An ambitious and handsomely crafted overview of the life and works which is more exhaustive and stylish than Lovat Dickson's even-handed portrait (1969). The authors consider Wells as a kind of super-stylus responding to the dynamics of his background and to an England of erupting social and intellectual upheavals. Both parents were, it seems, poised for escape -- his cricket-playing father from the gloomy piety of his wife and drear responsibilities, and Wells' mother from ever-threatening poverty and precarious respectability. Wells, however, hurtled upward, managing to avoid a draper's career while struggling for schooling. He arrived at Huxley's new Normal School of Science at eighteen, ""small, shabby, provincial, bright but mentally undisciplined, more crammed than educated, and with no definite aim in life than to get on and up. . . ."" During his months at that school his eager understanding of the new science, his tendency to apocalyptic vision (evolved from his mother's revealed religion) and his attraction to the concept of a ruling elite coalesced and were to power his major works. Wells' astounding gift for visual imagery, his cosmic inventions and crusading energy caught the eye of Oscar Wilde with his first published article, and by 1897 he had launched his most enduring novels. The authors patiently monitor Wells' forays among the Fabians, his many affairs and two marriages, his career as an antiestablishment father figure to the young, his friends (including that ""strange nervy little group"" of Henry James, Conrad, Ford and poor Gissing), and his socio-political writings and concerns. And there are copious quotes from H.G. who was never reticent about revealing creative wellsprings: ""Little men in canoes upon sunlit oceans would come floating out of nothingness. . . violent conflicts would break out amidst the flower beds of suburban gardens."" With delightful photographs, a satisfying estimate of the true sire of most science fiction -- the time-traveling missionary, who added a fourth dimension to man's essential being.