- The World Set Free
Infobox Book |
name = The World Set Free
image_caption = Title page of the first edition
H. G. Wells
language = English
publisher = Macmillan & Co.
release_date = 1914
media_type = Print (Hardback &
pages = 286 pp
isbn = NA
"The World Set Free" is a novel published in 1914 by
H. G. Wells. It is not one of Wells' better-remembered works, but is noteworthy for its depiction of fictional "atomic bombs" which eerily prefigure the development of real nuclear weapons.
The World Set Free is rare and hard to find on the bookshelves but it is still seeing print by smaller publishers like
Twin Engine Productions HB, 1st World Library and Tantor Media, Inc.
A constant theme in Wells' work, such as his 1901 nonfiction book "
Anticipations," was the role of energy and technological advance as a determinant of human progress. The novel opens: "The history of mankind is the history of the attainment of external power. Man is the tool-using, fire-making animal."
Scientists of the day were well aware that the slow natural radioactive decay of elements like
radiumcontinues for thousands of years, and that while the "rate" of energy release is negligible, the "total amount" released is huge. Wells used this as the basis for his story. In his fiction,
As fate or coincidence would have it, in reality the physicist
Leó Szilárdread the book in 1932, conceived of the idea of nuclear chain reactionin 1933, and filed for patents on it in 1934. [cite book | author = Richard Rhodes| year = 1986 | title = The Making of the Atomic Bomb | publisher = Simon & Schuster | location = New York | pages = 24 | isbn = 0684813785 ] Wells did have some knowledge of atomic physics, and William Ramsay, Ernest Rutherford, and Frederick Soddy's discovery of the disintegration of uranium. Soddy's book called "Wealth, Virtual Wealth, and Debt" praises "The World Set Free".
In Wells' story, the "atomic bombs" have no more power than ordinary high explosive—but they "continue to explode" for days:In the great tradition of science-fiction, he gives the obligatory double-talk explanation of how the bombs are supposed to work: This is nonsense, of course—even if the "inducive" does sound rather like the initiator used in modern nuclear weapons.No bomb could "explode continuously" without destroying itself. This is one of the problems that had to be solved in the development of the real atomic bomb. Nuclear weapons are, and need to be, just as "instantaneous" as a conventional explosive. Thus Wells' bombs were not truly prophetic at an engineering level. Nevertheless, it is startling to read:
Wells viewed war as the inevitable result of the Modern State; the introduction of atomic energy in a world divided resulted in the collapse of society. The only possibilities left were "either the relapse of mankind to agricultural barbarism from which it had emerged so painfully or the acceptance of achieved science as the basis of a new social order." Wells' theme of world government is presented as a solution to the threat of nuclear weapons.
*The 1995 novel "
The Time Ships" by Stephen Baxteris an authorized sequel to Wells' " The Time Machine". Carolinum appears in the story, as well as the detonation of a Carolinum bomb which, according to one character, will continue to burn for years.
*In 2001, a reprint of this book was released under the new title "The Last War: A World Set Free."
*gutenberg|no=1059|name=The World Set Free
title=The Last War: A World Set Free
publisher=University of Nebraska Press
url=http://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/bookinfo/4037.html , (edited and with an introduction by Greg Bear) Note: in his Introduction, Bear says without further explanation that "For this Bison Books edition, "The World Set Free" has been retitled. For this historical introduction, I will continue to use Wells's original title."
* [http://fax.libs.uga.edu/PR6045xE58xW67/ The World Set Free] , a story of mankind, by H. G. Wells, 1914. (a searchable facsimile at the University of Georgia Libraries;
DjVu& [http://fax.libs.uga.edu/PR6045xE58xW67/1f/world_set_free.pdf layered PDF] format)
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