The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earthby H. G. Wells
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In the middle years of the nineteenth century there first became abundant in this strange world of ours a class of men, men tending for the most part to become elderly, who are called, and who are very properly called, but who dislike extremely to be called--"Scientists." They dislike that word so much that from the columns of Nature, which was from the first their distinctive and characteristic paper, it is as carefully excluded as if it were--that other word which is the basis of all really bad language in this country. But the Great Public and its Press know better, and "Scientists" they are, and when they emerge to any sort of publicity, "distinguished scientists" and "eminent scientists" and "well-known scientists" is the very least we call them.
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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.