The War of the Wheels
H. G. Wells and the Bicycle
The father of science fiction and the significance of the bicycle in his works.
"Withers presents the reader with a masterly interpretation of H.G. Wells’s passion for the bicycle, both in his writings and in real life....This book should be required reading for cycle historians and Wellsian enthusiasts but also for those interested in the nexus connecting transport and social change at the turn of the twentieth century."—Glen Norcliffe, Professor Emeritus of Geography, York University, Toronto
"The humble bicycle comes to life in The War of the Wheels as intimately connected with issues of environment, warfare, social change, sexuality, and writing. Its analysis of a whole range of Wells’s books, many of them rarely read, is equally welcome. Jeremy Withers will give readers of Victorian and modernist literature a whole new view of technology and literature, at a delightfully unexpected angle."—Sarah Cole, professor of English and comparative literature, Columbia University
"A fascinating read: not just about one author and one mode of transport, but
about modernity, ecology, and technology more broadly."—Simon J. James, Department of English Studies, Durham University
Photograph of Wells and his wife Jane
standing behind tandem bicycle.
Jeremy Withers is assistant professor of English at Iowa State University. He is the coeditor
of Culture on Two Wheels: The Bicycle in Literature and Film.
Book Description »[Close »]
Amid apocalyptic invasions and time travel, one common machine continually
appears in H. G. Wells’s works: the bicycle. From his scientific romances and
social comedies, to utopias, futurological speculations, and letters, Wells’s texts
brim with bicycles. In The War of the Wheels, Withers examines this mode of
transportation as both something that played a significant role in Wells’s personal
life and as a literary device for creating elaborate characters and exploring
Withers traces Wells’s ambivalent relationship with
the bicycle throughout his writing. While Wells celebrated
it as a singular and astonishing piece of technology,
and continued to do so long after his contemporaries
abandoned their enthusiasm for the bicycle, he was
not an unwavering promoter of this machine. Wells acknowledged
the complex nature of cycling, its contribution
to a growing dependence on and fetishization of
technology, and its role in humanity’s increasing sense
of superiority. Moving into the twenty-first century, Withers
reflects on how the works of H. G. Wells can serve
as a valuable locus for thinking through many of our
current issues and problems related to transportation,
mobility, and sustainability.
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6 x 9, 264 pages, 17 black/white illustrations, notes, bibliography, index