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This thrilling tale is H. G. Wells at his modernist, visionary best. In 1907, a naive Londoner named Bert Smallways finds himself an unwitting passenger on a fleet of German airships heading over the Atlantic to attack New York. What unfolds in characteristically Wellsian fashion is a clash of early flying machines that leaves Gotham in shambles and unleashes the terrible age of Total War. Uncannily relevant to our own era, The War in the Air remains a cornerstone of early science fiction.
“This here Progress,”said Mr. Tom Smallways, “it keeps on.” “You’d hardly think it could keep on,”said Mr. Tom Smallways. It was along before the War in the Air began that Mr. Smallways made this remark. He was sitting on the fence at the end of his garden and surveying the great Bun Hill gas–works with an eye that neither praised nor blamed. Above the clustering gasometers three unfamiliar shapes appeared, thin, wallowing bladders that flapped and rolled about, and grew bigger and bigger and rounder and rounder—balloons in course of inflation for the South of England Aero Club’s Saturday–afternoon ascent. “They goes up every Saturday,”said his neighbour, Mr. Stringer, the milkman. “It’s only yestiday, so to speak, when all London turned out to see a balloon go over, and now every little place in the country has its weekly–outings—uppings, rather. It’s been the salvation of them gas companies.”