Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Though the story is not typical of Wells’s work, its narrative movement is as forceful and as well controlled as his earlier writings, and it is often classified among his finest achievements in short fiction. The story itself resembles a novella in that the topic is an extraordinary event; the setting and the plot are inherently connected; it has a turning point; it has a central symbol; and it has an obvious moral. The story is set as a leitmotif: the title is mentioned in the first sentence and then repeated several times. Thus, setting and story are a unified whole. In this way, its meaning is stressed and brought constantly to the forefront of the reader’s mind.

Wells uses apparently trivial items of action and commonplace information to give an almost believable format to a fantastic story. For example, the setting is presented in the manner of an objective report: exacting geographical locations, details of the catastrophic event, and pseudoscientific language. The free play of imagination within this format of realistic fiction is typical of Wells’s ability to invert life, to turn it inside out.