Top critical review
Good, Believable Characters. Grabbed My Attention Early, But, Then...
Reviewed in the United States on September 1, 2020
I wanted to love “The Haunting of H. G. Wells,” this month. Especially since I chose not to post an Amazon First review last month. After all, science fiction in such a setting as this book is set, could be a fantastic exploration of what might have happened.
Then again, I often am disappointed with alternative histories. For me, they often just don’t hold my interest.
On the other hand, Robert Masello has a track record in journalism and in speculative fiction, so I was confident I had made a great choice. Further, this is a stand-alone novel with no cliffhanger.
Certainly, the characters felt real. And the language was clean and consistent with what I expected for the time period, early 20th Century. Mind you, profanities could have been used and still been representative of the time period, but, well, sometimes, the use of only the word rhyming with dam makes for a more relaxing read.
But, well, I was struggling a bit with the flow. It took some time for me to recognize why. Then, lo and behold, I realized my difficulty in keeping glued to the pages was because the author writes in a style that I typically write in — passive.
Yeah, I found the novel to be a little to similar to my own writing.
The excerpts demonstrate what I mean. Excerpt 1 displays the dialogue, which is really quite good. Well, except that Churchill could have been nursing a drink and a cigar, I suppose. Although the style is passive, such dialogue could be passive, so I accepted it as is.
However, in descriptions, (excerpt 2), I think passive writing slows down the ‘immediacy’ that works best in such a story. In other words, I didn’t feel I was a fly on the wall.
Excerpt 1 - Dialogue
“What exactly is it that you’d like me to write?” Churchill and Bryce exchanged a look.
“Something to lift the national spirit,” Churchill said.
“Something to confirm what Mr. Machen’s story has already suggested,” the colonel said.
“That God is our ally?”
“That the English soldier is endowed with a nobility of spirit, and the English army with a moral purpose, which will assure us of victory in the end.”
“You’re the only man who can do it,” Churchill urged.
“I should think that Machen was. He got this ball rolling, after all.”
“No, he’s too played out, too compromised.”
“And he writes a lot of stories filled with occult mumbo jumbo,” the colonel said dismissively.
“The Admiralty office thought I was overstepping my bounds,” Churchill said, “and that it was out of my official purview. That’s why I took the idea here.”
“If you are willing,” Bryce said, gathering together some papers on his desk, “we would want you to travel to the Front—ideally somewhere near Mons, in the Ypres salient—and billet, for perhaps a week or two, with the officers of...”
Excerpt 2 - Description
“...Could he do it? Wells thought. He was forty-nine years old, for God’s sake, and even in his prime had not been an especially vigorous specimen; he had always put it down to growing up in straitened circumstances, with a diet sorely lacking in wholesome foods. And he could only imagine the howls from Jane at the very thought of his placing himself so deliberately in harm’s way.
“So what do you think, H. G.?” Churchill said. “Are you ready to do your bit for king and country?”
Bryce gently slid the papers—official-looking documents, including a map—across the desk toward him. Wells could spot the empty signature line at the bottom of the form with the heading, all in red capitals, “TOP SECRET.”
He drew the papers into his lap, and thought, How could he ever face his own young sons, both of them away at boarding school, if he shirked his duty now? How, for that matter, could he face...”
I could almost rate this as four stars. Believe me, I wanted to. But...
Three stars out of five.