Dave's Reviews > The Wonderful Visit

The Wonderful Visit by H.G. Wells
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's review
Nov 12, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: fiction, speculative-fiction

…or in this case, when it is shot, what happens next. This is the premise of H. G. Wells’ second novel, “The Wonderful Visit”. Wells explores the ideas of different dimensions, as well as the corrupting influence of society on the innocent in this novel, which was published just a few months after “The Time Machine” in September of 1895. However, while “The Time Machine” is a classic which has long endured, “The Wonderful Visit” is not remembered, and though it can be found easily on the internet, it is not considered a vital work either from a viewpoint of Speculative Fiction or from one of Wells’ career.

The reasons this book has not been remembered are many, starting with the writing and continuing through the lack of a story. The starting premise is good, but Wells doesn’t really take the story anywhere. The premise of having the angel become more and more human as he is corrupted by his contact with society is also a good one, but the ending is weak and feels contrived and even if it flowed better, it is not a very strong finish for a story which had great potential.

“The Wonderful Visit” does play a role in the controversy around H. G. Wells and those who believe that he plagiarized from other works. In particular, Grant Allen’s “The British Barbarians” has been mentioned as a possible source. Based on a description I had read of Allen’s book I thought that the similarities might not be so large, but I have sought out Allen’s book and I must admit that the two books are much too similar to be a coincidence. Both books were published in the fall of 1895, so it isn’t clear how Wells could have plagiarized Allen’s work, unless he was able to receive an advance copy, or perhaps it was Allen who copied from Wells. More likely is that the two discussed their works with each other, as Wells and Allen knew each other, and even took holidays together, though that was after 1895. The person that we know Wells did borrow from, though only slightly, was himself. In “The Time Traveler”, Wells mentions “Hillyer” late in the story as what is apparently the name of the previously unnamed narrator. In “The Wonderful Visit”, Wells main character is Rev. K. Hilyer, the Vicar of Siddermorton, and the man who shoots the angel.

What Wells does well in this book is the reaction of people to the presence of the Angel. When confronted with a being that looks enough like a man, they refuse to believe that he is anything other than a man. When Hilyer tries to tell them the truth, his sanity is question (if written today one would undoubtedly have a character claim that the Reverend was trying a publicity stunt). The Angel’s lack of knowledge about society leads to his being looked at as eccentric in some cases, or a fraud in other cases, or a lower class person in other cases. The perspective of the Angel allows the reader to view society outside of our own preconceptions.

What fails is that Wells pulls up short on all these things. He could have done so much more with the premise, he could have delivered a biting satire of society, but it isn’t to be. Many of the characters are two dimensional and unbelievable. The corruption of the Angel by society could have been done much better. There could have been a lot more humor in the story as well. Overall, this story falls short of Wells other early novels, many of which have become defining works of speculative fiction and have made Wells listed among the greats of that genre. It is not a horrible book by any measure, but it is one which is probably of limited interest to most readers.

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