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The War in the Air (1908)

por H. G. Wells

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H. G. Wells' prophetic The War in the Air foretold the use of airplanes in warfare and the coming of World War I. First serialized in 1907 and published in book form in 1908, the novel tells the story of the forward-thinking tinkerer Bert Smallways. Alfred Butteridge is said to be the only English aviator to know the "secret of the flying machine." When Bert Smallways accidentally falls into Butteridge's hot air balloon, he soon finds himself enmeshed in a German plot to bomb New York city. The setting is the outbreak of war as German forces attempt to dominate the air before the Americans can succeed in building a large aerial navy. On the other side of the United States tensions with the "Confederation of Eastern Asia", an allegiance between China and Japan, compound into full scale war, leaving the U.S. to fight on both eastern and western fronts, on sea and in the air.… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 16 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Inferior to many of his novels, but still quite enjoyable. An uneven mixture of geo-political exposition, prophetic discourse under the guise of storytelling, and straight-up narration of cataclysmic events in the life of one Bert Smallways (great name, that). ( )
  judeprufrock | Jul 4, 2023 |
I liked this more the second time around, but that may be because I'm deeply ensconced in HG Wells right now ( )
  J.Flux | Aug 13, 2022 |
https://fromtheheartofeurope.eu/the-war-in-the-air-by-h-g-wells/

It was written in 1907 and set in the very near future, maybe the late 1910s. Global society is suddenly and swiftly transformed by technology: the invention of a super-efficient monorail changes the dynamic of industry and commerce, and advances in aeronautic engineering make old military concepts and procedures irrelevant. Our hero, Bert Smallways, gets comically mistaken for the great British inventor Butteridge by the German war fleet, and accompanies them on their surprise attack on America. As a result of the outbreak of war, civilisation collapses.

To get the bad bits out of the way first: I don't like Wells' consistently patronising attitude to people of the social class of his protagonist. Having now read Claire Tomalin, I realise that it's overcompensation because he came from that background himself. But I still don't like it. Also, while mocking the Western fear of the Yellow Peril, he ends up there himself, including depicting a unified jihad from the Gobi Desert to Morocco. Though perhaps that can be excused as a corrective to imperial determinism, which was certainly the dominant take of his day.

The first use of aeroplanes in combat was not until 1911. (Italian planes versus Turkish troops in Libya, since you ask.) Wells depicts a world of rapidly developing technologies, with fixed-wing tactics vying with dirigible airships for usefulness. Of course in real life the airships turned out to be less useful, and military investment went into planes, but it wasn't a bad guess. He also spots the important point that air domination is not enough without a strong ground follow-up.

I think he was also unusual for his time in describing just how devastating an air-led total war would be on the global economy. His chain reaction didn't quite happen in 1939-45, but since then we've been very alert to the prospects of atomic warfare.

And I must say that a real chill went down my spine as he described a successful assault by air on New York. 2001 is not that long ago…

Still, it's a book of its time, and I couldn't really recommend it to anyone who was not, like I have become, a Wells completist. ( )
  nwhyte | May 25, 2022 |
At the beginning of the twentieth century the invention of the airplane revolutionizes warfare and precipitates a devastating world war. Nations race to build armadas of airships; cities across the globe are bombed; flying navies clash above the Alps and India. The United States is invaded from the east and the west. German and American airships duel over the Atlantic, and New York is bombarded by German flying machines. Confederation of Eastern Asia airships soar above the Rockies, soon engaging in deadly dogfights with the German air fleet above Niagara Falls.
In The War in the Air, the astonishingly prophetic vision of H. G. Wells reveals how one invention can change the world. Before the World Wars, Wells predicted that airplanes would be used for bombing, that urban areas would become especially vulnerable to aerial attacks, that dogfights and stealth attacks by air fleets would become a normal part of warfare, and that distance and the expanse of oceans no longer would be guarantors of safety for America or other countries. Visionary in its time and chillingly relevant a century later, The War in the Air continues to remind us that humankind's greatest evil lies in devices of its own making.
  MasseyLibrary | Apr 24, 2022 |
I picked this up after reading several reviews praising Well's predictions prior to World War I. However, I just couldn't get into this novel. It's fairly slow at parts, and rather far fetched. That aside, I did enjoy the chapters that would have been better suited as essays on the sociopolitical tensions that led to the first world war and the futility of war. ( )
  skeletor_999 | Aug 25, 2020 |
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Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
H. G. Wellsautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Parrinder, PatrickEditorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Sawyer, AndyNotesautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Winter, JayIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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H. G. Wells' prophetic The War in the Air foretold the use of airplanes in warfare and the coming of World War I. First serialized in 1907 and published in book form in 1908, the novel tells the story of the forward-thinking tinkerer Bert Smallways. Alfred Butteridge is said to be the only English aviator to know the "secret of the flying machine." When Bert Smallways accidentally falls into Butteridge's hot air balloon, he soon finds himself enmeshed in a German plot to bomb New York city. The setting is the outbreak of war as German forces attempt to dominate the air before the Americans can succeed in building a large aerial navy. On the other side of the United States tensions with the "Confederation of Eastern Asia", an allegiance between China and Japan, compound into full scale war, leaving the U.S. to fight on both eastern and western fronts, on sea and in the air.

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