Synopses & Reviews
Graham, an 1890s radical pamphleteer who is eagerly awaiting the twentieth century and all the advances it will bring, is stricken with insomnia. Finally resorting to medication, he instantly falls into a deep sleep that lasts two hundred years. Upon waking in the twenty-second century to a strange and nightmarish place, he slowly discovers he is master of the world, revered by an adoring populace who consider him their leader. Terrified, he escapes from his chamber seeking solace—only to realize that not everyone adores him, some even wish to harm him.
About the Author
Orson Scott Card has written many science fiction novels, including Xenocide and Children of the Mind. He is the only author ever to win the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel two years in a row.
Reading Group Guide
1. Some critics categorize Wells as a utopian whose works, while idealistic, are also pessimistic. Wellss pessimism is quite evident, but what of his idealism? Can he in fact be classified as a utopian?
2. Carlo Pagetti, an Italian literary critic, argues that Wells did not create a new genre but rather slightly modified traditional literary devices such as the concept of a utopia, time travel, and alien visitors. Do you agree? If yes, how does When the Sleeper Wakes fit into traditional literature?
3. Some have criticized Wells for his overtly religious parodies in his novels such as The Island of Dr. Moreau and The War in the Air. Does When the Sleeper Wakes differ at all from these earlier novels? Obviously the new society Graham awakes to hails him as a messiah, but is he what modern readers would refer to as a Christlike figure?
4. In Wellss previous novels his themes and outcomes are somewhat obvious-The Time Machine was a play on the hierarchy of social class, The Island of Dr. Moreau was a comment on the possible pitfalls of bioengineering. Some believe the theme of this book deals with Victorians inheritance laws and the ills that Wells thought would come from such laws; others believe Wells was commenting on the division of capital and labor. Do you agree with either theory? If not, what do you think is the theme of this book?
5. In his book H. G. Wells J. D. Beresford talks of Wellss turn from the “traditional” science fiction, such as Jules Verne wrote, to an overtly moralistic storytelling, When the Sleeper Wakes being the first in this experiment. Do you think Wells is overly moralistic? Do you believe none of Wellss contemporaries had overhanging themes in their own works?