Book Review: When The Sleeper Awakes, one of H.G. Wells best reprinted

Wednesday, November 1st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Did he really time travel? H.G. Wells, author of several science fiction classics, had an uncanny way of predicting the furture.

By Scott Rumley

Title: When The Sleeper Awakes
Genre: Science Fiction
Author: H.G. Wells
Pages: 302, softcover
Publisher: Bison Books
First Published 1899

Before the Wright brothers flew the first plane, and Henry Ford produced his first automobile, H.G. Wells wrote this novel of futuristic vision that still amazes readers. The main character, Graham, falls into a deep coma in 19th century England and wakes to find himself in the year 2100. Wells has included futurist innovations including radio, television, video recorders, radar and airplanes. While Wells is well known for his technological predictions in books such as “The Time Machine” and “War of The Worlds,” what is amazing about this novel is the accuracy of the socio-economic predictions.

Wells wrote this book at a time when man was striving for economic equality with the social elite. However, he predicts a backsliding, so that there is a huge division between the “haves” and the “have- nots.” It is this division that powers the story with repeated revolts by the masses, and hair-raising escapades by Graham. Graham is not only sucked into these battles, but eventually becomes the cause of them. In this novel, the good guys become the bad guys, and friends become enemies. One begins to wonder can a person be trusted with a 19th century? Wells does a wonderful job of making a early 21st century reader think about the social change that has taken place during the past 100 years. Not bad for a gentleman who lived and wrote about the future in the 19th century.

This story uses the “sleeper” character wonderfully as the eyes of Wells’ prophecy. It is through this character that anything is possible. Wells gives himself a lot of latitude with 200 years of possible predictions with which to play.

I would highly recommend this book to a very broad audience. While science fiction fans will naturally enjoy this book, I feel that it appeals to anyone who has a working knowledge of the twentieth century.

Between watching sporting events on TV and reviewing books for, Scott Rumley is an account executive in the sales department of KOTV Channel 6.