The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earthby H. G. Wells
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Two scientists, Bensington and Redwood, conduct research into the growth process of living things. The result is a chemical foodstuff (which they name Herakleophorbia IV) that accelerates and extends the process past its normal cycle. Setting up an experimental farm, the pair test the substance on chicks, causing them to grow into giants.
Unfortunately, the slovenly couple hired to feed and monitor the chicks allow other creatures to eat the food, and soon giant rats, wasps and worms are terrorizing the countryside. The chickens then escape and overrun a nearby town. Urged on by a civil engineer named Cossar, Bensington and Redwood take responsibility for the mayhem. Armed with buffalo rifles and explosives, the men hunt down the monstrous vermin and burn the experimental farm to the ground.
The rest of the book focuses on the humans that have been reared on the food. Redwood mixes the substance into his own son’s bottle, causing him to grow and making him wholly dependent on it. Other children are given the food, including Cossar’s three sons, a princess, and the grandson of the couple hired to look after the experimental farm, Albert Caddles. Unwilling to stop feeding it to them (doing so would prove fatal), Cossar and Redwood look after their massive offspring until they finally reach 40 feet in height.
The rest of the world doesn’t take so kindly towards the young giants. Fear and mistrust run rampant, goaded by an opportunistic politician, John 'The Giant Killer' Caterham, as well as the occasional outbreak of giant vermin (mosquitoes, spiders, etc.). Despite their attempts to prove useful to society, the giants are restricted and segregated at every turn, while Bensington is driven into hiding by an anti-giant mob.
The worst treatment is reserved for Caddles. Having been forced to spend most of his life working in a chalk pit, he one day sets out to see the world he has been isolated from. Walking right into London, surrounded by thousands of tiny people and confused by everything he sees, he demands to know what it's all for and where he fits in. Getting no answer and told to return to his chalk pit, Caddles wanders aimlessly until he is finally gunned down by the police.
The conflict is brought to an inevitable head. The book ends on the eve of all-out war between the 'Pygmies,' small in body and mind but vast in numbers, and the 'Children of the Food,' who claim to fight not just for themselves, but for growth itself in all its forms. Whether they succeed or not is left unanswered.
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The Food of the Gods now completes the sci-fi novels of Wells in my library. My favorite chapter of the book is Chapter III where the giant rats appear. This book isn't well known like the Time Machine or War of the Worlds yet it is very poignant because it focuses on the ethics of genetic engineering. Wells wasn't merely a writer of science fiction but a rabid social investigator. First published in 1904, the novel is very poignant because it reveals the human reaction to those who are different. Children who eat the Food of the Gods become giants and are treated as outcasts and menaces to society. The book ends with the giant's fate to be determined by a hostile world. Will they be accepted or driven to extinction like the Neandertals by modern man?
This book describes the story of some growth-increasing substance, the `Food of the Gods', which after its discovery by two british gentleman-scientists spreads out, partially by insufficiently supervised experiments, and partially intentional, and generates giant plants, giant wasps, rats and other animals, and giant humans. The threat by giant animals is brought under control, but the giant humans become a political issue, a politician starts a movement that blames all difficulties on the giants, and demands that all giants be killed; the movement spreads, sweeps aside the old political structures, and takes over the country. The book ends in the night before the battle against the giants, which the giants might or survive or not, but since they spread the substance everywhere, there will be always new giants. Like other Wells classics, it is a strong story, which carries over weaknesses in writing and gaps in the story.