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The Wheels of Chance: A Bicycling Idyll

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  343 ratings  ·  51 reviews
A humorous account of a young man's cycling holiday in the south of England. By the author of The Time Machine, The Invisible Man and The War of the Worlds.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published November 16th 2005 by Dodo Press (first published 1896)
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Average rating 3.50  · 
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MJ Nicholls
A tale of social uneasiness, a comedy of ill-manners, H.G. Wells’s fourth published novel is a long-forgotten little shiner, set in the Golden Age of the bicycling craze, sweeping Victorian England with the fervour of the late-nineties Furby. The insecure hero, a piddling draper with cringeing class awareness, intercepts in a uncouth affair between a bounder and a damsel, and begins a biking romp that will shake his perceptions of the Established Order. The damsel, one of these New Women, turns ...more
Stephen
Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
What an odd little story! Begin with one J. Hoopdriver, a draper's assistant who lives for nothing but spare opportunities to ride his bicycle -- or rather, to crash repeatedly on his bicycle, banging up his legs but still delighting in sheer momentum. Mr. Hoopdriver, at the novel's beginning, is finally embarking on his yearly vacation: a cycling tour in England. Immediately he spies a beautiful woman, crashes dramatically, and earns her pity and his own chagrin. He chances to see her again, la ...more
Denis
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cycling is important to me. When I tell someone: I like to ride my bike, I have to clarify that I mean bicycling not motor cycling. I have to do the same thing when I tell someone that I live in London-London, Ontario, Canada, not England. And further, I have to explain that I don't mountain bike on challenging trails in the wilderness or am hunched over a slick titanium or graphite frame with multiple gears, feet clipped to the pedals while dreaming of doing the tour de France. No, my cycle is ...more
G.
May 01, 2009 rated it liked it
Favorite passage:

So many people do this -- and you never suspect it. You see a tattered lad selling matches in the street, and you think there is nothing between him and the bleakness of immensity, between him and utter abasement, but a few tattered rags and a feeble musculature. And all unseen by you a host of heaven-sent fatuities swathes him about, even, maybe, as they swathe you about. Many men have never seen their own profiles or the backs of their heads, and for the back of your mind no m
...more
Thom Swennes
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
H. G. Wells is best known for his science fiction writings and their popularity has overshadowed his other works. Wheels of Chance is a romantic adventure that deserves more notoriety than it has. The hero of this tale is hardly the juggernaut of his dreams but when the beautiful lady in gray crosses his path, his life changes. Jesse Milton, an eighteen year old girl, flees from her home and stepmother to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. She soon falls prey to a married man that had design ...more
Kate
Aug 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: old-timey tricycle riders, drapers
Recommended to Kate by: countless
Shelves: bicicletas
"To ride a bicycle properly is very like a love affair; chiefly it is a matter of faith. Believe you do it, and the thing is done; doubt, and, for the life of you, you cannot."

"Many men have never seen their own profiles or the backs of their heads, and for the back of your own mind no mirror has been invented."

"Self-deception is the anesthetic of life, while God is carving out our beings."
Tom Mc Kenna
Aug 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a very enjoyable story to read. It brings into subtle focus class discrimination and women's issues at the turn of the twentieth century. We follow the escapades of a twenty three year old assistant draper on his holiday bicycling tour where he becomes a knight errant to a young lady in gray (English spelling - grey). The writing is so well done that it stirs a desire in this reader to get on a bike and find a countryside adventure of my own.
Gopal Vijayaraghavan
Jul 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is an enjoyable romance from H.G. Wells wherein he pits the snobbery of an elitist society against he spirit of an ordinary working class man who strives to be a gentleman in spite of his low position in society.
Brian Hutzell
It is fun to see this different side of H. G. Wells. The Wheels of Chance is a bit of fluff, entertaining for the most part, and a fascinating look at the leisure sport of bicycling at the end of the 19th century. I wish Wells had provided a better ending for us; the one we get feels a bit like a cop-out.
Tea
Apr 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A young man named Mr Hoopdriver has some holiday time form work and deicides to get a bike and go on a cycling holiday in the south of England. Where he meets a young lady and falls in love.

The story is really good and quite funny. It was written in 1896 and is beautifully old fashioned. I like this book because H.G Well talk about how we should take every individual as an individual and the lady Mr Hoopdriver falls in love with her when talking to her step mother who wants her to hide the thin
...more
Dee Martin
" But if I could get really educated. I've thought sometimes..."
"Why not? said the Young Lady in Grey.

"Don't you read any other books but novels?"
"Scarcely ever. One gets tired after business and you can't get the books."

"You are not a very strong man, you know, now--you will forgive me-nor do you know all you should. But what will you be in six years' time?"

Sometimes again his face softens. "Anyhow, if I'm not to see her--she's going to lend me books" he thinks, and gets such comfort as he can
...more
Jeremy Hollingshead
I had read Science fiction by Mr. Wells, but had not read any of his non-Sci-fi novels. This book is a treasure. It was like reading a genesis of Steinbeck. It was absolutely beautiful. Through most of the novel it felt a little like reading a more adventurous Jane Austen text, but its conclusion was far more beautiful than it was happy. H.G. really was one of the greatest novelists ever in any genre he chose to write. Wells' two page discourse on moonshine and Endymion is unparalleled. What a b ...more
Tyler
Jun 24, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The story gets 4 stars but the publishing effort on this book is horrendous. The ‘detailed biography’ at the end seems to be written by poorly designed AI and was inserted a second time after the first chapter for some reason. There are no page numbers, a ton of periods in the middle of sentences, spelling and grammar errors throughout, and my favorite is a picture file tag added instead of the actual picture. Please get this story in an anthology or some other way, this version is garbage.
Phaedon
Sep 05, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There's a reason that this isn't one of H.G. Wells's most famous works! It was mildly amusing at times. The author's satirical humour definitely elicited a few chuckles from me, but despite its short length, I found it as slow going as the main character's cycling. The end was also quite anticlimactic. Even if you love Wells's famous stories, don't be tempted by this one, except for curiosity's sake.
Elizabeth de Moya
Oct 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
It makes me want to go on a cycling tour of England. He stops at local inns along the way to sample craft beers. It’s very hip for something that was written circa 1895. There was no science fiction though. Cycling technology has improved dramatically since then as well.
Paul
Jul 02, 2017 rated it liked it
A lot of charming writing here, but a very slow read. Interestingly, the female protagonist wants "a room of my own, what books I need to read, to be free to go out by myself alone."
Richard
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
The story of a shop assistant and an independent young girl, who meet by chance while cycling to the south shore of England in the 1890s.
Squeaky
Jan 22, 2018 rated it liked it
It took me a long time to read the e-book version on my phone. A fun story.
UsefulCardMaster
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Delightful and hilarious
M Cobbett
Mar 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Whenever I read H G Wells he talks to me in a way no other author ever has nor indeed I believe ever will. This little trip is hilarious.
Malcolm
Mar 02, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cycling
The title, along with my previous knowledge that Wells was a keen cyclist during the first cycling boom, lead me to expect a book about cycle touring, a sort of rival to Jerome K Jerome's Three Men on the Bummell. The main characters do cycle over a large area of South West England and we learn a lot about how contemporary society had adapted to the cycling craze. I found the fashions, particularly of the women and how the tourist industry adapted to the opportunities, interesting.

Wells once aga
...more
C.O. Bonham
Jul 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Victorians
If for some reason your local Library has mislabled this book as Science fiction then just be warned that it is not. Despite the authors fame in the Sci Fi genre this is a simple unassuming book about a simple unassuming man who goes on holiday along the English coast where nothing of much interest occurs.

Oh who am I kidding this H. G. Wells we're talking about, so of course the story was exciting but still was hardly the stuff of science fiction. Assistaint Drapier Hoopdriver is going on a bicy
...more
Hal Brodsky
Jul 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, own
A delightfully funny 1895 novel by H.G. Wells dealing with a young man of the working class taking off on a bicycle for a week's holiday. This was a novel idea at the time with bicycles being newly available for the lower classes and providing opportunities previously only available to people who owned horses or could afford rail passage.
Our cyclist, Mr Hoopdriver (get it?), meets an upper class damsel in distress who is riding a bike in an attempt to escape from the strict confines of society'
...more
Mel
This is a light hearted little book with some interesting ideas. It is written in a funny, though sometimes a little superior way. The main character is a shop assistant who goes on a bicycling holiday, falls in love with a young girl he meets and ends up deciding to improve his life. The young girl has run away from her step mothers home with a man because she wants to be a writer and a journalist. The (married) man wanted an affair and the girl is most distraught to discover his true intention ...more
Catherine
I picked up this book with much the same thought as I'm sure most people have upon discovering it, "H.G. Wells, one of the great fathers of science fiction, wrote silly P.G. Wodehouse-like farce? I've gotta try this."
Admittedly, it's fairly average for the most part. There are a few good laughs, and the depiction of Victorian bicycle culture was interesting from a modern perspective. The best part is at the end where Wells seems to realize he is about to write something meaningless, and in the l
...more
Luke
Jun 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: classics
I was pretty disappointed by this book. To be fair I had higher than usual expectations due to the author's previous work. This one seemed more of a, well, idyllic jaunt through the countryside. At one point it may have held some kind of social significance as a commentary piece; though if it did, that was lost over the course of 111 years.
Ryan Kountz
Jun 17, 2012 rated it it was ok


This story was twice as long as it needed to be. The author would spend paragraphs to tell you what something wasn't, before telling you what it was in a few lines. He would talk in circles and at times tell the reader that he wasn't going to tell you things because they didn't belong in the story, as opposed to not talking about the unneeded information at all.
Shenara
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favourite books. Wonderfully written, it inspired me to go out and explore the countryside and reminded me of how the simple pleasure of riding a bike can be so freeing and enjoyable and what the invention of bicycles actually meant for everyday people at the time. Wonderful book and still one of my all time favourite authors. Magical, really.
Cindy
Oct 25, 2010 rated it it was ok
Started off as funny satire on cycling and holidays, sort of reminding me a bit of Three Men and a Boat, but then got tangled up in a romance and became more about class struggle and the plight of enlightened women and got boring.
Seth Lynch
Mar 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cycling
I first read this 18 or 19 years ago and enjoyed it. I've just read it to my girls (6 & 8) who also enjoyed it. They didn't get a lot of the Victorian language but they understood, more-or-less, what was going on, and were rooting for Hoopdriver and The Young Lady in Grey. ...more
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Herbert George 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 scholarship in 1884, ...more

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