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There are some stories that never grow old. I think this is one of them. Of course allowances must be made for scientific advancements - stories of alien invasion no longer feature Martians, as we now know any inhabitable planets would have to be much further away. There are other features in this book that date the story, primarily the use of horse drawn carriages rather than cars, but even so I think this story is just as good today as it must have been when it was first written.
I can't imagine there will be many people reading this review who are not familiar with H.G. Wells' classic 'The War of the Worlds'. For this reason, I am not going to be as careful with spoilers as I would usually be in a book that might well appeal to adults as well as children, but as usual I will clearly separate any spoilers from the rest of this review and leave them until the end. If you have never read this story in any form though - all I can say is you must read this. This honestly is one of the best stories ever written.
I don't want to go into great detail on the plot. Again, I believe almost all readers will already know this and so I will focus more on what makes this edition unique. To summarise the plot very briefly, this story takes place in the late 1800's, not far from London. The story is told in the first person, and we never learn the name of the main character. It begins with an astronomer friend of the main character witnessing something shooting forth from Mars, followed by what appeared to be a meteorite streaking towards the earth. Of course it is not a meteorite, it is Martian vessel, and they most certainly do not come in peace. The rest of the story will focus on the protagonists experiences of the invasion, and his thoughts, that the age of Man is now over, humanity have become just another of the lesser beasts, hunted, hiding, keeping to the shadows.
This book is part of a series called 'Classics Illustrated', not to be confused with 'Illustrated Classics', which is a completely separate line. These books were first published from 1941 - 1971. The idea was to provide children comic book versions of the classics and thus expose them to the classics of literature. The series did manage to survive 30 years, but was never a huge hit. Comic book readers tended to want superheroes and such, while many in education would still look down on comics. But with the recent surge in interest for comics, now with a much more sophisticated name "graphic novels", the publisher decided to trot these books out again. They now seem to be deliberately courting the education market, offering classroom packs and teacher's resources books. Additionally, there are a few pages at the back for other educational activities and discussion.
I was hesitant to buy this, fearing the graphics would be quite dated. Still, this is a story I really thought my son would enjoy, and with his love of comics, I decided to give a go. The graphics do appear a bit comic book style, and this would be even better with new illustrations. I would not describe them as works of art by a long shot, but they are good. They could be better, but I've certainly seen far worse. The illustrator coveys emotion well, the scenes perfectly match the dialogue and the overall quality is decent. My son enjoyed the pictures as well, but the youngest did sum up the Martians pretty well, as he thought they were octopi. I'm afraid the Martians do not appear very frightening, but their machinery is a bit more intimidating. Also, I am not an expert, but I do not believe the British army uniform pictured in this book is appropriate to the time, which is meant to be late 1800's. But - they are nice pictures just the same.
Both of my sons (ages 3 and 7 ) did listen to this book the first time I read it, but the youngest was bored in some of the parts with more dialogue. That is fair enough, I wouldn't really expect this book to appeal very much to a 3 year old. My 7 year old does it enjoy it though, and has read it on his own.
As a home educator - I especially liked the section at the back which places this story in the context of it's time. It also gives background information on the author, and suggest topics for conversation such as the motives for attack, colonisation, and this compared with European colonisation of place like the Americas. It also raise some moral and ethical questions as to how we treat "lesser" or weaker creatures --- and in some cases less technologically advanced humans. For this reason, I would very strongly recommend this book to other home educators and to teachers, but I do recommend it for any child who enjoys comics as well.
I would note that this does contain a large number of long words which may be difficult for very young readers, and some words that young readers may be unfamiliar with. My son did learn a couple of new words from this - like "desolation". So I believe this book would only suit children over the age of 7 for independent reading, and they may still need help with a word or two. I also feel that the story content is best suited to older children ages 6-7 and up. I don't really think there is an upper age limit. As long as the reader still enjoys comics, I think this would be fine, but of course most adults know the complete story anyway.
Is it as good as the original? In all honesty, I have to say no. I think this is ideal for children who might grow bored with the longer dialogue in the original, and of course children love illustrations. But if you are over the age of 12, and have not read the original ever, I would advise reading that first. This is a good rendition, it's enjoyable and faithful to the original story line, but a comic really can not completely replace a classic work like this. I am still giving this 5 stars, I don't believe it was ever intended to replace the original, simply to bring the classics to children and others who would not normally read them. I thought of taking one star off for illustrations, but although they could be done better in a modern graphic novel, that would certainly cost more than the £2.81 I paid for a new book. You get what you pay for, and for the price this is certainly fair enough.
The nest section of this review deals with the end of this story. If you do not already know this - please do not read my review any further. Do not ruin what could be one of the best books you ever read, but find an online copy or buy a copy of the original asap.
One of the best parts of this book is the end - and it does cause children to think of germs and viruses in a whole new light. My son not only enjoyed this bit, but it got us looking through all of our microbe books again, and discussing how microbes would effect travellers - not only in space but here on earth. I also quite liked the reference to God in all his wisdom places these little creatures, we have often viewed as our enemies here, that it might be the smallest of life forms that saved the rest of the planet. I have heard more than one scientist say the original of this book is what started them off with an interest in science, and I believe this book may encourage children to take an interest in microbes.