"Even in the 21st century, Wells still speaks to our fears and dreams."—Michael Dirda, the Washington Post
"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
"Withers shows there's more to Wells and bicycles than two hackneyed quotes and a novel that doesn't deserve the respect some shower on it, that across a range of novels, short-stories and non-fiction pieces Wells had a lot to say about the bicycle, both praising it and criticising it"—Podium Cafe
"A readable and fascinating...study. Recommended"—Choice
"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
"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
"Both in its explorations of cultural context and its close readings, The War of the Wheels is a valuable contribution to our understanding of Wells and can be recommended to anyone looking for fresh insights into his work."—English Literature in Transition
"A fascinating study of one of England’s best known authors and is well worth the read."—Aethlon: the Journal of Sport Literature
"Withers' work is a fascinating contribution to the literature on cycling and its cultural meanings."—Sport in American History
"In The War of the Wheels: H.G. Wells & the Bicycle, English Professor Jeremy Withers of Iowa State University spins us through Wells' portrayals of the bicycle and how his views of it changed over his lifetime."—Cycling West
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 abound 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 complex themes.
Withers traces Wells’s ambivalent relationship with the bicycle throughout his writing. While he 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.
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.
6 x 9, 264 pages, 17 black and white illustrations