Finding himself nearly bankrupt after a failed business venture, Mr. Bedford retreats to a cottage in the English coastal town of Lympne. There, he intends to write a play that he hopes to sell and thus, restore his financial position.
However, Bedford’s writing sessions are frequently interrupted by a peculiar and apparently self-absorbed little man whose daily perambulations bring him past Bedford’s window. This would not be a problem except that he utters a loud and vexing buzzing sound as he passes.
After a few incidents of this, Bedford decides to confront the man, who introduces himself as a scientist named Cavor. He is surprised to hear that he actually makes this bizarre buzzing noise as he walks and apologizes to Bedford. During their conversation, Cavor reveals that he is working on an experiment to create a gravity-defying material.
A few days later, during one of Cavor’s daily excursions, his home laboratory explodes, nearly leveling his house and damaging neighboring properties. Yet, rather than lamenting it as a disaster, Cavor realizes that he has found accidental success in the creation of Cavorite.
The two men then construct a massive glass sphere lined with Cavorite—leaving several openings for windows—and decide to literally float from the Earth’s surface to the moon. An airtight manhole cover becomes their airlock. Maneuvering is handled by the use of blinds covering the windows. Once in space, opening the blinds over a window facing Earth or the moon causes the sphere to succumb to the gravitational pull of one or the other body.
Their journey to Earth’s satellite proceeds without incident and eventually, Cavor and Bedford venture out onto the moon’s surface to find that while thin, the air is breathable. They encounter snow and a stunning variety of flora, some of which is edible, but with amusing side effects. During the day, the sun’s heat is nearly unbearable; even worse is the night’s insufferable cold.
Eventually, the two men encounter enormous animals they decide to call mooncalves, which are tended to by herdsmen that resemble bipedal insects with massive craniums. Cavor and Bedford refer to them as Selenites. Eventually, the two men from Earth reveal themselves to the Selenites. As a result, they are introduced to a diverse society thriving beneath the moon’s surface…
…but will the first contact between humans and Selenites end in amity or utter disaster?
The First Men in the Moon (notice it’s “in” not “on” the moon) was published in 1901. By then, scientific knowledge about space and the moon was fairly advanced—the fact that space is a vacuum, the fact that the moon and the Earth are comprised of the same elements, and the fact that the moon’s gravity is a fraction of Earth’s—but obviously there were many unknowns.
Thus, if you can ignore the fact that two chaps are bounding across the lunar surface clad only in tweed jackets and golf knickers, then you’ll probably enjoy this preposterous but fantastic adventure by the legendary H.G. Wells.