The First Men in the Moon
was one of H.G. Well
's "scientific romances
", originally published in 1901.
Opening in the south of England, we are introduced to our 2 main characters, Mr Bedford an average man, keen to make money from any promising opportunity, and Mr Cavor an archetype mad professor, caught in a world of his own, and unaware of the possiblities his inventions could unleash.
After their initial meeting on a coastal path, the two develop a relationship and as Bedford realises both the goals of Cavor's research and how close he is to making a historic breakthrough, his mind leaps to commerical benefits and he offers the use of his business expertise to Cavor in return for assisting him.
Cavor has created a new substance known as Cavorite. Its unique property is that is can negate the pull of gravity. Wells exploration of the creation of this substance is suitably both logical and vague, and after a couple of mishaps as the potential dangers of cavorite are explained, his protagonists set about creating a craft out of cavorite called the Sphere. After a perfunctory stop for supplies the duo enter the Sphere and set course for the moon.
They land on the moon and they find it to be pretty much as we would expect today, barren, lower gravity than Earth and a longer colder night then we are used to. Luckily for Cavor and Bedford this moon also has a breathable atmosphere (albeit thinner than our own). The moon also possesses trees and plants that explode into life into life when dawn breaks, and then proceed to germinate and seed before the end of the day and the cold lunar night devours them.
Then there are the Selenites. The inhabitants of the moon live deep below the surface, in dark cities that are reminiscent of the Morlocks of the Time Machine. The Selenites display insect traits, and the society echoes that of an ant colony. This is the heart of Wells book, like his other early works it is an examination of another made-up society which he uses to compare and contrast with his contemporary world.
Reading it today, the book may seem a little dated. The characters never flourish, instead they are merely tools to embody differing traits of humanity. There is also little action, no defining moment of confrontation between human and Selenite. However it is still an enjoyable read, the book is at its best with its depiction of the Selenites world, which is a warning against the dangers of imperialism and the restrictions placed on peoples freedom to live as they please. It also deals well with the human spirit to explore, discover and survive to tell the tale. Despite not being as elegant or as well known as The Time Machine or The War of the Worlds, this book can still claim its spot in fin de seicle literature as an early imagining of mans preoccupation with the moon and as a forebearer of the explosion in SF writing in the twentieth century.