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The War in the Air

3.57  ·  Rating Details  ·  533 Ratings  ·  56 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
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1908)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,458)
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J.G. 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
Jul 03, 2015 Denis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The War in the Air

Though written in 1908, I don’t believe H.G. Wells wrote this because he saw the writing on the wall that WWI was to come. Too early. What inspired this was the frenzy over the invention of the flying machines. With the Right Brothers and those who followed, and the innovations with the Zeppelin, Wells knew that Napoleon-type leaders of all nations would want to perfect whatever flying contraptions they could get their hands on in order to dominate the skies, and then the world
Ken Doggett
Jul 11, 2016 Ken Doggett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a difficult book to stay with because it basically rambles all over the place with little characterization as it tries to cover every aspect of the events leading up to a world war. It goes through several comical episodes, describing new modes of transportation and mishaps in a picturesque part of England told in an almost pre-Steampunk style. It begins to settle on one character, and follows him in a tentative romance, until, by accident, he finds himself soaring aloft in hot-air ballo ...more
Dave Creek
Feb 04, 2014 Dave Creek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Hugh Ashton
Jan 22, 2013 Hugh Ashton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 26, 2012 Zachary rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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,
May 27, 2013 Trav rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 627, saass, key-books
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
Nate Huston
Sep 10, 2012 Nate Huston rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tom Burkhalter
Apr 16, 2014 Tom Burkhalter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Frank Theising
H.G. Wells wrote this book in 1908, five years after the Wright Brother’s first flight and at a time when only a select few had ever seen their aircraft in action. Scientific progress was expanding rapidly and there was a great deal of speculation over whether this would lead to greater prosperity or be applied to increase the killing power of weapons in war. Wells’ recognized the growing tension within Europe and believed that a new and revolutionary weapon like the airplane might be the cataly ...more
It's hard to write a review for a book like this. I found it interesting but not for the story itself. The preface, written in 1918 (ten years after the release of the book) is already warning the reader how they need to take into account the fact that when the book was published, the idea of aircraft fighting in the air was something that was almost complete fantasy. Considering the advancements made since 1918, it's quaint to read this preface when you account for the change between 1918 and n ...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...
Benjamin Elliott
May 27, 2016 Benjamin Elliott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was interesting to me that the edition I read had an explanatory note about how this was written before the rise of the modern airplane. It seemed to be apologizing for Wells's use of blimps and flying machines with only hints of airplanes in development. Now that even the airplanes the editor's note was championing are verging on obsolete for war purposes, I could take the whole thing as speculation quite easily. The book seems to have aged much better at 100 years than it had at 10.

I liked
Ian Anderson
I'm not sure if I should count audio books among the list of books I have "read" on Goodreads. I listened to the LibriVox recording of The War in the Air off and on over the last month or so (though I could have downloaded it in various formats from Project Gutenburg).

Written in 1908 (5 years after the Wright brothers flew) but set a bit later in the Twentieth Century it concerns a world wide war centred on air warfare. It is set in a world where many of the technologies current in 1908 (such as
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
Feb 16, 2009 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 22, 2011 Sandy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
May 28, 2014 Scott rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 22, 2013 Christian rated it it was ok  ·  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
Nov 10, 2014 Lauren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 12, 2014 Wilde Sky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Sep 21, 2014 Kathleen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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".
David Beahm
Feb 08, 2015 David Beahm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A tale to heed

Thought provoking in these modern times. Central banks, world finance, how quickly it can all fall apart. What will be the spark?
May 08, 2009 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 22, 2012 J rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 16, 2011 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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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
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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.” 1 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.” 1 likes
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