Friday, July 02, 2010

Star Begotten

Star Begotten: A Biological Fantasia by H.G. Wells. 1937/2006. Wesleyan University Press. 172 pages.

This is the story of an idea and how it played about in the minds of a number of intelligent people. Whether there was any reality behind this idea it is not the business of the storyteller to say. The reader must judge for himself. One man believed it without the shadow of a doubt and he shall be the principal figure in the story.

Mr. Joseph Davis is feeling a bit overwhelmed by his life. His wife is pregnant with their first child, and, well, things are changing a bit too fast for him. Perhaps that is why he is so open to suggestion. Perhaps not. Maybe Davis has been waiting all his life for an idea to grab hold of him. What is this idea? How did it come to be? Well, readers are told it was "born, so to speak, one morning in November at the Planetarium Club" (37). And the idea itself, for most, would be thought silly, something easily dismissed. Yet, for a few the idea is so stubborn it is transformative.

So what is the idea? The idea that 'cosmic rays' are being sent by the Martians. And these rays are transforming humanity--changing our genes, our chromosomes. Humanity is being manipulated from afar by Martians who would design us into who they would have us to be. That more and more "Martians" are being born on Earth. Unlike Wells' previous novel, War of the Worlds, which features an alien invasion, this time the invasion is coming from within, without any ships having landed at all.

Once Davis believes this, his life will never be the same. He'll never look at his wife in the same way. (For he's convinced his wife is one of them, a Martian. And his unborn child is as well.) Davis finds a few people who agree with him, who believe, who let this idea take a hold of them as well. Though I think Davis remains the most obsessed with this idea. He uses it to explain the world around him, to explain all the rapid changes he's witnessing.

Star Begotten is an interesting read. One thing that surprised me is that these believers saw the Martians bringing sanity to the human race. They believed the Martians were older and wiser beings that would 'help' humanity. I can't say that I liked the book--not in the same way as I liked Wells' other novels. But I am glad I read it.

Man is what we've got. Humanity is humanity. Starry souls are born not made. (120)
What would a world of human beings that had, as Davis has put it, gone sane, be like? (125)

In general terms--that is what I see before us. Like a great door beginning to open. Sanity coming, sanity growing, broadening power, quickening tempo, and such a great life ahead as will make the whole course of history up to the present day seem like a crazy, incredible nightmare before the dawn. That is what I believe in my bones. (131)

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
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  • fantasy
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I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
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  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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