The First Men in the Moon
Cover of the 2000 Dover edition of The First Men in the Moon.
The First Men in the Moon is H. G. Wells's 1901 romance about a trip to the Moon (see Moon, voyages) in which the two explorers find a flourishing underground lunar civilization of which the head (literally) is the giant-brained "Grand Lunar" (see Moon, life). Two film versions of the novel by Wells were later released – in 1919 and 1964.
Wells was not the first to describe a manned lunar excursion, nor even the first to propel the spacecraft of his intrepid explorers by a kind of antigravity. However, his tale is one of the earliest to describe an alien civilization based on hive intelligence – the antlike Selenites revealing both the power and problems of overspecialization.
The protagonists, Cavor (the idealist and scientist) and Bedford (the pragmatist and businessman) travel to the Moon in a spherical vessel coated in the antigravity material Cavorite. On arrival, they are astonished at their mobility under the Moon's weaker gravitational pull. Eventually, the two men are captured by the Selenites and taken below the surface into the subterranean world of these large, antlike natives. The men rebel against their captors and flee to the Moon's surface but struggle to relocate the hidden sphere. After splitting up, Cavor is recaptured and leaves a note telling of his fate. Bedford returns to Earth with several mementos of his adventure, two crowbars and a thick chain, all of which are made out of gold. Bedford is lucky to land in the sea off the English coast and finds helpful locals to assist in his rehabilitation. Unfortunately the sphere is launched by a curious young boy and lost forever in space.
Cavor is able to send messages from the Moon to Earth unaware that Bedford has returned. He describes aspects of the Selenites' society, geography, and biology. He is able to communicate with the Grand Lunar but then makes the fatal mistake of revealing man's darker, warlike tendencies, thus sealing his fate. Bedford's dreams of returning to harvest the gold rich planet are also dashed.