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The Shape of Things to Come (Penguin Classics) Paperback – April 25, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0141441047 ISBN-10: 0141441046 Edition: New

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New edition (April 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141441046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141441047
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #214,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Herbert George Wells was born in Bromley, Kent, England, on September 21, 1866. His father was a professional cricketer and sometime shopkeeper, his mother a former lady’s maid. Although "Bertie" left school at fourteen to become a draper’s apprentice (a life he detested), he later won a scholarship to the Normal School of Science in London, where he studied with the famous Thomas Henry Huxley. He began to sell articles and short stories regularly in 1893. In 1895, his immediately successful novel rescued him from a life of penury on a schoolteacher’s salary. His other "scientific romances"—The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), The First Men in the Moon (1901), and The War in the Air (1908)—won him distinction as the father of science fiction.

Henry James saw in Wells the most gifted writer of the age, but Wells, having coined the phrase "the war that will end war" to describe World War I, became increasingly disillusioned and focused his attention on educating mankind with his bestselling Outline of History (1920) and his later utopian works. Living until 1946, Wells witnessed a world more terrible than any of his imaginative visions, and he bitterly observed: "Reality has taken a leaf from my book and set itself to supercede me."


John Clute is the co-editor of The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction with Peter Nicholls.


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Customer Reviews

The lesson here is that histories written from a fictional future stance don't work.
Patricia Heil
So in summary, `The Shape Of Things To Come' is a difficult book that doesn't necessarily reward you for the effort you're required to put in.
H. Jin
The introduction is supposed to be written by H. G. Wells himself who serves as the "transcriber" of Dr. Philip Raven's manuscripts.
New Age of Barbarism

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By H. Jin on April 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
With each passing year, H G Wells became more and more strident in advocating Socialism and the World State. And with every passing year, he became more and more embittered and pessimistic as his dreams went unrealised. Nowhere is this clearer than in `The Shape Of Things To Come', which despite discussing the "History of the Future" and making some startlingly accurate predictions, bears no resemblance to Wells' early scientific romances. There is some frame story in the form of Dr Philip Raven and his "dream of the future", but there's very little in the way of narration or storytelling in the traditional sense. `The Shape Of Things To Come' is essentially a very long and very serious essay representing Wells' most detailed outline of how a World State might be achieved.

In the first half, Wells begins by outlining the history of the immediate past and present (Book 1), and then-near future (Book 2) in the context of the development of a World State. This part of the book is very academic and can be quite heavy going at times. Certainly there is some interesting historical information here, presented in an unconventional context. But it is also very simplistic: the formation of a World State is portrayed as inevitable, the few people who advocated it are beatified as flawless visionaries, and everyone else dismissed as ignorant clods. It goes further than Victors' History; Wells is unrelentingly snarky and vindictive in savaging those who disagree with him.

Special mention must be made of Wells' predictions of the Second World War. While a number of his predictions were spot on (the date and location of its commencement), he gets it badly wrong in two ways.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful By New Age of Barbarism on December 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
_The Shape of Things to Come_ is the Penguin Classics edition of the novel first published in 1933 by the famous science fiction writer and British socialist H. G. Wells which provides an account of the "history of the future" and offers predictions as to what the future (at the time of writing) will bring. H. G. Wells envisioned this book in many ways to be a sequel to the historical work _The Outline of History_ (1930) which attempted to predict future developments taking off from where "history" left off. This book is particularly prescient and offered predictions for a Second World War and the creation of a "World State" and world government. As such, it is apparent that the thinking of individuals in the milieu of Wells had a profound influence on the thinking of the elite who operated behind the scenes in the Twentieth Century to erect a world government. H. G. Wells (1866 - 1946) was a British science fiction writer of world renown best known for his novels dealing with various scientific predictions and developments. However, there is another side to Wells. Wells also had an interest in politics and was an avid socialist, seeking to redress perceived social wrongs, who joined the Fabian society of socialists seeking "revolution" through gradualism for a time. Wells ardently believed in the ideals of socialism and world government as the answer to Nineteenth and early Twentieth century discrepancies in wealth. Wells was also an historian who was influenced heavily by Darwinian thinking and science. This novel which is really more of a political outline for a utopia than a real "novel", provides a vision of the World State achieved through co-operation among nations, as well as predicting various Twentieth century events including the Second World War.Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Alan Wingo on June 28, 2014
Format: Paperback
"The Shape of Things to Come" is many things but most importantly it is H.G. Wells' last significant work. It is also the embodiment of the Modernist Dream and an attempt to reconcile the horrors of World War I with the goals of the Enlightenment. While the story is firmly rooted in the British SF style of speculative fiction such as C.S. Lewis' "Space Trilogy" and Olaf Stapledon's "Last and First Men" and "Star Maker", it also provided the inspiration for the Golden Age writers of American science fiction. As you read Wells' methodical extermination of minority languages and cultures, religion in general, and nations and their peoples one begins to appreciate the innate revulsion that caused William Gibson to first attack Utopian science fiction in "The Gernsback Continuum" and, thereby, spawn a new generation of SF writers that popularized Postmodernity for America and the world.

But unfortunately, the components of Modernism still haunt our lives and Wells can still provide us with a clear understanding of our contemporary world in his writing such as the following passage:

"The Profit-Capitalist System was absolutely incapable of controlling the unemployment it had evoked and the belligerence it stimulated. It stagnated on its hoards. It fought against inflation and it fought against taxation. It died frothing economies at the mouth. It killed the schools on which public acquiescence rested. Impartially it restricted employment and the relief of the unemployed. Even on this plain issue of its police protection it economized. Impossible it said, to plan a new police when we cannot even pay for the police we have.
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