The last of Wells’ works that was on my tbr list for the 1001 books. Wells occasionally delights me, but, on the whole, though I do regard him a genius and a mind a century ahead of his time, his writing doesn’t really grab me too much. Tono-Bungay was just such a novel.
George is lured into working for his uncle who has concocted some potion that he is flogging off as a cure-all. It’s nothing of the sort though; as the business grows exponentially, like most things these days, rather than this demonstrating a superior product, it simply demonstrates superior marketing.
Eventually, the ethical skeletons come out of the closet of morality and give George nightmares he can’t escape from without his whole life imploding. Or can he?
What I did appreciate about this book, coming as it does between those classics of sci-fi The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, was that it was Wells turning his brilliant mind to something less alien: our everyday capitalist lives. I’m used to him dealing with more esoteric subjects like… well, like time travel or alien invasions. But this novel revealed that he very much understood not only his times but those to come. Quite a few of those who grace the front covers of our magazines might want to read a copy of this.
There’s much more character development in this novel than in any other I’ve read of Wells. I other works, his characters seem to be dominated by the crisis at hand. In this one, it’s very much the impact of crises on a character that is the focus. It’s like Wells suddenly realised you can see through both ends of a telescope.
The weakness in the novel was, for me, the style. However, I’ll put this down, not to any lack on Wells’ part, but to the fact that while he is a writer ahead of his time, I’m a reader very much in or quite possibly behind my own time.
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