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Six Classic Novels about Comets


In the Days of the Comet by HG Wells

Yesterday, the robot probe Philae landed on a comet after travelling for four billion miles and 10 years to reach it. The comet, named 67P, is more than four billion years old and is hurtling through space at 40,000 mph.

It’s no wonder that authors – including those masters of fiction, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells – have been fascinated with comets for a long time. Most writers seem interested by what would happen if a comet hits our planet (God forbid).

Here’s six comet-themed novels for your enjoyment.

In the Days of the Comet  by H.G. Wells (1906) A science fiction novel where a comet causes the nitrogen in the atmosphere to become breathable. The effect is that humanity becomes happier after breathing in this new type of air.  The story focuses on a psychology teacher whose thoughts turn towards marriage.

Hector Servadac or the Career of a Comet (also called Off on a Comet) by Jules Verne (1877) A comet called Gallia collides with Earth on January 1 and shears off a chunk of our planet, carrying away 36 humans of varying nationalities. Of course, everything is different on the comet – different gravity, water boils at 66 degrees, and east and west has changed sides. All very confusing but this small group soldiers on.

Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson

Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson (1946) Everyone knows this one. The second in the Moomin series features the first appearance Snufkin and the Snork Maiden. Moomintroll, Sniff and Snufkin set sail towards the Lonely Mountains and visit an observatory where a professor tells them that a comet is going to collide with Earth. They hurry back, thinking that the end is nigh. More adventures ensue. The English translation was published in 1951.

Tomorrow’s Comet by Lewis Sowden (1951) A comet approaches the Earth and all life is doomed. This story concentrates on the psychological effects of this knowledge.

People of the Comet by Austin Hall (1951) A space age romance first published as ‘Hop o’ My Thumb’ in Weird Tales in 1923.  The solar system turns out to be an atom within a macro-universe. Lovely cover artwork by Jack Gaughan.

The Year of the Comet by John Christopher

The Year of the Comet (also called Planet in Peril) by John Christopher (1955) The author’s real name was Sam Youd and he was a famed science fiction writer.

This novel is set in a world run by two all-powerful companies, Atomics and Telecoms. Youd is best known for writing The Death of Grass and the young adult series The Tripods.

If you are looking for some non-fiction, then Carl Sagan has written about comets. I also love this etching of a comet spotted in 1853.

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