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The War in the Air
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The War in the Air

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  374 ratings  ·  45 reviews
* Illustrated

(This title belongs to the STEAMPUNK ADVENTURES series. The STEAMPUNK ADVENTURES comprise an illustrated selection of classic Victorian speculative fiction, with each title being chosen for its quality, modern appeal and resonance with the steampunk movement of retro-futurism.)

OUR AIRSHIP ESCAPADES into “a Dystopian Retro-Future which never was” continue in
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Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1908)
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Keely
A remarkably progressive book, but then Wells did like his politics. His constant observation that Europeans are no more civilized than the other races of man, and no less prone to violent, dominant, cruel behavior is refreshing amongst the variety of Victorian sci fi and adventure stories I've been taking in.

However, it is rather disappointing that these comments and insights are rarely tied into the warp and woof of the narrative, but are added on as little observational essays in the voice of
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Dave Creek
It seems H.G. Wells may have written the first steampunk novel — at least, that’s how THE WAR IN THE AIR reads nowadays. The book starts off as the comic adventures of a “bicycle engineer,” Bert Smallways, and his efforts to avoid bankruptcy and to woo his love, Edna.

Though a series of rather unbelievable plot twists, Burt ends up aboard an airship that is part of a German airship fleet setting out to attack New York City. The book takes a more serious turn here, both in relation to what happens
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Hugh Ashton
I re-read this for the first time in many (40??) years, and it was surprising how much of the story, and even the individual words, had stuck in my memory. However, being somewhat older, and possibly wiser, than the first time that I read it, I was surprised by how well it relates to contemporary society.

It was written in 1907, and I have a feeling, from the Preface written by the author, that Mr. Wells himself was somewhat taken by surprise by certain elements of the work (chiefly the developme
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Zachary
If you like H.G. Well's you might like it...

This was the last of H.G. Wells's books that I read. It was written a decade before World War I and portrays an ill-conceived and indecisive war that delves every civilization on earth into the dark ages (literally, all modern luxuries like automobiles, trains, and electricity cease to exist after a few months of war). The actual narrative is pretty far-fetched and the whole narrative tends to harangue you by the end of it. At least War of the Worlds,
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Tom Burkhalter
The fun thing about this novel, for me, was (as another Goodreads reviewer noted) that in some ways you could read it as steampunk. Wells also could lay claim to inventing the modern apocalyptic disaster novel, by showing how the sudden unleashing of a new martial technology (however quaint one might find the Japanese swordsmen riding what appear to be ornithopters, given their description) completely overturned the old world order and replaced it with chaos. It's also interesting to observe "Pr ...more
Marts  (Thinker)
Another of Wells' early science fiction masterpieces, The War in the Air chronicles the 'adventures' of Londoner Bert Smallways in a war time flying machine...
Perry Whitford
Back in 1907 Wells saw nothing in his time 'so headlong and disturbing, so noisy and persuasive and dangerous, as the modernisations of patriotism produced by imperial and international politics'. How right he was, which only a few short years would confirm. He was also concerned with the military capability of the fledgling aeroplane. He saw that 'the Goddess of Change was turning her disturbing attention to the sky. The first great boom in aeronautics was beginning.'
Wells wrote this novel as a
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Trav
Wells wrote this book five years after the Wright brothers' flight 1903, after the Japanese defeat of the Russians in 1904, but prior to Bleiriot's crossing of the Channel by air in 1909. He was therefore writing at a time of significant international change, the ultimate path of which was not clear. Though his predictions were off in some aspects, he appeared to get the big things right.

The book's thesis is, in Wells' own words:

that with the flying machine war alters in its character; it cease
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Jeremy
At first this was a no brainer for me: airships, airships, and more airships! Of course I would love this book. But it is a little more than that, it's a book about the final devastation that comes from unchecked warfare, and the societal regress to a "natural" political state.

As shown in the Time Machine, H. G. Wells is a bit of a socialist. But I would go a bit further than that, he's more of an anarchist. The eventual result of warfare for him is an anarchy that settles into a roughly feudal
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Sandy
"The War of the Worlds" wasn't the only masterpiece that H.G. Wells wrote with the words "The War" in the title. "The War in the Air," which came out 10 years later, in 1908, is surely a lesser-known title by this great author, but most certainly, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece nonetheless. In this prophetic book, Wells not only predicts World War I--which wouldn't start for another six years--but also prophesies how the advent of navigable balloons and heavier-than-air flying craft would m ...more
Scott
Written in 1908, H.G.Wells prescient description of the potential for world-wide societal collapse following an all-out air war foreshadows the horrors of WW I. Oddly elitist in tone, Wells decries his "hero" as a vulgar, ignorant, money-grubbing representative of the new working class which could be eliminated if money and resources were not diverted to war and instead applied to creating a nation of educated aristocrats.
Christian
May 22, 2013 Christian rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: military strategists, history buffs
The more this went on, the less I could continue it. I was surprised to learn Wells ever wrote comedy, and there are plenty of funny moments in this book, but they are interrupted by large spans of historical reports or Wells' political projections. At least when Xenophon talked about his prince's ramping up for military support, he kept it to very short summaries and returned to the more entertaining storytelling. Wells does not: you get a stretch of storytelling and interpersonal action, and t ...more
David Hamrick
A thought-provoking concept, but the story-telling is weak. Except for a really intriguing scene on an island, the interaction of the characters is seldom more than a way to deliver exposition. That said, it was a remarkable insight into the limits of aerial warfare: "From above they could inflict immense damage; they could reduce any organised Government to a capitulation in the briefest space, but they could not disarm, much less could they occupy, the surrendered areas below." Sound familiar? ...more
Lauren
Another bit of wonderfully speculative fiction from Wells, this time kind of a hybrid of Kipps and War of the Worlds. Marvelous Dickensian beginning, thrilling boys adventure middle and an ending that felt like a precursor to Cormac McCarthy and knocked me up sideways.

I do love my Bertie.
Wilde Sky
At the beginning of the 1900s the new technology of powered flight is turned into a weapon and chaos ensues.

The writing and plot are up to the usual high standard but I found the pace of the book a bit slow.

Considering it was published in 1908 it was quite prophetic.
Matthew
This book was written in 1907 by one of the giants of speculative fiction. The work is not as well known as the immediate focus of the story, lighter-than-air craft, within one generation was proven wrong. However, ignoring the aircraft aspect, Wells’ depiction of warfare fought with aircraft playing a major if not exclusive role and his understanding of the limitations of war fought primarily by air was well ahead of its time; the first war with aircraft playing a significant role was the Secon ...more
Gurpreet Pannu
In 1907 writing such a futuristic novel must be an amazing feat even though being nudged at that time as a fancy romanticist. H.G.Wells is a perfect example of an author who received his due recognition for his best works later in his life.
Bert Smallways a simple chap gets caught in a war that involves futuristic machines that fly and bomb from distances unimaginable in such an era. The art of war has completely changed with the coming of airplanes, which the author very eloquently brings out. N
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Kathleen
Borderline prophetic, I assumed this book had been written after the war as an alternative timeline. Not so. Instead brilliant and witty, and a fantastic "I told you so".
Matt
Wells is underrated because he's popular. He's like the Green Day of modernist writers. It's too bad, because he has some good stuff I'm sure most people haven't heard of, such as this text. It's mostly of interest because it gets a lot right about his society at the time (1908), and accuratly predicts the madness of world war -- beyond the first stalemate of WWI and to the wholesale, mechanized destruction of WWII. Except in this novel, German bombs New York City. With big Zeppelins. And then t ...more
J
I gave War in the Air two stars for Wells' writing, not his prescience. The story is slow, the Cockney character contrived, and the immensity of social breakdown in the event of war hyperbolic; nonetheless, Wells' insightful understanding of massive aeronautic warfare and it's devastating effect on cities, civilians, and commerce were prophetic. His keen awareness of most men's (and I say men deliberately) romantic notions of war and death, along with his well developed exploration of its evapor ...more
Nate Huston
Very enjoyable, especially in light of recent assignments. Very prescient observations regarding technology and warfare. Basic proposition is a warning regarding what might happen when technology (especially in realm of military-use) outpaces society/mankind's ability to adapt. Also paints a very vivid picture of the detachment of "air warriors" who can rain (is that the correct spelling here?) destruction from on high with very little risk to themselves. Sticks in a rather compelling argument f ...more
Mark
I loved this.
H.G Wells take on how a war involving aircraft (before any had occured) may pan out. The story is shown from the eyes of some bafoonish characters who are sucked into events out of their depth.

Wells was partially correct as it turns out but his naivity (easy to say when you were born after jets were invented) in the power of huge zepplin fleets makes for a very interesting read.

Again -why I love reading sci-fi from this period - there are no shackles of realism to get in the way of
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Benjamin
Excellent! An underrated masterpiece from H.G. Wells, which correctly predicts the horrors of aerial warfare and civilian bombing that were to come!

Even more scary, was the fact in this story the nations of the world were all secretly developing warfare technologies in the mistaken belief they were the only one, and the advantage would be theirs. The result is a devastating war that destroys society. Who knows what the nations of 2010 may be hiding from us. Let's hope this is one of Wells' pred
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Daniel
My favorite parts in this book were the passages in which Wells-the-narrator condemns the rising sense of nationalism that was taking place across Europe and kindling the war-mongering that lead to the First and Second World Wars and their many internecine conflicts. Wells's depiction of airship combat is well done, if more technical than I cared to read. A smaller conflict between individuals in the last act provides a neat contrast with aerial bombardment and more intimate violence. The end of ...more
Vivian
The most intelligent envisaging writer , before thefirst world war 1914 he predicted about the war and the consequences. How could someone think about it historian say he used to be updated on science and the invention but he was brilliant ahead of his time 100 yrs or even more

There are many books of his books which does this, time machine , invisible ,things to come when he was 70 realsed in 1936.
Sean Brennan
Written in consequence of the Boer War, and the Edwardian fear both of foreign invasion and the perceived decline in British 'stock'. Wells wrote his classic anti warfare tale. Wells got so many things about the nature of modern warfare specialisation, the infantry as little more than cannon fodder, and of course the War in the Air of the title, that is a little bit scary. An excellent read.
Skeletor_999
I picked this up after reading several reviews praising Well's predictions prior to World War I. However, I just couldn't get into this novel. It's fairly slow at parts, and rather far fetched. That aside, I did enjoy the chapters that would have been better suited as essays on the sociopolitical tensions that led to the first world war and the futility of war.
Dave Turner
I am a fan of Well's work (both sci fi and fiction) and this is the great author at his best.

Such a wonderfully ordinary main character, clear flowing plot and some great locations as back drops all make this a masterpiece (not even to mention the astounding accuracy of some of the 'predictions' upon aeronautics and The Great War)
Lee McAulay
Not as famous as War of the Worlds but perhaps more prescient for its subject matter. A good example, similar to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, where a writer sees into the future and paints it with the brushes of the past: H G Wells takes the world of airships and Pax Britannica and foresees a less violent Great War.
Chris
An interesting book in the degree of accuracy for the predictions (although it is odd he thought the war would be thought with Ornithopters rather than the Wright Brothers fixed wing machines).
The narrative leaves something to be desired but it is not dissimilar from much of the later post-apocalyptic fiction.
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880695
In 1866, (Herbert George) H.G. Wells was born to a working class family in Kent, England. Young Wells received a spotty education, interrupted by several illnesses and family difficulties, and became a draper's apprentice as a teenager. The headmaster of Midhurst Grammar School, where he had spent a year, arranged for him to return as an "usher," or student teacher. Wells earned a government schol ...more
More about H.G. Wells...
The Time Machine The War of the Worlds The Invisible Man The Island of Dr. Moreau The Time Machine/The Invisible Man

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“It is impossible now to estimate how much of the intellectual and physical energy of the world was wasted in military preparation and equipment, but it was an enormous proportion. Great Britain spent upon army and navy money and capacity, that directed into the channels of physical culture and education would have made the British the aristocracy of the world. Her rulers could have kept the whole population learning and exercising up to the age of eighteen and made a broad-chested and intelligent man of every Bert Smallways in the islands, had they given the resources they spent in war material to the making of men. Instead of which they waggled flags at him until he was fourteen, incited him to cheer, and then turned him out of school to begin that career of private enterprise we have compactly recorded. France achieved similar imbecilities; Germany was, if possible worse; Russia under the waste and stresses of militarism festered towards bankruptcy and decay. All Europe was producing big guns and countless swarms of little Smallways.” 0 likes
“The accidental balance on the side of Progress was far slighter and infinitely more complex and delicate in its adjustments than the people of that time suspected; but that did not alter the fact that it was an effective balance. They did not realize that this age of relative good fortune was an age of immense but temporary opportunity for their kind. They complacently assumed a necessary progress towards which they had no moral responsibility. They did not realize that this security of progress was a thing still to be won or lost, and that the time to win it was a time that passed. They went about their affairs energetically enough, and yet with a curious idleness towards those threatening things. No one troubled over the real dangers of mankind.” 0 likes
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