Men Like Gods

The H. G. Wells series continues with a work a lot more palatable than In the Days of the Comet.

Raw Feed (1996): Men Like Gods, H. G. Wells, 1923.Men Like Gods

Another utopian work by Wells though here the frame is more imaginative than Wells’ In the Days of the Comet or A Modern Utopia.

Here Wells uses (in an early example of such but not the first I believe) the device of a parallel universe. [The “Wells” entry in the Science Fiction Encyclopedia says the novel “transfers a group of Earthlings via something like Matter Transmission to the planet Utopia”.] His wittily described protagonist Mr. Barnstaple is a put upon socialist who blunders, while on vacation, into the utopia of a parallel dimension. Utopia is on another Earth that has evolved over 3,000 years from a society like ours.

Barnstaple is accompanied by several annoying characters including a politician named Catskill who argues that man is better off with nature’s and society’s ills since he appreciates it more during the brief, pain-free moments (the-banging-your-head-against-the-wall-because-it-feels-so-good-when-you-stop school of philosophy). Father Amerton seems to be a creation of Freudian psychology (specifically the notion of a reaction formation) in that the utopians interpret his objections to their sexual promiscuity and lack of marriage as signs of a perverted mind.

These travelers to utopia – except for Mr. Barnstaple – engage in a silly, arrogantly presumptive attempt to conquer utopia and are killed or recaptured. (They are quarantined for bringing disease to Utopia in a reversal of the invader-aliens-downed-by-disease theme of Wells’ The War of the Worlds).

Barnstaple genuinely likes this utopia (and its women) but the inhabitants (except for a boy interested in history and a woman with an unhealthy need to care for someone after the death of her family) have little time for someone they regard as a primitive. He eventually, to feel like a true utopian, sacrifices his happiness and returns to our dimension — blazing the way for his fellow Earthers and utopian cross-dimensional travel.

The novel ends, as so much of Wells later post-1903 sf does, with a call to build Utopia – a task Barnstaple embraces.

The religious imagery usually seen in Wells’ utopian works is especially strong here with the phrase “Promised Land” and the oblique allusion to Isaiah’s prophecy of the lamb lying down with the wolf. [And the title itself is a biblical allusion.]


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