THE INVISIBLE MAN: The Life and Liberties of H. G. Wells By Michael Coren (Bloomsbury, $240) MICHAEL Coren's book has been slammed by some critics for its excoriating attacks on H.G. Wells. Unfortunately, all the arrows he fires are directly on target. Herbert George Wells was a novelist of genius. He foresaw the mass mobilisation of World War I and trench warfare, World War II, space travel and a possible nuclear holocaust. He was kind and faithful to friends and fellow writers, supported women's liberation and self-improvement. For someone who from an early age had all the odds stacked against him, Wells' achievements were remarkable. But he was dreadfully flawed. Born in 1866, in Bromley, Kent, his mother was a domestic servant and his father a gardener for the same household. When his father had a bad fall and became a semi-invalid, Mrs Wells was left to support the family. Poverty forced her to remove Herbert from the classroom and put him to work. However, Horace Byatt, the headmaster of Midhurst Grammar School where Wells had studied, believed he had great talent and when his former pupil, out of desperation, asked for a junior teaching post, Byatt agreed to the appointment. Wells now began his education in earnest, devouring, in his spare time, Latin texts and books on literature, history and science. In 1884 he was admitted to the Normal School of Science, in London. It was there that he had his first taste of debating and loved it. He was now more interested in philosophy than science and his academic performance suffered accordingly, but his lifelong fascination with politics was awakened. He left the Normal School of Science in 1887 after failing his exams and worked towards the degree part-time, surviving through journalism and tutoring. In 1891, he married his first wife Isabel. It was a disastrous union. Isabel was not Wells' intellectual equal and he never ceased to remind her of this. He also made no secret of his frequent infidelities. But if his marriage was a failure, his literary career was quite the opposite. Between 1895 and 1897, he produced, The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, and his chilling masterpiece The Island of Doctor Moreau. These novels display his finest intellectual qualities - superb story-telling ability; a disarmingly easy style, making complicated concepts accessible, and the visionary genius of a Verne or da Vinci, that enabled him to see into the future with alarming accuracy. In 1895, a year after securing a divorce from Isabel, he married Amy Catherine Robbins. She was a bright, independent-thinking woman. Wells soon changed all that. He persuaded her to use a new name, Jane, because he didn't like Catherine and a fresh string of adulterous relationships began. He carried out these affairs so publicly, that sometimes Jane, becoming more miserable by the month, was a virtual prisoner in her own home. Meanwhile, Wells' star continued to rise and with it his feeling of self-importance. He joined the Fabians, but when they would not accept his views in their entirety, left in a huff. He wanted to be taken seriously as a political philosopher, wanted people to admit his view of an ordered Utopia free of want, with a genetically-engineered new race of perfect humans, was the only future worth contemplating. The question was how to get there? The answer came in 1901 with Anticipations. Wells believed the road to Utopia would not be easy. Inferior, weak races would die of starvation, disease and plague, though not enough would perish in these ways. This was his solution: ''And for the rest - those swarms of black and brown and yellow people who do not come into the needs of efficiency? Well, the world is not a charitable institution, and I take it they will have to go. The whole tenor and meaning of the world, as I see it, is that they have to go.'' Wells wrote Anticipations in his 30s and might have redeemed himself by later recanting. Far from it. As late as 1938, while the Nazis prepared to implement the Final Solution, he continued to advocate his concept of a master race, the need for euthanasia and to express strongly anti-Semitic views. During World War II, when told there was firm evidence of the Holocaust, he refused to temper his opinions. His fiction, like his political tracts, was riddled with anti-Semitism. Strangely enough, Anticipations did nothing to sully his reputation. Sidney Webb, the Fabian leader, called it his favourite book of the year. In 1905 Wells was admitted to the elite Reform Club. He now believed that no one could match him or touch him and no one did, until 1920. In that year, he published The Outline of History. It was an ambitious project and he employed a team of academics, although much of the book bore the stamp of Wellsian ideas. Many critics praised it, but the brilliant Catholic writer Hilaire Belloc hated the book. Belloc's attacks began almost immediately. Wells' friends wisely cautioned him to ignore them. But he counter-attacked. It was the most foolish act of his life. Wells challenged Belloc to find one error in The Outline of History. Belloc found one dreadful howler with ease, and accused Wells of ignoring the obvious importance of Latin and Greek culture and the influence of the early church. He doubted Wells' claim to be proficient in German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese and he was right. Wells realising now he was out of his depth, suggested an honourable truce. This only encouraged Belloc to redouble his efforts. Finally, after Wells had admitted defeat, Belloc held a celebration party and before other members of the Reform Club, publicly humiliated Wells. He was never the same self-assured man again. In 1946, at the age of 79, he died of cancer. Mr Coren has written a concise and scholarly work. It is smaller than most biographies, but covers the salient aspects of Wells' life without getting bogged down in tedium and trivia, as so many biographers do. He does not need to study closely every novel Wells wrote, because many of them were produced in haste and are of poor quality. Wells was vain, wrote too much too quickly, held views that would turn any decent person crimson with rage, and treated the wives who loved him like doormats. Mr Coren's evidence is irrefutable. Sometimes heroes have to fall and a voice must cry in the crowd, ''The Emperor has no clothes''. This biographer has done precisely that and deserves to be praised for his achievement.