The World Set Free (recently reissued as The Last War) is a 1914 science fiction novel by H. G. Wells. When atomic bombs are developed and the world is threatened with universal devastation, its leaders are forced to rethink war, government, and society.
The World Set Free is remarkably prophetic, as Wells forecasts both nuclear war and the capacity for mutually-assured destruction. And while Wells misses the mark on the way atomic bombs work (his atomic bombs have the same explosive power as conventional bombs, but they just keep on burning), he certainly doesn’t underestimate their destructive power.
This book feels like a novel only in the sense that it relates a series of fictional events. What few individuals appear here are scarcely characters in the literary sense – other than Egbert, none are developed in the slightest. This simply wasn’t what Wells is trying to do – Wells is interested in the technology and its ramifications, and because that’s what he focuses on, The World Set Free reads like a fictional history book, or perhaps like an outline for a longer novel. This keeps it from ever getting too interesting, and while it’s a short book, it can be hard to get through.
In short, The World Set Free is an impressively-imagined but not very interesting piece of prophetic science fiction.
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