From the publisher:
A plot against England that even the genius of H. G. Wells could not have imagined.
It’s 1914. The Great War grips the world—and from the Western Front a strange story emerges…a story of St. George and a brigade of angels descending from heaven to fight beside the beleaguered British troops. But can there be any truth to it?
H. G. Wells, the most celebrated writer of his day—author of The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man—is dispatched to find out. There, he finds an eerie wasteland inhabited by the living, the dead, and those forever stranded somewhere in between…a no-man’s-land whose unhappy souls trail him home to London, where a deadly plot, one that could turn the tide of war, is rapidly unfolding.
In league with his young love, the reporter and suffragette Rebecca West, Wells must do battle with diabolical forces—secret agents and depraved occultists—to save his sanity, his country, and ultimately the world.
Robert Masello is an author who has published historical novels with a decidedly surreal twist involved in them. This current novel is written around H.G. Wells, an author who wrote many books involving a vision of the future that projected what later became real-life happenings. These included “War of the Worlds”, “Things to come” “The Invisible Man” and the “Time Machine.” Wells must be considered as one of the first authors writing what then became Science Fiction, and a man that knew fame in his own lifetime.
The novel begins in England during the first few months of World War I. A legend arose that ghosts of English bowmen and archers appeared magically at the western front and fought on the British side. This was conceived that the Gods were on the side of the English and used to buoy up the country in the face of war.
H.G. Wells, at the peak of his fame, is called into the war office and Winston Churchill the man in charge asks him to travel to the western front in Belgium in order to investigate the truth of the advent of the archers. Wells acquiesces and does so in the care of an experienced soldier.
Masello’s descriptions of conditions at the western front are very vivid and well done. He describes a group of men called ghouls that have deserted their armies and live underground at the front stealing food from the dead in order to survive.
In an attack by the English against soldiers of the German army Wells is propelled into an underground nest of the so-called ghouls who save his life. In later dispatches written by him when he returns to England Wells writes what he is told to by the war office.
In further adventures of the famed author, Wells meets a young lady, Rebecca West who becomes his lifelong mistress. Masello indicates that Jane, H.G. Wells wife knew of his philandering and allowed it to happen, understanding her husband’s needs to do so.
The last half of the novel becomes involved with two events that the author makes up. The first is the survival of a wounded crew member of a downed German airship that had attacked London, and Mrs. Wells caring for him against all regulations. The second is the description of a planned chemical attack by a German agent living in England and action against him by Wells with the aid of Ms. West.
It goes without saying that literary license is used by Masello, as it has been in previous successful novels aiding in providing a very readable novel and one that further enhances his reputation and piquing the interest of his readers who await his next work.
10/2020 Paul Lane
THE HAUNTING OF H. G. WELLS by Robert Masello. 47North (October 1, 2020). ISBN: 978-1542093781. 397 pages.