Bombers Drop Gas Of Peace; War Ends!
Wells lived from 1866 to 1946, his life spanning a period of incredible change in history. The machine-gun had barely been invented when he was born, and he lived to hear the reports of the first atomic bombs being dropped on Japan at the end of the Second World War. Even more fundamental a change in human society must have been the internal combustion engine replacing the horse-drawn vehicle: humans had used horses and oxen (mostly) to travel around for thousands of years -- from cart to car was a monumental shift on every sensory level. (Think of the smell of a city in 1880, and I imagine it would have mostly been the smell of animals and their poop. By 1920, cities would have smelt of gasoline and diesel).
Wells has been hailed as a writer who predicted much in science that came to pass. My favorite is that he described in one book how in the future men would leave Earth and land on the moon. Fair enough: he was not the only writer to dream of such a feat. But Wells described a moon mission starting with rockets launched from Florida, as they eventually were...
In The Time Traveler, Wells has his scientist race millions of years into the future, where he witnesses some really weird shit. In Food of the Gods, genetically-modified food is fed to children who figure as helpless victims of science, but who grow to monstrous sizes. The Army is called in, and the children are killed using artillery; I read this one when I was 15 and the sadness of the ending is still in my memory.
Wells was a pacifist and an idealist. In Things To Come, a 1936 film for which he wrote the screenplay, scientists form Wings Over The World after seeing London bombed into dust (the Blitz was four years ahead) and their bombers drop the Gas of Peace causing peace and love, man, peace and love...
And... Wells could write wistfully too, sensing that as so much newness was created around him, much was being lost. Here is the main character of his hair-tonic comic novel, Tono-Bungay, on board a Navy destroyer heading downriver in London, the shores passing by reminding him that all civilizations pass into history and dust:
We tear into the great spaces of the future and the turbines fall to
talking in unfamiliar tongues. Out to the open we go, to windy freedom
and trackless ways. Light after light goes down. England and the
Kingdom, Britain and the Empire, the old prides and the old devotions,
glide abeam, astern, sink down upon the horizon, pass--pass. The river
passes--London passes, England passes...