by Tilda Booth, historical/fantasy (2010)
Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 978-1-60928-255-4
HG Wells is the hero of Tilda Booth's Stealing Utopia. Interesting. How can I not read a short story that tries to romanticize one of my favorite dead white male authors?
In this story, Herbert George Wells isn't an unhappy man who couldn't excel in his many vocations. Instead, George is a celebrated scientist who plays cards with a distinguished circle of scholars and leading England into a renaissance of science never seen before. Everyone will be happy and there will be no lack in the brand new world that he and his compatriots will bring about.
Well, not if Jane Robbins has anything to say about it. Jane belongs to an underground group of people who believe that this renaissance - Utopia - will only enrich those in power and with money while the common folks starve in the streets. Also, Utopia threatens to be a false paradise where free will is suppressed. So, in this story, Jane kidnaps George and drags him back to the HQ, where he is held captive until the Prime Minister agrees to whatever her group wants.
I like Stealing Utopia, I really do. As usual, short story limitations apply, but I feel that both George and Jane are very well-matched characters with great chemistry. Their relationship develops on pretty equal footing in the sense that the hero isn't completely right and the heroine doesn't come off like an addled misguided twit. And yes, HG Wells does come off as a sexy dapper fellow here. I love how he is not the stiff-lipped stereotype of the learned hero.
My only complaint here is that the promise of philosophical debate hinted at in the set-up is never fully delivered. This is understandable, as there are only so many pages the author can fill up before she has to bring down the curtains. Still, a part of me will always believe that this story is good enough to be a full-length one, and therefore, it's a shame that I have to settle for this abridged version of something that could have been simply, positively amazing.
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