In the Days of the Comet (1906) is a science fiction novel by H. G. Wells in which humanity is “exalted” when a comet causes “the nitrogen of the air, the old azote,” to “change out of itself” and become “a respirable gas, differing indeed from oxygen, but helping and sustaining its action, a bath of strength and healing for nerve and brain.” The result: “The great Change has come for evermore, happiness and beauty are our atmosphere, there is peace on earth and good will to all men.” – Goodreads
In the Days of the Comet Review
Oh, boy, In the Days of the Comet was a doozy. I liked H.G. Wells insights into the society of that time. This is primarily because the thought that kept occurring to me was how easily you could attribute almost all of his statement to today’s society. (Though as a friend put it: You could make that statement about a lot of books. It’s the clarity of thought where things differ.)The way he poked at and pointed out every bit of societal malignancy had me nodding and highlighting passages.
For example, take the below passage, and insert “climate change” for “dumping”.
“…one heard frightened old-fashioned statesmen asserting with passion that “dumping” didn’t occur, or that it was a very charming sort of thing to happen. Nobody would face and handle the rather intricate truth of the business.” H.G. Wells
Or this bit of truth about poor people going up against people who have done them wrong:
“Poor people, overworked people, had constantly to submit to petty wrongs because of the intolerable uncertainty not only of law but of cost, and of the demands upon time and energy, proceedings might make.” – H.G. Wells
Although the language itself might be outdated, sadly, it’s obvious that the vileness of humanity is timeless. However, Wells is more forgiving than I am. In In the Days of the Comet, he ascribes our failures to something almost tangible and curable by an outside force. Whereas I just think humans are by nature selfish, power-hungry arserags, and that’s that.
However, for all that I highlighted passages left and right, and often paused to think about particular statements… I cannot say I particularly liked In the Days of the Comet. Appreciated it? Definitely. Liked it? Not so much. Even though I’ve liked some of Wells’ other works, I found this book to be repetitive to the point of near-screaming frustration. Wells hammers his points home so much he’s driven the nail completely through the board. As an essay on the downfalls of society, it was fascinating. As a piece of fiction, it was ridiculously overdone.
There’s a book coming out soon that has a basic plot that sounds much like In the Days of the Comet, albeit spun much differently. That is: All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai. In both, it is not the future that is the dystopia, but rather a present day.
On a lighter note: I have a new bookish insult!
“an undersized Oxford prig with a tenoring voice and a garbage of Greek—the sort of little fool who is brought up on the admiration of his elder sisters. . . .” H.G. Wells
Old guys could do some rather nice insults, yeah?
Overall, In the Days of the Comet is a book that I don’t regret reading, but I’ll never willingly pick up again. Great for the experience and the science fiction education, but by no means a ‘great read’.
I read In the Days of the Comet because it was first on the list for the Decades of Sci-Fi Challenge I set for myself for 2017. I will be reading the books in order to see if I can get an idea for how science fiction has changed. If you wish to join in the challenge, just click on the Wired into Sci-Fi badge on the left side-bar (or click here).