Thursday, September 6, 2007

When the Sleeper Wakes


When the Sleeper Wakes by H.G. Wells is a story about a man with insomnia who falls into a trance and sleeps for two hundred years. Imagine falling asleep in Victorian England, and waking up two hundred years later. Imagine the changes in society. In landscape. In politics. In everything. This is the future that Wells imagined. The Sleeper--a man named Graham--wakes up to find himself the center of attention. Not only because he's famous...but because he's wealthy. In his sleep, he has become the "master" of the world. He now "owns" most of the companies, most of the lands, etc. in the world. But is it really his for the taking? As Graham discovers, this society--this government--of sorts has secrets, lies, and propaganda. All is not as it appears. All is not as they tell him. Some sort of action on his part is required, but can he realize it in time to save the world? to save himself?

When the Sleeper Wakes definitely falls into the category of dystopic fiction. Wells' dystopia has some frightening aspects--including brainwashing and manipulation. The lower class lives in total enslavement. They live to obey. They live to serve. The middle class aren't really much better off. Most of the upper class waste their lives living it up in one of the Pleasure Cities. Only a small percent of the upper class serve as the elite and "rule" the world. Not with justice. Not with equality. But selfishly, ruthlessly, with total disregard for others. The Sleeper, Graham, wants to change all that. But can one man really make a difference? Can he be the people's messiah? Can he free the people from slavery?

The book has an introduction by Orson Scott Card. He writes, "Today there are hundreds of different doors into science fiction. But at the beginning, there was only one door, and H.G. Wells was the one who turned the key, opened it, and stepped through, showing everyone else the way." (xx)

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