I’m a little behind on my reading. I just finished a novel by H.G. Wells, “In the Days of the Comet,” first published in 1906.
H.G. Wells may be better known for his novel “The War of the Worlds” which he published in 1898. The radio broadcast of that novel performed by Orson Welles, on the day before Halloween, October 30, 1938, may have made it more famous. Orson adapted the science fiction novel into the form of a radio broadcast that played music and included frequent news flashes about a Martian invasion. Millions of Americans heard the broadcast and some believed that the Martians truly did land and were attacking the United States. Some people in the listening audience loaded guns or hid in basements to avoid an alien takeover.
A minor theme in “The War of the Worlds” highlighted the problems of imperialism and industrialization on earth. H. G. Wells touched on the hardships of the working class that were trapped with poor working conditions, occupational hazards, and low pay.
In the book, “In the Days of the Comet,” H. G. Wells runs with this minor theme and expands it into the bulk of story. Not your modern idea of sci-fi. This is a social and economic discourse that does not rely on little green men invading earth and just barely touches on anything from outer space.
The comet does come from outer space, but it is a quiet, passive force in the novel. It moves closer and closer to earth as people go about their daily lives as usual. It nearly collides with earth but instead the comet’s green-tinged vapor tail sweeps across the planet. The gases from that tail change everything.
Living things pass out as the comet orbits past earth. When they awake, the world changes. All the horrible wrongs against the working-class population cease; the wrongs are now made right.
The changed world wakes up to a dawn of socialism replacing the old ways of the imperialistic, capitalistic society. The rich stop fighting the working-class that rebells against the unjust power of the rich. The wealthy open up their abundant homes to the masses. They give up land ownership because it is the right thing to do. The green vapor opens up the eyes of the world to the unjust structure of the past and heralds in a new era of love, peace, and understanding.
Everything is shared and somehow food is produced and distributed because it is right and not profitable. Slums are torn down and clean, efficient communal housing takes its place. It happens seamlessly and altruistically.
Science fiction is only a drive-by in this novel. This book cries out for the formation of a socialist structure; a structure that is shortly to break out in this new century not too long after the publication of this book. The love, peace, and understanding of this socialist ideal does not mimic the reality of the future. The hippies in the 1960s couldn’t make it happen either. Real science fiction holds more fact than the utopian dreams of “In the Days of the Comet.”