00 – Preface
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Originally serialized from 1898 to 1903, Wells later made some crucial changes to the piece to create a flawless dystopian science fiction novel published in 1910 and renamed The Sleeper Awakes. The novel focuses on an Englishman, who falls in a deep sleep lasting two centuries, and sees him wake up in an unrecognizable setting and extremely wealthy. An enthralling tale of dystopian society depicted through a colorful imagination, The Sleeper Awakes concentrates on topics including dystopia, political power, religion, plutocracy, and individual and social awakening.
The story opens in London in the year 1897, and introduces its protagonist Graham, who is despondent over his inability to fall sleep. Left without much choice, he turns to medication, which instead of offering temporary relief induces a coma-like trance. Waking up disoriented and in an unfamiliar setting, Graham discovers that he has been in a deep slumber, which has lasted for over two centuries. Moreover, he comes to knowledge that he is extremely rich due to an inheritance, which has been accumulating interest in a trust under his name. The protagonist also finds out that his wealth has been used to run the world, supposedly on his behalf, by the White Council. His awakening not only presents a personal struggle with disorientation, but it also triggers a large-scale revolution which aims to overthrow the current government. Consequently, Graham must not only adjust to the alien futuristic world, but he must also manage his prestigious position in society and produce a much needed leader to guide the revolution. So begins his enlightening journey, as he learns of the troubling regime of the ruling power, and must choose whether to live up to his designation as a savior, or forfeit his voice to the established authority.
Interestingly, Wells makes some accurate technological and social predictions about the future, which many will find exciting considering the time of its composition. Some of these forecasts include the vivid descriptions of television, airplanes, windmills and vending machines. The novel presents a model of dystopia, as it revolves around key dystopian elements including a division between social classes, dehumanization, and the realization of the injustice administered under authoritarian rule. Wells’ wild imagination, descriptive imagery, and social critique make the novel a compelling and insightful piece of literature.