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First Men in the Moon, The

The First Men in the Moon, Out of the Silent Planet

a novel by H. G. Wells, published in 1901. In Wells's only interplanetary novel, two ill-assorted explorers, Mr Cavor and Mr Bedford—the pure scientist and the entrepreneur—travel to the moon in a sphere powered by the mysterious anti-gravity substance Cavorite. After experiencing weightlessness, the miraculous lunar sunrise, and the thinness of the moon's atmosphere, they are captured by the ant-like Selenites and taken below the surface. The moon, they discover, is hollowed out like a vast honeycomb. Bedford escapes and manages to return to earth, while his companion contrives to send back a series of radio messages describing the lunar civilization. The First Men in the Moon is a satiric comedy, much less apocalyptic in tone than Wells's earlier ‘scientific romances’, and showing his familiarity with the tradition of fantastic lunar voyages going back to Lucian. In its humour, idiosyncrasy, and apparent disregard of technological plausibility Wells's novel anticipates later British scientific fantasies, particularly C. S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet (1938). However, his evocations of the lunar landscape and vegetation and of the sensations of space travel achieve a true sublimity. The final chapters containing Cavor's radio messages were not part of the author's original design. The Selenites' intricate and regimented society presided over by a vast disembodied brain, the Grand Lunar, is portrayed in terms of Swiftian satire, with the beleaguered and credulous Cavor taking the role of Gulliver. Nevertheless, the Grand Lunar's puzzlement on learning that the earth consists of warring nation-states without any co-ordinating world government echoes one of Wells's favourite themes.

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