H.G. Wells was born in 1866, the son of shopkeepers in Kent, England. He was a brilliant “author, futurist, essayist, historian, socialist, and teacher.” His first novel, The Time Machine, was an “overnight literary sensation” when it was published in 1895.
Tales of Time and Space is a “fantasy and science fiction collection of three short stories and two novellas” written by H.G. Wells between 1897 and 1898. All of the stories had been originally published in various monthly periodicals. They were first collected and published together as Tales of Time and Space in 1899.
The stories included in Tales of Time and Space are:
– “The Crystal Egg,” a short story written in 1897.
– “The Star,” a short story written in 1897.
– “A Story of the Stone Age,” a novella written in 1987.
– “A Story of the Days to Come,” a novella written in 1897.
– “The Man Who Could Work Miracles,” a short story written in 1898.
“The Crystal Egg” is a science fiction short story that H.G. Wells wrote in 1987. “The Crystal Egg” tells the story of a shopkeeper who finds a mysterious crystal egg that allows glimpses of life on the enigmatic planet Mars. Click this link to see the separate review I wrote about this short story and also about the TV version of the story that aired in 1951.
“The Star” is an apocalyptic short story that H.G. Wells wrote in 1897. This story is probably my third favorite in this collection (“A Story of the Stone Age” is my first, “The Man Who Could Work Miracles” is my second). “The Star” tells the story of a strange luminous celestial body that enters the Solar System on a path that will see it either hit or pass very near the Earth. At first, mankind is mystified but unworried. Then the “master mathematician” realizes the deadly path: “He looked at it as one might look into the eyes of a brave enemy. “You may kill me,” he said after a silence. “But I can hold you – and all the universe for that matter – in the grip of this little brain. I would not change. Even now.” ”
Then the disasters come quick and seemingly endless. And they do seem endless. H.G. Wells seems to have thought of everything that could possibly happen: ” “Earthquakes, volcanic outbreaks, cyclones, sea waves, floods, and a steady rise in temperature to I know not what limit” – so prophesied the master mathematician.” Wells spits out a stream of disasters while concentrating, not on one single character, but on the world and mankind as a whole:
“Above was the lava, hot gases, and ash, and below the seething floods, and the whole earth swayed and rumbled with the earthquake shocks. Soon the immemorial snows of Tibet and the Himalaya were melting and pouring down by ten million deepening converging channels upon the plains of Burmah and Hindostan. The tangled summits of the Indian jungles were aflame in a thousand places, and below the hurrying waters around the stems were dark objects that still struggled feebly and reflected the blood-red tongues of flame.”
The eloquent writing makes the death of human civilization seem dispassionate yet at the same time passionately sympathetic.
“The Star,” like “The Crystal Egg,” also seems to have a connection to Wells’ more famous novel, The War of the Worlds, when spying eyes watch the Earthly disasters but are totally unconcerned: “Which only shows how small the vastest of human catastrophes may seem, at a distance of a few million miles.”
“A Story of the Stone Age”
“A Story of the Stone Age” is probably my favorite story in this collection. It is a plain, old fashioned action adventure that tells the story of Ugh-lomi who kills his rival, the tribal leader Uya the Cunning. Uya had his eye on the girl, Eudena. Eudena first tries to avoid Uya by running away and daring the frightening night forest by hiding in a tree all alone: “Down below the shadows came out of their hiding-places and walked abroad.” But she is forced to return to her tribe where she discovers that Ugh-lomi had fought Uya for her. Ugh-lomi and Eudena are forced into exile in strange lands populated by deadly creatures.
One of the things I liked about this story were the other creatures. H.G. Wells has them “talk” as if they are more human than the supposedly human characters. For instance, Andoo the bear deliberates about the new creatures: “A feebler sort of beast I never saw. I can’t think what the world is coming to. Scraggy, weedy legs…. Wonder how they keep warm in winter?”
Another thing I like is that Eudena is not a passive damsel in distress. Yes, she plays a subordinate role to the men but she also protects herself and Ugh-lomi. Both Eudena and Ugh-lomi are on a journey that will make them stretch the boundaries of the limited life they had lived.
“A Story of the Days to Come”
“A Story of the Days to Come” is a dystopian science fiction novella comprising five chapters that was
originally published in 1897. It tells of a wealthy heiress who falls in love with a middle class worker. Denton is far from an acceptable match for Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s father first tries to separate the couple by hiring a hypnotist to change Elizabeth’s desires. Eventually the couple reunite but see no way they can be together: “They met as often as they could to enjoy the discussion of their sorrows.” Denton and Elizabeth try to live outside of the huge city where they and 30 million other people have spent their entire lives but their adventure is a dismal failure. Finally, the unhappy couple are forced to join the bottom-most class as “Labour Serfs.”
On the surface, “A Story of Days to Come” is a sad tale of love not over coming all obstacles. But H.G. Wells also fills the story with all kinds of predictions: “massive urbanization, skyscrapers, moving sidewalks, superhighways, and intercontinental aircraft traveling at jet speeds” as well as “a very stratified class structure and a largely communistic society where a few mega-corporations control all means of production.” Wells’ fervent writing enables you to feel the increasing desperation and depression of the young lovers while at the same time painting a colorful picture of a possible future.
“The Man Who Could Work Miracles”
“The Man Who Could Work Miracles” is a British fantasy-comedy short story that H.G. Wells originally published in 1898. It tells the story of George McWhirter Fotheringay, an unimposing young man, who is at a pub with friends, arguing against the existence of miracles when he inexplicably discovers he can work miracles at will. This is a fun little story (my second favorite story in this collection). Fotheringay is an unimaginative little man (the biggest thing about him is his name) who is in way over his head. He has a few modest desires that he uses his “miracles” for but he quickly gets into trouble. Eventually, he seeks the aid of a local clergyman, Mr. Maydig, and the two of them try to “reform the whole world” with truly world-stopping results.
While I was researching this story, I discovered a movie that was based on this story, with the same name as the story. The Man Who Could Work Miracles stars Roland Young as Fotheringay. The movie expands Fotheringay’s life with the addition of co-workers and a love interest and a rival but the biggest difference between the story and the movie is the addition of a trio of angels/gods/spirits who argue about mankind and are the origin of Fotheringay’s miraculous gift (the short story never reveals where the miraculous ability comes from). The Man Who Could Work Miracles is “the final adaptation of one of Wells’works to be produced during his lifetime.” H.G. Wells has a scene credit for writing the “scenario and dialogue” of the movie. Unfortunately, while you can purchase or view this movie at certain select websites, it is NOT free or in the Public Domain.
Tales of Time and Space is a great read that offers the reader a variegated plate of stories to choose from. And best of all, these stories are FREE in the Public Domain.
Click on the link to download a FREE copy of the entire book from Feedbooks. This copy includes all 3 short stories and the 2 novellas.
“The Crystal Egg”
Click on the link to download a FREE copy of “The Crystal Egg” to read from Feedbooks.
Click on this link to listen to an audiobook of “The Crystal Egg” from Librivox.
Here is another FREE audiobook with “The Crystal Egg” at Librivox.
Click on this link to watch “The Crystal Egg” (Tales of Tomorrow episode) FREE at The Internet Archive.
Click on this link to read a FREE copy of “The Star” from Feedbooks.
Click on the link to listen to “The Star” FREE at Librivox.