I first read it as part of my research for my own novel, The Honours, which is set in 1935. I wanted to find out what sort of SF people were reading that year, and I’d heard a lot about this strange, progressive, controversial story about a boy born with superhuman abilities who comes to herald a new, albeit abortive, dawn in human evolution.
What I hadn’t heard about was the weird, roiling contraflow of idealism and extremism from which the novel emerged, the secret societies and open revolutions, and the allegations of an international eugenicist conspiracy desiring nothing less than global enslavement which persist to this day. Odd John is a remarkable novel which perfectly encapsulates the strangeness, terror and optimism of an era, a work both prescient and chillingly retrograde, and one which – like all successful fiction – permits interpretations quite contrary to the author’s purported intent.
In 1928, Gollancz published H. G. Wells' book-length manifesto The Open Conspiracy: Blue Prints For A World Revolution. In it, Wells argued against the dogmas of ancient religious institutions and antiquated divisive notions of patriotism, advocating a new order based around science and rationalism, brought about by informal groups of likeminded citizens coming together to move the world towards a free, equitable and unified utopia.