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The World Set Free

Narrated by: Eric Brooks
Length: 8 hrs and 36 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (20 ratings)

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Editorial Reviews

Wells describes nuclear weapons as the most destructive power imaginable in a novel written in the early 1900s. Much of what Wells hypothesizes now qualifies as prophecy since coming true. Wells studied the cutting-edge science of his time and planted what he learned in this futuristic novel. The theme will be familiar to Wells’ fans: Mankind is power-hungry, and human progress is determined by the speed and sophistication of technological advancement. Narrator Eric Brooks’ British accent and professorial tone match the philosophical-sounding text. Brooks fleshes out the characters and the plot, but like Wells himself Brooks’ main focus is the theme; he thoughtfully conveys Wells’ near psychic expository rhetoric.

Publisher's Summary

The World Set Free is a novel published in 1914 by H. G. Wells. The book is considered a prophetical novel foretelling the advent of nuclear weapons. 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 with this: "The story 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 radium continues 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.

Public Domain (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

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Science Fiction or prophecy?

H. G. Well's was first with many of the novel ideas that are still prominent in science fiction today. For this reason, H.G. Wells is arguably the greatest science fiction writer who ever lived. Before I was twenty, I read almost every book Wells wrote, but an exceptions was The World Set Free. I wish I had found it sooner, because this book goes far beyond the science fiction of it's day. Well's was very knowledgeable when it came to the latest scientific discoveries of his day. Back in 1913, Wells was able to extrapolate the early work going on in atomic physics into a surprisingly accurate concept of the atomic bomb. Leo Szilard, who was the first to fully grasp the mechanics of a chain reaction, credits his inspiration in 1933 to this book, which was written by Wells 20 years earlier. Well's prediction became reality in 1945, with the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan, thirty-one years after The World Set Free was published. The World Set Free may be quaint by today's standards, but it should be read for it's historical significance. Wells may not have been a prophet, but he was certainly a great visionary.

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pedagogically pedantic

Like listening to a lecture on history, some of which just hasn't happened yet, by Ben Stein's character The Economics teacher from Ferris Bueler's Day Off. But if you can get through the dry stuff, there are some really good but scary prescient tidbits.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful