cold and inhospitable enough to me – for weeks I had been living on subsidies from Cavor – but after all would it be as cold as the infinite zero, as inhospitable as empty space?
I really liked this book. The way it poses both scientific and philosophical questions makes it less science heavy read than Jurassic Park (which, surprisingly, had less moral questions than this one). There weren’t many overly long explanations about Cavorite or the technicality of space travel, mostly because we were seeing things from Bedford’s perspective and he doesn’t know anything about that. The book is much more about how this first contact with a culture so different from ours could go.
By looking at this other beings that we cannot identify and that cannot identify us, we are able to study ourselves and how our society works. Are we better than this genetically manipulated moon-people? Are they morally superior in their lack of choice? These are questions we can’t answer without being at least a bit biased by our humanity. Also, who are we to judge them?
But it wasn’t all serious, no; it had its hilarious moments. Like when Cavor and Bedford, who are hiding from the Selenites and looking for their lost ship (which they call sphere), are so hungry they can’t help but eat this weird fungus thing (even against Cavor better judgment). Turns out the fungus is poisonous and has a sort of drunken effect on them. Their conversation at that time was so funny; they were speaking of completely different things to each other and not even realizing. There were some other parts, but since they’re spoilery I’m not going to talk about them.
That wretched-looking hand-tentacle sticking out of its jar seemed to have a sort of limp appeal for lost possibilities; it haunts me still, although of course, it is really in the end a far more humane proceeding than our earthly method of leaving children to grow into human beings, and then making machines of them.