This is H.G. Wells at his best, delving into fantastic and strange worlds. The Time Machine, perhaps Wells' best known work, tells the story of the first time traveler. In the distant future the human race has evolved into two beings: the gentle Eloi and their dreaded cousins, the Morlocks, masters of the underworld.From Stories of the Unusual: "The Country of the Blind" takes place in a hidden valley where it would seem that a man with sight would be king. "The Diamond Maker" tells of a fortune that might have been. "The Man Who Worked Miracles" recounts the problems of defying nature. In "Aepyornis Island", a man has a special relationship with a prehistoric bird. "The Strange Orchid" tells of the macabre appetite of an exotic plant. "The Cone" is a shocking story of revenge. "The Purple Pileus" deals with a life-altering fungus."The Truth About Pyecraft" is a classic that explains why an overbearing fat man wears lead underwear. "The Door in the Wall" captures the pathos of lost youth.
"H.G. Wells' classic novella has never been better read." (AudioFile) "Each piece of narration is invested with gristliness and wit." (Talking Book ) "Rife with vivid descriptions, bizarre situations, and eccentric characters." (Kliatt)
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An Excellent Performance of some adequate material
I feel I should state that I love "The Time Machine" though I didn't listen to it as part of this purchase, instead I was interested in delving into his shorter works that accompanied it in this reading. That being said, I don't think the short story is necessarily Wells' best area. Or perhaps I am not able to see him as the first to diagnose and play with these ideas. If they are the first they are fine starting points,but looking back from the 21st century I have to color myself largely unimpressed, mostly by the utterly uninteresting people that inhabit each of the stories.
The Country of the Blind is an interesting premise, it seeks to disprove the adage, "n the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king". It accomplishes this, though to what I end I don't entirely see. The main character is concerned with power and is largely useless in making us connect with anyone around him. There are hints of things that could have been fleshed out into a novel, how do you convince those who have no perception of sight? But instead he abandons it and creates another tedious Culture vs Savage play.
The Diamond Maker is a wandering an largely unimpressive tale that is ponderously slow with no pay-off at the end. His concern with science rings similarly to The Invisible Man, but in a much less elongated form and with even less concern for character. Is that roving hobo secretly a scientific genius, or are the diamonds he carries fake? I don't find this idea particularly compelling, but Wells did.
The Man Who Worked Miracles is again, one of those tropes that we see so often, most recently in modern culture in the "Almighty" films. Give a man the power to control everything and ultimately discovers that it leads to more harm than good. No great revelation, no interesting twist, simply an "I don't want it!" and a retraction to the status quo. I've always been bored by these stories as they never seem entirely true to the nature of humanity in the way they abuse the power. While he ultimate goal would undoubtedly be similar I can't help but feel the journey is truncated and such a frame could be used to give a hauntingly full view of humanity's light and dark aspects.
Next we have Aepyornis Island which was my favorite story in the collection. A man finds so prehistoric eggs, gets shipwrecked, eats a few, saves one. It hatches and they form a relationship. While mildly tragic in it's ending it is wonderfully written and shows the disconnect of men in isolation and how no matter how much we try, the animals we try so hard to befriend are not and will never be 'human'.
Have you ever seen Little Pet-shop of Horrors? The Strange Orchid is like that, but worse. Just stick with the former. This lacks all of the charm and characterization of the movie and instead flounders under some half cooked premise. Again, if someone had never conceived of the idea before, good on him. Carnivorous Orchids, brilliant, but it's an image more than an idea and as a story it is horrendously bland.
"The Cone" is not a bad story, it is however a little slow. It follows the moments prior to this grand moment of revenge, which, I imagine for the time, was rather graphic. The imagery is excellent and it stands well enough on it's own, but I wouldn't recommend it to a budding Wells fan.
Do you remember the good ol' days when we could just wander into a forest and pick up random fauna and flora and put it in our mouths? Me neither, however, given the way The Purple Pileus reads there must have indeed been a point when this happened and I can only hope it was as hilarious as this. Following a broken husband as he attempts to survive his wife's scandalous activity (she plays music on Sundays!) we are basically given a story about how psychedelics can 'fix' a man's courage and thereby his marriage. While the ending is downright misogynistic in tone, it's still a delight to watch a man find himself by momentarily resorting to the mental faculties of a two year old.
In The Truth About Pyecraft Wells believes he is being clever. "Ah, weight and mass are so often confused by the layman" he then laughs to himself and chitters away on his typewriter and what we are left with is this. One character a single-dimensional, hateful human the other a single-dimensional happy, and rather fat, human being.
The Door in the Wall is a haunting portrayal that perfectly encapsulates that longing for childhood innocence, that completely immersive happiness we all have hidden somewhere in our childhood and long forever to capture again. In this story, that innocence is a tangible artifact that injects itself into the man's life, but is constantly overshadowed by the rushing about of day-to-day life. It's consideration for the human condition is true and it offers us a bittersweet realization that these moments must be seized, because you never know when it might be the last time.
For all of it's faults, you could do worse with the short stories on display here. If nothing else you will have a familiarity with the more of Wells' work, which is not a bad thing. The narrator is confident, if not as dexterous as the likes of B.J. Harrison, but an excellent job engaging the listener and forgoes any tediousness with excellent pacing.
It's hard to beat listening to H. G. Wells' classic and influential novella The Time Machine plus several of his better-known interesting short stories, all ably read by the dependable Ralph Cosham. The Time Machine is a fascinating and strangely affecting work, so imaginative and stimulating in its critique of the division between the working classes and elite ruling classes. Beyond this, the dizzying time scale and the vision of the far-future earth near the death of the sun impress one like a vivid, beautiful, and terrible nightmare.
The other stories included are as follows:
"The Country of the Blind" (a man with eyes thinks to be king in a village of the blind)
"The Diamond Maker" (the drawbacks of discovering how to make diamonds)
"The Man Who Worked Miracles" (an unimaginative man wills himself to make miracles)
"Aepyornis Island" (an avian Man Friday runs amok)
"The Strange Orchid" (an orchid enthusiast finds a creepy specimen)
"The Cone" (a poetic philanderer and a man of steel collide)
"The Purple Pileus" (an exotic mushroom revolutionizes fraught domestic affairs)
"The Case of Pyecraft" (an Indian folk remedy to lose weight is too efficacious)
"The Door in the Wall" (a successful politician seeks to walk again through an enchanted door)
Not all the stories are of such high quality as The Time Machine, but they are all interesting and some, like "The Country of the Blind" and "The Door in the Wall," are extremely affecting, and some, like "The Case of Pyecraft" and "The Man Who Worked Miracles," are pleasurably comical. Taken as a whole, this audiobook's collection of the short science fiction of H. G. Wells reveals the author's fertile and disciplined imagination, smooth and concise writing style, varied senses of humor and horror, and social or existential bent. Read by Ralph Cosham, they are well worth the credit or money.