Short Story #77: The Crystal Egg by H. G. Wells

Title:  The Crystal Egg

Author: H. G. Wells

Summary

Damon Knight - A Century of Science Fiction
A Mr. Cave owns a curiosity shop filled with odds and ends.  One day, two gentlemen ask him about the price of a crystal egg within his store.  He hesitates and then asks for an exorbitant price.  When the two gentlemen agree to pay it, he delays longer and says that it has actually already been sold.  His wife comes out at this point and accosts him to sell them the egg because they could certainly use the money but he resists her berating.  After the men leave, Cave continues to hear it from his family about his failure.  Shortly after, the crystal egg disappears and Mrs. Cave makes note of this.  She asks Mr. Cave about it but he claims ignorance.  Again, the whole family gets in on the act and demands to know but he plays stupid.  We find out later that he had stored it away with an acquaintance, Mr. Wace.  Cave's reluctance has much to do with what happens when he looks into the crystal egg at the right angle and with the right light, he can see deep into another world that is entirely unlike anything he has ever seen.  As the two explore the world, they find strange buildings and creatures, which makes them wonder where this world is--even theorizing that it could be Mars given the arrangement of stars within the crystal world.  Eventually, they also notice that there is a crystal egg in that world too and appears to be something the alien creatures peer into and Cave and Wace wonder if the creatures can see into this world.  Eventually, Cave does take the crystal egg back to his house and Wace gets busy with his own work for a little bit.  Once his schedule clears up, he visits Cave, only to discover that Cave died the last night Wace had seen him.  When Wace follows up on the crystal egg, the wife admits to selling it right after his death.  Wace attempts to find it but it has entirely disappeared.  

Reflection

The story was published in 1897--the same year as the serialization of Wells' The War of the Worlds and it's clear there are similarities between the two.  However, as a tale, The Crystal Egg lacks the smoother prose and excitement that permeates War of the Worlds.  However, I appreciate the idea that this story could somehow be part of that universe.  It would be curious to see how well this story, War of the Worlds, and Star-Begotten could be woven together.  

Short Story #77 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  3/17/2014
Source:  A Century of Science Fiction, edited by Damon Knight. Simon & Schuster, 1962.The story can also be found on the Gutenberg Project. There's also an interesting television version of this story from the sci-fi anthology series, Tales of Tomorrow.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.



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