This sci-fi comedy is one of Wells’ lesser known novels. I was hoping I’d like it, but unfortunately I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re making a point of reading everything he’s written.
The concept is one often seen in science fiction – things becoming giant and terrorising the nation. Maybe this book is even the originator of the idea (with a nod to the much earlier Gulliver’s Travels) – I don’t know. The story takes place over twenty-one years and is set mostly in rural southern England. Two scientists invent a substance which causes living things which are in their early growth stages to grow faster and larger until adulthood. The substance is called Herakleophorbia IV, later popularly known as Boomfood. The scientists are careless and allow the stuff to leak out from their experimental farm, where it starts to cause chaos in the form of giant wasps, rats and creeper. Then it’s fed to a few babies. By the end of the book, this has led to giant young people realising the power they have over everyone else. I took this to symbolise the uprising of the working classes over the elite. Maybe it’s not, but I wasn’t sufficiently interested to analyse it further.
I had no problem with the concept. What I didn’t like was the viewpoint of the story. There’s no main character you can follow. The narrator is not identified but is possibly a journalist, scientist or historian. The time frame is long, resulting in a slow pace. There’s no character development to make up for this. I think this is one of those novels which are basically the author making a social or political statement at the expense of a well-told story. I’ve read a few of Wells’ ‘social novels’, which are better than this one. It seems like The Food of the Gods is caught between proper adventurous science fiction (The First Men in the Moon, The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds) and the social novels, resulting in an unsatisfactory misfit.
First published in 1904. This edition was published in 2002 by House of Stratus (no editorial notes, a few silly typos, but I still wouldn’t have enjoyed it had the edition been better).