To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Penguin’s Modern Classics range, they have released a series of 50 Mini Modern Classics, which are cheap novellas and small short story collections (£3.00 in the United Kingdom, converts to about $4.80 American currency). One of these, the one I shall be covering here, is a collection of three H.G. Wells (“the Don Juan of the intelligentsia”, as he labelled himself) short stories. I am already a fan of his following my reading of The Time Machine, the first work to feature a machine to time travel.
The first story (and the main selling point) is The Door In The Wall, a story about the narrator’s friend searching for a door that he found in his childhood. This door led to a wonderful garden of wonderful things which he has been trying to get back to ever since. This story is pretty good, possibly the best depending on your tastes.
The second (The Sea Raiders) is a fairly simple action story about a group of killer squid that have been terrorising the coast of Cornwall and Devon and is well worth a read. It feels like it bears some similarity to the works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. (Incidentally, on the subject of Lovecraft, there is a rather excellent Twitter feed showing the sort of things that he might come out with if he was drunk.)
The last story (The Moth) is described on the back cover as a “darkly comic tale of an academic rivalry taken too far” and this does an excellent job of summing up the story. This one is the best in my opinion (I do prefer comedy to other types of story), if only because it contains one of the best paragraphs I have ever read in a work of fiction: ”The world of entomologists waited breathlessly for a rejoinder from Pawkins. He would try one, for Pawkins had always been game. But when it came it surprised them. For the rejoinder of Pawkins was to catch influenza, proceed to pneumonia, and die. It was perhaps as effectual a reply as he could make under the circumstances, and largely turned the current of feeling against Hapley.”
It’s a small collection (which helps if you don’t get much time to read), but for what you get it’s well worth the small price that you pay for it (even though all three stories are available online if you know where to look). It collects three stories from one of the masters of science fiction and is definitely worth a look. Comes highly recommended.