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The Man Who Could Work Miracles
H.G. Wells
Tartarus Press, 363 pages

The Man Who Could Work Miracles
H.G. Wells
Herbert George Wells was born in 1866 in Bromley (an outer London borough) and was educated at the Normal School of Science in London. He worked as a draper's apprentice, bookkeeper, tutor, and journalist until 1895, when he became a full-time writer. In the next 50 years he produced more than 80 books including The Invisible Man (1897), When the Sleeper Awakes (1899), The First Men in the Moon (1901) and The Shape of Things to Come (1933). After World War I, he wrote an immensely popular historical work, The Outline of History (2 volumes, 1920). He died August 13, 1946, in London.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The First Men in the Moon
SF Site Review: The Time Machine and War of the Worlds

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

H.G. Wells (1866-1946), the well-known author of famous SF novellas such as The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man and The Time Machine, was also a prolific writer of supernatural fiction, now assembled for the first time in one stylish hardcover volume by the UK imprint Tartarus Press.

Mind you, in Wells's body of work the term "supernatural" doesn't always mean dark, horrific or ghostly, but it must be intended in a broader way, sometimes as a mere synonymous of "fantastic."

For instance, a group of tales included in this book ("Under the Knife", "The Plattner Story" and "The Stolen Body") develop a similar concept, namely the extracorporeal experiences of various people: a man undergoing an operation under the effect of an anesthetic, a second disappearing into thin air after an explosion in the chemistry lab, another one projected out of his body.

An analogous subject can be found in "Mr. Skermersdale in Fairyland" as the tell-tale title clearly suggests.

Wells's penchant for SF is evident even in some of these atypical tales. A fine example is "A Dream of Armageddon," in which a man dreams about a distant future where war destroys his great love story, "The New Accelerator," a very entertaining piece about a peculiar invention and "The Country of the Blind," a sort of fairy tale for grownups.

Straightforward supernatural tales devoid of any dark undercurrent are "The Man Who Could Work Miracles," a story with an humorous touch featuring a clumsy young man suddenly able to perform extraordinary deeds, "The Door in the Wall," a gentle piece about a man haunted by an elusive door leading to a different, better world, "The Apple," a slightly philosophical but compelling yarn and "The Queer Story of Brownlow's Newspaper," providing a jump in the future by means of the accidental delivery of a newspaper dated forty years later.

Dark fiction lovers, however, will find in this volume their share of frissons. Truth be told "The Inexperienced Ghost" is too funny to be disquieting, "The Magic Shop" is just a delightful tour de force in magic and the tender "The Presence by the Fire" is an unorthodox, sentimental ghost story.

On the other hand "The Devotee of Art" is a vivid parable about art as a demanding demon who makes you forget your loved ones, "Walcote" a very atmospheric ghost story masterly written, "The Flowering of the Strange Orchid" a scary tale of botanical horror and "The Red Room" a very dark rendition of the time-honoured theme of the haunted room.

The famous "Pollock and the Porroh Man" is a great story of revenge and black magic, "The Moth" a delightful story featuring an entomologist either haunted or deluded and "The Story of the Late Mr. Elvesham" an outstanding, old-fashioned supernatural tale where a young man is overwhelmed by the power of evil science.

Other remarkable stories are "The Crystal Egg," an exquisite mix of SF and supernatural, showcasing the author's powerful imagination and "The Lord of Dynamos," the sharp description of how ignorance and superstition can turn a machine into a god.

Those who consider Wells only a great SF writer will be pleasantly surprised by this collection of stories, apt to charm both the devotees of fantastic literature and the regular readers of horror and ghost fiction.

Copyright © 2007 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.

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