Review: Wheels of Chance

If there’s a “Tedcore,” this book may define it. It’s a Victorian romance by H. G. Wells set on a bicycling holiday in England. That said, it turned out not to be what I expected. It held my interest, though.

Wells is a fascinating guy who was pro-bike in an era when being pro-bike meant preferring them to horses. His affection for cycling is well enough known in bike circles to include apocryphal quotes. As a practical cyclist of the time, he does well at including interesting details in this. I’m no expert on these times on bikes, primarily being acquainted with them from Mark Twain’s work, so I learned much.

Beyond that, Wheels of Chance includes a lot about the class structures in Britain at the time. Our main protagonists are separated by sex, but more importantly by class. The barriers here are broadly familiar to anyone who’s read Romeo and Juilet or seen Valley Girl. Broadly familiar, for sure, but the specifics are pretty interesting.

Also interesting was the arc of the romance, such as it is. Modern romcom conventions are only partially present and the idea of a Hollywood ending is completely missing. It’s fun to see both what Wells has to say here and how he says it.

His characters are similarly of another time, but animated and believable. It’s easy to make out the world’s constraints and pleasures through their eyes.


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