Edward Bulwer-Lytton's book is ostensibly a work of Science Fiction. It deals with an underground race of advanced beings, masters of Vril energy - a strange power that can both heal and destroy - who intend to leave their subterranean existence and conquer the world. But the original book has been seen by many as a barely concealed account of Hidden Wisdom, a theory that has attracted many strange bed-fellows, including the French author Louis Jacolliot, the Polish explorer Ferdinand Ossendowsky, and Adolf Hitler.
This post-Darwinian novel was published in the same year as The Descent of Man. Written in the Victorian era, it was an influential work of science fiction. The ideas contained within were borrowed/endorsed by an assortment of interesting historical figures. An American engineer slips into a subterranean world, where he encounters a race of humans known as the Vril-ya. The Vril-ya escaped an aboveground catastrophe by hiding in this underground, where they discovered an energy that comes to shape their civilization into a utopia, barring one issue. Narrator William Hope enlivens the first-person narrative with his clean American accent and conversational tone. Hope's sincere and accessible voice helps to normalize the story and to illuminate its philosophical themes.
"The Coming Race was enormously influential in its day and traces of its influence remain with us: the title of the book is namechecked in Bowie's Oh You Pretty Things and Vril, the mysterious energy force utilised by the Vril-Ya, supplied the suffix for Bovril." (The Independent)
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Not aged well.
- James F Dawes