One of the very first science fiction authors -- and the one with the biggest impact on sci-fi -- was undoubtedly H.G. Wells. And "Five Great Science Fiction Novels" brings together a collection of his timeless novels, filled with weird occurrences, weird people, and even weirder creatures.
"The Time Machine" concerns the Time Traveller, an English scientist who has built a machine capable of taking a person through time. So he goes to the year 802,701 A.D. and finds that civilization has fallen -- the human race has become the grotesque, apish Morlocks and the innocent, vague Eloi. And as he continues traveling into the future, it becomes bleaker.
"The Invisible Man" involves... well, an invisible man. A stranger covered entirely in clothes, goggles and bandages arrives in the village of Iping, and frightens the locals with his strange behavior. When the "invisible man" stumbles across the house of Dr. Kemp, he reveals his true identity and just how he became invisible...
"The War of the Worlds" takes place when the narrator finds a bizarre metal spaceship, filled with enormous tentacled Martians -- and soon they're decimating the army with their heat rays and tripodal fighting machines. Now, the human race is threatened with annihilation or enslavement, unless something can turn the war of the worlds in their favor.
In "The Island of Dr. Moreau," Edward Prendick is brought to a strange island, where he meets the titular Dr. Moreau... who turns out to be a mad scientist who was driven out of England for his vivisection experiments. And free of society, the doctor has turned his skills to far more horrible talents, creating a race of beast/human hybrids.
And finally, "The First Men on the Moon" arrive when an eccentric scientist uncovers an odd substance that defies gravity -- so of course, rather than selling it for a fortune, he builds a spaceship with it. But not only does the moon have life, it has insectile creatures called Selenites who soon capture them...
A future "dying earth," time machines, space ships, genetic engineering, strange elixirs and even the idea of aliens invading the Earth -- H.G. Wells came up with a lot of the ideas that are now pretty common in science fiction. Some have been disproven (I'm pretty sure there are no hyper-evolved, tentacled monsters on Mars), but that doesn't make his books any less groundbreaking.
Wells wrote in a staid 19th-century style, full of vivid descriptions ("The red eastern sky, the northward blackness, the salt Dead Sea, the stony beach crawling with these foul, slow-stirring monsters") and powerful emotions (the wild chase scenes in "The Invisible Man"). He also had a knack for inserting some really alien stuff into the stories, as well as some truly bleak depictions of what might come to pass.
And he wove in plenty of science -- bacteria, albinism, genetic engineering, evolution and the life cycle of a planet, although the "cavorite" idea is rather far-fetched! I can only imagine how these books must have expanded the imaginations of the Victorians who read them.
HG Wells' most famous works are brought together in "Five Great Science Fiction Novels" -- bleak, brilliant sci-fi that needs to be read to be believed.