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191 BRIEFER MENTION Frank McConnell. The Science Fiction of H4 G. Wells (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1981). Cloth $18.95 Paper $4.95. In a new series called bcience-Fictin Writers, Robert Scholes, the General Editor, states that the avowed purpose of the series is to foster literary criticism that recognizes the artistic value of fiction that "privileges the type over the individual, the idea over the word, and the unexpected over the plausible event." In his very readable appraisal of Wells's career, McConnell does just that. He argues first for the importance of Wells's fiction both in its examination of the implications of technology on our present lives and in its artistic integrity, cüming that Wells "transformed the scientific and social controversy of his time into an extended fable of apocalypse and terror." McConnell devotes the majority of his study to Wells's major science fiction published between 1895 and 191^, leaving only the last chapter to the later Wells. Besides examining the major novels of those two decades , however, McConnell presents a very clearly and systematically reasoned account of the cultural and intellectual background of Wells. Especially notable is his account of the three nineteenth-century traditions that inform all of Wells's work. There is, first, the aestheticism of the I89O's. Aided in his early career by Oscar Wilde, Wells never wholly abandoned the ideals of the aesthetic movement, asserting in all his utopias that the perfect society will be peopled by artists and artisans dedicated to making beautiful and "useless" things. A second tradition makes Wells "heir to a century of metaphysical and social revolutionaries ," but this same tradition led Wells to a quieter sense of revolution and to the Fabian Society. Finally, the work of Wells hinges on the preponderant influence of an evolutionary theory that posited "cosmic uncertainty." His fictional characters are pitted against a hostile universe, but they react with Victorian will power. It is in this evolving, contradictory world that McConnell reveals an evolving, paradoxical Wells. It is unfortunate that McConnell could not devote more time to the later years and the later works, but clearly the emerging interest in Wells as a serious writer is a step in-the right direction. ...


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