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Men Like Gods

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Men Like Gods  

First Edition Cover
AuthorH. G. Wells
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Genre(s)Non-Fiction
PublisherCassell and Company, Ltd
Publication date1923
Media typePrint (Hardback)
ISBNNA

Men Like Gods is a novel written in 1923 by H. G. Wells. It features a utopian parallel universe.

Plot summary

The hero of the novel, Mr. Barnstaple, is a depressive journalist working for the newspaper "The Liberal." At the beginning of the story, Barnstaple, as well as a few other Englishmen, are accidentally transported to the parallel world of Utopia. Utopia is like an advanced Earth, although it had been quite similar to Earth in the past in a period known to Utopians as the "Days of Confusion." Utopia is a utopian world: it has a utopian socialist world government, advanced science, and even pathogens have been eliminated and predators are almost tamed. Barnstaple is confounded and confused by the utopian attitudes: "Where is your government?" he asks. "Our government is in our education" is the answer. Barnstaple gradually loses his Victorian English narcissism. For instance, Wells makes comments on personal responsibility when Barnstaple sees a person slaving over a rose garden at high altitude and asks, "Why don't you hire a gardener?" The answer is, "The working class has vanished from utopia years ago! He who loves the rose must then serve that rose." Barnstaple is changed by those experiences and he loses his previous view of the world and becomes more sympathetic to the ethos around him. As this conversion starts to take place, Utopians begin to fall ill.

This, however, means that the newly arrived Earthlings pose a grave threat to Utopians, as the latters' immune systems have become weak; the Earthlings have to be quarantined until a solution is found. They resent this isolation and some of them plot to take over Utopia; they are actively opposed by Barnstaple, who has to escape from the quarantine castle to do it, just as superior Utopian technology destroys the Earthling revolt. Finally the Utopians find a way to send Barnstaple back, and the story ends as he goes back to Earth.

Critical Response

The novel was considered by several contemporaries to be a weakly plotted story in which Wells's utopian enthusiasm overtook his skills as a writer of scientific romances (his own term for what is nowadays commonly called science fiction). The novel was yet another vehicle for Wells to propagate the so-called 'Wellsian utopia', his ideas of a possible better future society, which he has described in several other works, notably in his A Modern Utopia (1905). In literary history, the novel's notable role was to provoke Aldous Huxley into writing Brave New World (1932), his parody and criticism of Wellsian utopian ideas.

Several characters in the novel are directly taken from the politics of the 1920's, the character Rupert Catskill in the novel probably represents Winston Churchill, as he was seen at that time, as a reckless adventurer. He criticises Utopia for its apparent decadence, and leads the attempted revolt against Utopia.

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