1908


The War in the Air: Should be mandatory reading for all thinking adults

The War in the Air by H.G. Wells

The War of the Worlds wasn't the only masterpiece that H.G. Wells wrote with the words "The War" in the title. The War in the Air, which came out 10 years later, in 1908, is surely a lesser-known title by this great author, but most certainly, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece nonetheless. In this prophetic book, Wells not only predicts World War I -- which wouldn't start for another six years -- but also prophesies how the advent of navigable balloons and heavier-than-air flying craft would make that war inevitable. Mind you, this book was written in 1907, only four years after the Wright Brothers' historic flights at Kitty Hawk, and two years BEFORE their airplane design was sold to the U.S. Army for military purposes. In The War in the Air, Wells also foresees air battles, as well as engagem... Read More

The Yellow God: An African adventure

The Yellow God: An Idol of Africa by H. Rider Haggard

H. Rider Haggard's 33rd work of fiction out of an eventual 58, The Yellow God was first published in the U.S. in November 1908, and in Britain several months later. In this one, Haggard deals with one of his favorite subjects -- African adventure -- but puts a fresh spin on things. Thus, instead of Natal, Zululand, the Transvaal and Egypt, where the bulk of his African tales take place, The Yellow God transpires, for the most part, in what I gather is now northern Nigeria. And instead of big-game hunter Allan Quatermain (the protagonist of no less than 14 Haggard novels), here we are given Alan Vernon, an ex-Army colonel who, with his steadfast servant Jeekie, goes on a quest to find the legendary gold hordes of the undiscovered Asiki people. And, after braving a harro... Read More

The House on the Borderland: Awe and shudders

The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson

William Hope Hodgson's first published novel, The Boats of the Glen Carrig (1907), is a tale of survival after a foundering at sea, replete with carnivorous trees, crab monsters, bipedal slugmen and giant octopi. In his now-classic second novel, The House on the Borderland, which was released the following year, Hodgson, remarkably, upped the ante, and the result is one of the first instances of "cosmic horror" in literature, and a stunning amalgam of science fiction and macabre fantasy. An inspiration for no less a practitioner than H.P. Lovecraft, the book really is a parcel of malign wonders. Once read, it will not be easily forgotten. I myself read the book for the first time some 20-odd years ago, an... Read More

The Wind in the Willows: A great read for children and adults

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Wind in the Willows is a set of anthropomorphic stories that English author Kenneth Grahame wrote for his young son and published in 1908. The story begins when Mole, who lives in a hole in the English countryside, decides one fine day to come out of his underground lair to see a bit of the world. He’s amazed by all that he sees and soon he encounters and befriends a water rat who invites him to a picnic, takes him for a ride on the river, and teaches him to row a boat. Mole spends time living with Ratty and exploring the river and the two become great friends. Ratty introduces Mole to some of his other animal friends including the amiable introverted Badger and the rich eccentric Mr. Toad. The animals have various little outings and adventures, many that are sweet, some that are amusing, and a few that are a little violent (though no more violent than the average children’s fairyt... Read More

The Ghost Kings: A very fine novel from Haggard’s middle period

The Ghost Kings by H. Rider Haggard

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The Ghost Kings was H. Rider Haggard's 32nd novel, out of an eventual 58. Written during the years 1906 and 1907, it first saw book publication in September 1908. This novel was penned immediately before Haggard set to work on another African adventure tale, The Yellow God, but of the two, The Ghost Kings is the superior creation. It is more exciting and more detailed, with a greater emphasis on fantasy elements and the supernatural. Indeed, with the exception of its South African setting and the inclusion of such real-life characters as the Zulu chief Dingaan (brother of Chaka) and councilor Mopo (both of whom also featured prominently in Haggard's 1892 masterpiece Nada the Lily), the tale could almost be a novel of hard fantasy.

The book cleaves fa... Read More