Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Food of the Gods

It could hardly escape your notice by now my recent obsession with H.G. Wells. There is good news on that front, I have completed six of the seven novels in the book, Seven Science Fiction Novels of H.G. Wells. And while the book is due back at the library tomorrow, I was able to buy my own copy at my local used bookstore, Recycled Books. That means there is no rush on finishing the book. Hence, I can soon start reading and reviewing YA books again. I hope I have persuaded at least one person to give Wells a try.

Today's review: The Food of the Gods.

H.G. Wells' works have many similarities. Many feature scientists. Many feature "mad" scientists who are either greedy, ambitious, emotionally unstable, and/or insane. The Foods of the Gods is really no exception to the rule. It features two scientists: Mr. Bensington and Professor Redwood. (Of course there are many other characters ranging in sanity and motives.) It begins off in a rather strange manner. It is more sarcastic. More biting. More critical. More pointed. It begins off as more social commentary and 'clever' wit than as science fiction. But as the story progresses, the tone changes. The Food of the Gods. That is the ambition. That is the goal. These two scientists want to create a "food"--a substance--that would turn on the human growth gene. A substance that would cause everything--man, animal, plant, etc.--to grow, grow, grow. The two scientists name this 'the food of the gods' or 'herakleophorbia.' But soon the public names this "boomfood." But let's just say that some things are better left uninvented and some consequences better left unfelt. IT quickly becomes apparent that they've unleashed a monstrous effect on the world. Giant wasps. Giant roaches. Giant mosquitoes. Giant leeches. Giant rats. Etc. Even weeds, vines, and other plant life take on terrifying proportions and wreak havoc on the world--England in particular. The novel tells the story of how it was invented and its first effects. But then it jumps ahead twenty or twenty-five years to show the long-term effects of "bigness" on the world. What becomes of the infants who were given "boomfood" as an experiment? As you might have guessed, the future only has room for one size...big or little...and it will be a fight to the bitter end.

The Food of the Gods is a scary read. Chapters about giant rats chasing, eating, and gnawing humans and picking them clean are not what you want to read before bedtime. Yet despite the terrifying aspects of this book, it is hard not to feel some sympathy for the victims. The real criminals here are the scientists who are playing god. Those are deciding the fate of the world without forethought. Without judgement. Without wisdom. You have to really be a mad scientist to feed your newborn child an experimental drug--an untested drug with who knows what kind of side effects. I do feel sorry for these small babies that became experiments and "projects" for scientists gone wild. And I think Wells' intended the readers to identify and sympathize with the giants who are only shown as being strong, good, and wiser than the 'pygmies' (natural-sized) humans.


Carl V. Anderson said...

I love mad scientist stories! They are the kind of retro/nostalgic fiction that I love, going back to an interesting time of social development and ideas about what the future would be like.

Unknown said...

I don't think I've read this one! I'd love to see that movie too.