The best HG Wells books

11 authors have picked their favorite books about HG Wells and why they recommend each book.

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Mr. Britling Sees It Through

By H.G. Wells,

Book cover of Mr. Britling Sees It Through

H. G. Wells coined the wildly optimistic phrase “A war to end wars” in l914, but four bitter years later he would sadly admit “This war is the worst thing that’s ever happened to mankind.” His autobiographical novel traces the emotional and intellectual arc of this journey from idealism to disillusionment; a bestseller in l916, it still packs a punch, the testament of a compassionate, highly-civilized man powerless to stop the world’s agony.


Who am I?

Novelist, essayist, and short-story writer W. D. Wetherell is the author of over two dozen books. A visit to the World War One battlefields in Flanders led to his lasting interest in the human tragedies of l914-18, inspiring his novel A Century of November, and his critical study Where Wars Go to Die; The Forgotten Literature of World War One.


I wrote...

A Century of November

By W.D. Wetherell,

Book cover of A Century of November

What is my book about?

This is the tale of Charles Marden, an apple grower and judge who sets off from his Vancouver Island home on an impulsive journey to Belgium, where his son, an Allied soldier in the First World War, has just died in battle at the very end of the war. Marden's single-minded mission: finding the exact spot where his son was killed.

Across western Canada the Spanish flu rages—the very disease that claimed Marden's wife three weeks earlier. Upon arriving in England, he learns that his son left behind a pregnant girlfriend. Soon his search widens to include locating the girl, too. Nearing the front lines, Marden seems to descend into the fires of hell as he navigates the mine-strewn killing fields of the trenches, still reeking with poison gas. Will he find the girl, and will he find an answer to the forces that drove him halfway around the world?

The Wheels of Chance

By H.G. Wells,

Book cover of The Wheels of Chance: If You Fell Down Yesterday, Stand Up Today.

A work of fiction rather than a travelogue, this is a gently told story of a young cockney draper’s assistant, Hoopdriver, who sets off on a two-week cycling holiday along the south coast of England in the summer of 1895 – when the great Victorian cycling boom was at its peak. Revelling in his independence and the sense of boundless possibility that comes over him as he pedals grandly through the countryside, Hoopdriver finds himself coming to the aid of the mysterious and beautiful Young Lady in Grey, an upper-class female cyclist who is seeking to avoid the attentions of another cyclist, a wealthy cad named Bechamel. A shrewd social observer and a keen cyclist himself, Wells saw the bicycle as a vehicle for change, equality, and the breaking down of class barriers. Wheels of Chance captures beautifully that all too brief fin de siècle period when the future really…


Who am I?

Roff Smith is a travel writer, photographer, and longtime contributor to National Geographic magazine. He is the author of Cold Beer & Crocodiles, the story of his 10,000-mile nine-month solo cycling trek through the Australian outback, and Life on The Ice about his travels in Antarctica. Presently working on Travels at Home: A Cyclist on The English Landscape – a pandemic-inspired photography project.


I wrote...

Cold Beer and Crocodiles: A Bicycle Journey into Australia

By Roff Smith (lead author),

Book cover of Cold Beer and Crocodiles: A Bicycle Journey into Australia

What is my book about?

A New England-born author and journalist describes his nine-month, ten-thousand-mile journey through Australia by bicycle, detailing the cattle stations, mining towns, Aboriginal communities, rain forests, deserts, and other sights of the Australian Outback.

The Island of Doctor Moreau

By H.G. Wells,

Book cover of The Island of Doctor Moreau

Animal/human hybridisation is ripe for gothic sci-fi stories. Whether the sentient flora of Annihilation, the insectoid-human khepri of Perdido Street Station, or the brutal stitching together of human and animal in The Island of Doctor Moreau—each offers its own shade of terror, grotesque beauty, and ethical complications. Don’t let the clusterf*ck of its movie adaptation dissuade you; H.G. Wells’ classic is a beautiful exploration of the grotesque and terrifying—a darker, twistier version of Orwell’s allegory, Animal Farm, where humanised animals tell the story of mankind’s descent from humanity. 


Who am I?

All my life, I have been drawn to the dark, twisty, unconventional, rebellious stories; I was always a little disappointed with the Disney-fied fairytales, always enthralled by the dark imaginings of the originals. As I grew older, I recognised that these dark fables were not just confined to stories of fantasy, but present as seeds of discontent and destruction in our own reality—in the injustices of the present, and disasters of our potential future. As an author, I use these modern parables and prophecies—in dystopian, weird, and gothic science fiction—as a way to explore and critically reflect on our humanity and its future.  


I wrote...

Tasmanian Gothic

By Mikhaeyla Kopievsky,

Book cover of Tasmanian Gothic

What is my book about?

A dark biopunk thriller of gothic proportionsSolari wasn’t alive when the radiation rained down, but she’s living with the consequences—the mutations, the gangland war, and the wall that divides Tasmania’s affluent North from its contaminated South. Alone in the southern reaches, Solari survives by cooking wildly addictive snowrock for the local crime lord and avoiding the city’s mutants. 

But, when a bad deal turns worse, Solari is forced to run—escaping retribution with a stolen van and a pair of giant wings cleaved from a mutant moth. Grafting the wings to her body will disguise Solari as one of Tasmania’s most reviled, and set her on a dangerous journey through gangland strongholds to get to the Border Wall, and safety, in the north.

The Madman's Daughter

By Megan Shepherd,

Book cover of The Madman's Daughter

This atmospheric novel, a retelling of The Island of Doctor Moreau, is a perfect blend of gothic romance and haunting mystery. It’s beautifully written, well-paced, and filled with unexpected twists. I love the feminist theme presented through the main character, Juliet, who is independent despite the hardships she endures, is not dissuaded from pursuing her passion for science even though it wasn’t proper for a woman to do so at the time. There is also an underlying theme throughout the book that expertly juxtaposes sanity and madness, eliciting the question of where the line should be drawn.


Who am I?

As a reader and an author, I prefer young adult novels because they tend to focus more on character growth and development than other genres, but I’m particularly drawn to both historical and fantasy period pieces in books and film. The medieval ages especially, with their castles and feudalistic way of life, have always fascinated me. This fascination was largely filled by reading and watching fairy tales and novel adaptations while growing up. Nowadays, I gravitate toward retellings like a moth to the flame, as I get to relive stories that have a special place in my heart in a fresh new way. 


I wrote...

The Kingdom Within

By Samantha Gillespie,

Book cover of The Kingdom Within

What is my book about?

Princess Meredith’s 18th birthday is fast approaching, but unlike other girls, she is not looking forward to it. Upon her coming of age, she is to marry the prince of Alder, the most powerful kingdom in the world. Though the idea of marriage to a complete stranger is appalling, she knows she has no choice. Without the marriage contract, Stonefall’s alliance with Alder will be lost, and her people will be safe no longer; Theros, King of Talos, has set his eyes of conquest on Stonefall and he wants Meredith dead.

Connor, an elite soldier entrusted with Meredith’s safety, arrives at the palace just as things begin to take a turn for the worst. Together, they will embark on a journey of survival, in which Meredith will find that the only thing she never prepared for was falling in love.

Triplanetary

By E.E. Smith,

Book cover of Triplanetary

E.E. “Doc” Smith took science-fiction out of the solar system and into the galaxy. Prior to Triplanetary, work by authors such as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne had been restricted to our immediate spatial neighborhood. With Triplanetary, the first of the Lensman series, and subsequent books, writers of SF could let their imaginations run wild.


Who am I?

I started collecting science fiction as a teenager. As a collector, as opposed to just a reader, you come in contact with stories that considerably predate what you find for sale in stores. This led me to books from the 1930s and much earlier. John Taine was one of only two SF writers I encountered from the 1920s and 30s whom I still found enjoyable (and exciting) to read (the other was E.E. “doc” Smith).


I wrote...

Triplanetary: Science Fiction, Adventure, Space Opera

By E. E. 'Doc' Smith,

Book cover of Triplanetary: Science Fiction, Adventure, Space Opera

What is my book about?

The argument rages: did Dune influence Star Wars and if so, how much? Or was the primary influence on Star Wars the Flash Gordon movie serial? Or 2001: A Space Odyssey? The question is moot, since the granddaddy of them all was the Lensman series of novels.

The first of these, Triplanetary, appeared in the Jan-April 1934 issues of Amazing Stories. It’s all there: multiple intelligent alien species, an evil empire bent on galactic domination, people with heightened mental abilities, gigantic battles in space; all set against a vast galactic background. The science is primitive and so are some of the characters, but the action and scope carries you along. When much of science fiction was struggling to tell stories inside the solar system, Smith was ranging across the entire galaxy. Adjusted and fixed up, all six of the main Lensman novels are still readily available—and for a reason.

Flora Curiosa

By Phil Robinson, H.G. Wells,

Book cover of Flora Curiosa: Cryptobotany, Mysterious Fungi, Sentient Trees, and Deadly Plants in Classic Science Fiction and Fantasy

This is a great gateway collection. In fact, this was one of the first anthologies of plant-related speculative stories that I read after falling in love with science-fictional plants. I jumped at it when I saw that it includes authors such as H. G. Wells and Algernon Blackwood and am glad I did. I have written about a number of the stories I met in this collection. Awesome extra: there are two other volumes in this series. 


Who am I?

Plants in science fiction really grew on me while I was finishing my doctorate in literature from the University of Iowa. Stumbling on fin de siècle stories about monstrous plants, I fell down the rabbit hole and was hooked; however, I started truly digging into speculative vegetation after moving to the verdant island of Kyushu, Japan to teach literature at a small liberal arts college. Soon, I was speaking and publishing widely on topics ranging from vegetal time and arboreal horror to plant-centric communication – all of which gravitate around the idea of turning the leaves of our world to try to see things in a different way. 


I wrote...

Plants in Science Fiction: Speculative Vegetation

By Katherine E. Bishop (editor), David Higgins (editor), Jerry Määttä (editor)

Book cover of Plants in Science Fiction: Speculative Vegetation

What is my book about?

Plants have played key roles in science fiction novels, graphic novels, and film. John Wyndham’s triffids, Algernon Blackwood’s willows, and Han Kang’s sprouting woman are just a few examples. Plants surround us, sustain us, pique our imaginations, and inhabit our metaphors – but in many ways they remain opaque. The scope of their alienation is as broad as their biodiversity. And yet, literary reflections of plant life are driven, as are many threads of science-fictional inquiry, by the concerns of today.

Plants in Science Fiction is the first-ever collected volume on plants in science fiction. Its original essays argue that plant life in SF is transforming our attitudes toward morality, politics, economics, and cultural life at large; erecting – and dismantling – new visions of utopian and dystopian futures. 

The Complete Short Stories of H.G. Wells

By H.G. Wells,

Book cover of The Complete Short Stories of H.G. Wells

During a lengthy hospital stay once, I needed to escape. Magazines were formulaic and newspapers dark. This book materialized on a library trolley. A plain dark blue hard cover looking dull and aged amongst the same-old paperbacks. After only the first story of this magical collection I was hooked away from all around me and into Wells’ tales of incredible imagination. Wells’ other shorts have become well known to the masses but here contained over forty lesser-known proto-sci-fi gems. In the way that Dickens did with characters that others could not, Wells was not constrained by conventions of science. The thought-provoking The Door in the Wall and The Red Room remain today are examples of skill for all contemporaries to aspire to.


Who am I?

Short stories suit the speed of modern society. I began writing them as a child and began to get them published in magazines. My first collection of stories in 2009 got quite a lot of press in the UK and two more collections followed. Initially, they were darkly-themed backfiring scenarios for the anti-hero and I redressed the balance in Out on Top. We all deserve some good Karma!


I wrote...

Out on Top – A Collection of Upbeat Short Stories

By Steve Morris,

Book cover of Out on Top – A Collection of Upbeat Short Stories

What is my book about?

Get your own back. Out on Top is a bag of stories where wrongs are often put right. Instead of dwelling on what might have been, characters get their chances to rectify their regrets and scores are sometimes slyly settled.

The Invincible

By Stanislaw Lem,

Book cover of The Invincible

Stanislaw Lem, the Polish philosopher and science fiction novelist, had the talent of writing novels that raise profound questions about the human condition. One of the issues he tackled was whether our human form of intelligence is just one of many types of intelligence that might be found in the universe.

In one of his most gripping and mind-stretching novels, The Invincible, an Earth spaceship lands on an apparently uninhabited planet only to find that many years previously, another race had crash-landed on the planet, and their small, robotic assistants were the main survivors of the crash. Those automata evolved into a collection of tiny “flies,” which, although not individually conscious or possessed of reasoning, use evolved herd behaviors to destroy their surviving alien masters and all other living creatures on the planet’s surface. When the humans from Earth explore the planet, they encounter clouds of these tiny metallic…


Who am I?

I'm particularly intrigued by the topic of artificial intelligence and whether an artificial brain can become conscious and how we'll be able to control a superintelligent AI. I follow all the developments in the field of artificial intelligence and have tried to incorporate some of them into my own fiction writing. I have a scientific background as a former professor of psychology and neuroscience researcher and published a book in the Johns Hopkins Series on Neuroscience and Psychiatry, and numerous scientific articles. I'm also a member of the Society of Philosophers in America. I've been a fan of science fiction since childhood. Science fiction has always seemed to me to be a perfect mixture of fiction and philosophy.



I wrote...

Ezekiel's Brain

By Casey Dorman,

Book cover of Ezekiel's Brain

What is my book about?

Ezekiel’s Brain is a story of a powerful artificial intelligence (AI) that goes rogue and exterminates the human race. Two hundred years later, AIs have replaced humans and are exploring the universe, but a malignant AI mutation leads to an intra-galactic war that can only be won by resurrecting Ezekiel, an electronic copy of a human brain.

This is hard science fiction with a philosophical twist. What begins as an earth-bound thriller about a mysterious government agency trying to weaponize a powerful AI, becomes the beginning of a new race of machines who send a crew of AIs off to the far reaches of space. The first book in the Voyages of the Delphi series features the next step in the evolution of intelligence—from human to machine.

The Time Machine

By H.G. Wells,

Book cover of The Time Machine

H.G. Wells was way ahead of his time, and The Time Machine proves this. Although usually considered to be pure Science Fiction, I would argue that it has horror elements to it as well. Our hero, the Time Traveller, finds himself flung far into the future where mankind has evolved into two distinct species, the Eloi and their carnivorous masters, the cave-dwelling Morlocks. Some of the writing in this is pure horror, and Wells writes in such a ‘modern’ way that readers in the 21st Century can still relate to it.


Who am I?

After picking up a copy of James Herbert’s Lair (the second in his Rats trilogy) back in the early 80s, I decided I wanted to write something myself one day. That day came in about 1990, when I finished my first manuscript, Minstrel’s Bargain. I also wrote another MS around that time called Point of Contact, but nothing happened with these stories and I gave up on my writing dreams to concentrate on bringing up a family. Fast forward to 2015, and I sent the MS for Minstrel’s Bargain to an indie publisher. To my surprise, they took it on, and that book has spawned two sequels, entitled the Prophecy Trilogy. 


I wrote...

Point of Contact

By Richard Ayre,

Book cover of Point of Contact

What is my book about?

After the body of a man is found mysteriously burned to death in his home, Northumbria Police know there is only one person they can call on to help; fire Investigator Ian Fenwick, a man fighting his own demons. Fenwick soon finds himself pitched against crazed killers and mysterious entities known only as The Visitors. Can Fenwick stop them from carrying out their mission? If not, the whole world will burn.

Tales from the Script

By Peter Hanson, Paul Robert Herman,

Book cover of Tales from the Script: 50 Hollywood Screenwriters Share Their Stories

“You never really succeed,” Andrew W. Marlowe tells the editors of Tales from the Script, “You always fail at a higher level.” So: first you can’t finish your script, then you can’t get it read, then you can’t sell it, then you can’t get it made, then it’s made – but badly. Or, in Marlowe’s case, it’s made into Air Force One and you’re asked to repeat the trick. “Even when you get to the top there’s this realization: ‘Okay, the view is great, but tomorrow I gotta get up and start climbing the mountain again.’” If you find that depressing, don’t be a screenwriter. If you see it as a challenge, read on…

Who am I?

I am the author of four books of interviews with filmmakers: Smoking in Bed: Conversations with Bruce Robinson (a Guardian Book of the Year), Story and Character: Interviews with British Screenwriters, Hampton on Hampton (an Observer Book of the Year), and The Art of Screen Adaptation: Top Writers Reveal Their Craft. I have written original and adapted screenplays and stageplays, on spec and to commission; contributed film interviews and reviews to UK magazines and newspapers; chaired Q&A events at book and screenwriting festivals; and recently published my first novel, The Vetting Officer. My next nonfiction project is a book of conversations with bestselling author and screenwriter William Boyd, for Penguin.


I wrote...

The Art of Screen Adaptation: Top Writers Reveal Their Craft

By Alistair Owen,

Book cover of The Art of Screen Adaptation: Top Writers Reveal Their Craft

What is my book about?

Producers and audiences are hungrier than ever for stories, and a lot of those stories begin life as a book – but how exactly do you transfer a story from the page to the screen? Do adaptations use the same creative gears as original screenplays? Does a true story give a project more weight than a fictional one? Is it helpful to have the original author’s input on the script? And how much pressure is the screenwriter under, knowing they won’t be able to please everyone with the finished product?

The Art of Screen Adaptation reveals the challenges and pleasures of reimagining stories for cinema and television, and provides a frank and fascinating masterclass with the writers who have done it – and have the awards and acclaim to show for it.

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