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The World Set Free

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  1,329 ratings  ·  162 reviews
This chilling, futuristic novel, written in 1913 and first published the following year, was incredibly prophetic on a major scale. Wells was a genius and visionary, as demonstrated by many of his other works, but this book is clearly one of his best.

He predicts nuclear warfare years before research began and describes the chain reactions involved and the resulting radiati

Paperback, 140 pages
Published March 14th 2007 by Book Tree (first published 1914)
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Mar 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
I read this when I was about 11 and I can't remember a thing about it, except that Wells predicts atomic weapons and they finally turn out to be a good thing. I suddenly feel I should re-read it!

Looking for something else, I just made a startling discovery. If we're to believe Leó Szilárd's Wikipedia page, Szilárd, a prominent nuclear physicist, read Wells's book in 1932 and was greatly affected by it.

In 1939, with WW II clearly about to start, Szilárd
MJ Nicholls
As Iran and America ramp up nuclear war, it is time to reappraise this 1914 novel predicting the atomic bomb. In the wake of the worldwide nuclear catastrophe, Wells envisions a form of world state, a global government, to prevent complete armageddon, not unlike the formation of the UN after WWII. The one snag with this is that before humankind can arrive at a moratorium on murdering the pants off one another, multiple cities must be vaporised and leave a legacy of radiation ensuring anyone ente ...more
Dec 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nuclear-fiction
Like nearly everyone who has already reviewed this book, I found Wells’s prescience astonishing! Admittedly, this was my first H.G. Wells book and I expected the prose to be stronger. Nonetheless, one cannot help but suspect that all the prophetic aspects of the work (atomic energy and atomic weapons) were simply the frame wrapped around the driving force of his social commentary (calling for a World Government). Concerning this World Government, which could be bothersome for some readers, it s ...more
Noah Goats
May 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
I've been reading a fair amount about the development of the atomic bomb recently, and the title of this book keeps popping up. In The World Set free Wells predicts (in 1914!) the development of atomic energy and weapons. He also predicts the importance of air power (planes weren't every used in a significant way in war before WWI), and the coming of WWI itself (he thought it would come in the 50s, instead it came months after this book was published).

I enjoy reading classic science fiction and
Vicky Hunt
Jan 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Who’s Watching Now?

I undoubtedly will be spoiling the entire book, (including and not limited to the last paragraph) so if you want to read The World Set Free spoiler-free, then save my review for later. But, Wells’ ideas are not trivial and beg to be discussed.Though his writing was remarkably intelligent and he handles his topic brilliantly, he comes to very illogical conclusions, he seems dispassionate and cold in his writing, and it was stiff and almost boring at times, unlike his other bo
Jerry Pogan
Dec 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
I hadn't read anything by H. G. Wells since high school but this sounded intriguing so I tried it. Wells was quite prophetic in his prediction of world war and atomic bombs when he wrote the book in 1913, before either had occurred, but he was off on the details. He predicted the war to occur in 1956 when it actually began shortly after he wrote the book. I find it very entertaining to read books about the future, especially those written 100 years ago so we can look back to see how accurate the ...more
Warren Fournier
This is one of the more unsettling pieces of sci-fi I've read. I say "unsettling" not because of the early predictions of use of atomic power as energy, and (as most often cited by other reviews) nuclear war, but by the future echoes of Brexit, Marine LePen, and the question of a viable European union. This book is as relevant today as it was in World War I.

This novel was written in what many consider to be a low point in Wells' career, because Wells was by this point quite well off and well re
Dec 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
I enjoyed reading this book even though I was thoroughly aware of the predictions about nuclear weapons. In fact, that was some of the reason I picked the book up. I wanted to read this legendary story about humanity and nuclear warfare. What did surprise me were the predictions that are not discussed with the same regularity. For example, he discusses automation and how a great many people are not needed to produce products. There was a great disparity of wealth due to this decreased need for l ...more
This was an unusual book which at times is written in a very historical textbook-like manner in some distant future looking back upon our times. In other places, the narrative becomes more story-like and focussed upon certain individuals who have an impact on major events. This book is renowned for Wells' predictions of global warfare, the use of planes in battle and the development of nuclear weapons. It also places a strong emphasis on a social move towards gender equality and predicts genetic ...more
I have read other HG Wells books, and this one was on par with his part storytelling, part documentary-philosophy format, which is admittedly not always an easy read.

Wells wrote the book in 1913, and the alternate history story he writes predicts such things as atomic bombs, an increase in capitalism, environmental degradation, and a one world order. Like most deep thinkers of his time, when he thought of the future, he foretold how bad it could be. But then he envisioned what he felt was a utop
Al Burke
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wells' foresight can be prescient at times. This book is no exception. Certainly not his best work though. ...more
May 13, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: softcover
I picked this out of my library to read as 2014 is the centennial of this novel’s publication.

It is by no means considered an H.G. Wells classic such as “The Time Machine”, “The Invisible Man”, “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, “War of the Worlds” and so on. (I believe that it wasn’t reprinted in paper until the seventies – please correct me if I’m wrong).

My first impression was that, at times, it reads like a collection of shorter works linked chronologically by a narrative of what seemed to be deco
Jun 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 27, 2011 rated it did not like it
Slow, pedantic, naive and disappointing. Despite a few prophetic ideas this book was underwhelming. The world government was a bit too Euro-centric for my taste and it was proclaimed with too much dispatch. The ex-King Egbert, the King of the Balkans, the American president and "Home Rule" Indians were instances of racial, or national, prejudices... more than just an annoyance.

I find Wells uneven in his writing, he could be brilliant as in 'The Time Machine' and 'The Invisible Man' (and please
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it

So, HG Wells predicted f*cking everything, including the atomic bomb, the internet, designer babies, the carbon bubble, intensive agriculture, Leicester winning the Premier League, elevated toast, manspreading, floss harps and Tim Wonnacott. Sadly, by failing to predict the on-line betting exchange he was forced to rely on his desultory earnings as a writer rather than retiring to the countryside on his winnings.

Re: book, first half good (nuclear power yields loads of fancy inventions but also n
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book by H.G. Wells. If you like another book by Wells you will like this one.

While it can seem a bit dated with fears of nuclear technology leading to massive economic turmoil with unemployment through atomic tech replacing workers in the workplace and international turmoil with nuclear technology being used in warfare (i.e. we have been living in the "age of the atom" for a few decades now and it hasn't happened yet); I think that similar problems - and possible solutions - that he w
Oct 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
He books always as message and the future. In this book, he used a word for the first time in this this world "atom bomb" and we see this in the second world war where this thing was used.

Before writing and thinking the book he read a paper on radium and the energy it posses we lead to forword thinking something called called aton bomb which was unknown then , the radioactivity study before it was there simply blows away your mind, it was unbelievable.

Whatever he thought in that time has become
Selena Beckman-Harned
Wells' 1914 tale of a world first ultra-modernized by atomic power, then mostly destroyed by it, then remade into a fabulous utopia with one language, one common government, and apparently no societal problems is on the one hand eerily prescient and on the other a bit laughably unbelievable. It's completely astonishing how Wells predicted nuclear war, but the utopia he describes is just cartoonish in its simplicity and lacks any details that would help me believe it could really come to pass. He ...more
Jun 04, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of Wells lesser known works this is worth the read for those who enjoy the socio-political commentary of one of the worlds great writers. It's in the public domain for those who are interested...good stuff! ...more
Feb 06, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I hope this wasn't HG Wells best work because if it was the rest of his writings must be horrid!!

If you ask me what this book was about, I will tell you I have not the glimmer of an idea!
Feb 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Remarkable sci-fi by H.G. Wells written in 1914 in which he imagines what will happen when the world obtains nuclear energy. Biplanes dropping A-bombs, for example.
Peter Macinnis
Sep 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Well, what can you say about a book, published in 1913, which predicted the atomic bomb? OK, he had it being used on Berlin in 1956, but not bad, not bad ata all.
Willa Guadalupe Grant
Aug 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Such an amazing author! How did H.G. Wells know the things he knew? This story was horrifying & amazing & I really loved it.
Jun 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Instead of reading the book Read Vicky Hunt's goodreads review. ...more
Chaitalee Ghosalkar
Feb 11, 2017 rated it liked it
The rating is more for the frighteningly close to reality vision of the author than the actual content.
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In 1914 Wells published what reads like a string of fanciful essays pretending to be a novel. Collectively, it is an indictment of the state of human affairs: economic inequity; broken, outdated institutions; and the militarism sweeping the world about to culminate in the cataclysm of 1914. It is a cautionary story about the danger of unintended consequences when science hands devices of incredible power and effect to humanity driven by old ideas and old prejudices.

There are few characters to ca
Dirck de Lint
This is a re-reading, prompted by a recent look at a more recent work of Utopian literature and I realize why I didn't maintain the memory of it from the decade previous. It is very much a work of its time (just ahead of WWI), and it has the usual flaws of an older semi-political, semi-polemical fiction; there's a lot of unified ideas and attitudes all of a sudden, people en masse realizing the error of previous ways, which is hard to accept as a reader because such shifts are generally impossib ...more
Paul Spence
This book presents an idea of the world advancing in a much different way that still shares a number of things with the world we have inherited and that we live in now. Wells had an imagination I find almost breath taking at times if you consider what he had to work with and what he imagined out of that setting.

He presents a world battling among nations for just as ridiculous of reasons as that we kill each other for today. The idea of the world running short of resources as the number of people
Jun 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book at many wonderous possibilities, but, failed to hit the mark in so many respects. On one side, we see, in part the return of Wells' 'Futuristic Writings', the newly discovered atom, the wonders of a new power source, and, the possible dangers to such power. All the combination of a great Science Fiction Story.

To begin with, the story of the World War, was riveting. So many parallels with Shelley's "The Last Man". In the Last Man you have human life as it was when written, but in the y
Robert Spillman
Aug 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
I had never heard of this book until I read "Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era." The world's leading physicists (Einstein, Curie, Szilard, Fermi, Bohr, Heisenberg, and others) of the early 2oth century were located in France, Germany, England and Turkey. Starting with Marie Curie, this group was well on its way in defining the inner workings of an atom and this property Curie called "radioactivity." Wells was very interested in the discovery that radioactivity re ...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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