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Back in 1987, at the age of ten, I heard a piece of music which started my love affair with a certain famous science fiction novel. This of course was Jeff Wayne's Musical version of The War of the Worlds, and since then I have read and watched most media connected too or retelling the classic Earth alien invasion story, and I still fall back on the original tome as no other version has the haunting descriptions and philosophical qualities it possesses. I first read the book in my early teens, and then many times afterwards. I recently downloaded an E-book version of it and enjoyed yet again. Here are my thoughts and views of H.G Wells' Victorian science fiction classic, The War of the Worlds.
--An Undisputed Classic...--
Written and published in 1898, The War of the Worlds is a story that most people have heard of, or at least come across a piece of work adapted or inspired from the book, but maybe not have read in it's entirety. The author, Herbert George Wells, commonly known by is pen-name H.G. Wells, who was born in Bromley, England in 1866. He had strong views and musings on all social aspects of life, and this comes across in his fictional works. The War of the Worlds is arguably his most famous, joined with other classics like The Time Machine and The Invisible Man. All have been adapted and re-envisioned many times since both in literature and film. Wells came from a lower middle-class background, and due to family issues, became a keen reader and was especially interested in classic works of the time. He lived in various locations around the south east of England, and wrote The War of the Worlds whilst living in Woking, Surrey, the starting location in the story itself.
Wells died in 1946, a few years after the story gained a notorious fame among the American public after actor, producer and broadcaster Orson Welles adapted the novel for a radio show in 1938. Due to the style and presentation of the way he told the story over the airwaves, many people really believed an invasion was happening, and Welles was made to make an apology due to the confusion caused. It is unknown weather the panic was really as bad as the media said at the time, but there was a level of outcry certainly, and the whole incident immortalised both Orson Welles and the novel.
Over the years, many science fiction works in print and in film have borrowed ideas and themes from The War of the Worlds. The 1996 film Independence Day clearly takes cues from it, as do many more films, both in small and larger ways. The series of books and connected TV series "The Tripods", borrows heavily from Wells' ideas. The story itself has been released in many edited formats, including a graphic novel and children's version, and has been made into five films, with another version on the way in the next few years. Notable films would be the 1953 version, set in America in 1953, which gained a cult following of its own. (A terrific re-imagined fighting machine and a follow up television series) and the high profile Steven Spielberg version of 2005 starring Tom Cruise. There have even been various video games released and of course Jeff Wayne's famous prog-rock musical version and subsequent live stage show. All contain many of the key plot set pieces and iconic dialogue, albeit in various interpretations. The book itself has never gone out of print since 1898, and still proves popular today.
"No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own..." - The opening line that has been re-written for every version of The War of the Worlds
--Price, Availability and Cover Art--
The War of the Worlds was originally published by Heinemann's of Covent Garden, but is now available from various publishers worldwide, and can be purchased from all online book stores and found commonly in high street book shops. Many editions have been edited or added to by a secondary author, so look for it to be the classic version by H.G. Wells alone. My Kindle edition cost £3.11, published by Bantam Classics of New York. E-book versions start from £2 up to £5, paperback from £3 to £10 and hardback anything up to £25.
The cover art in modern editions can vary greatly. The original first edition had no art, just simple large lettering, the downloaded version I have has this. Cover illustrations can be either dark, picturesque or sometimes have a cartoon-ish quality. Many show an image of the tripod fighting machine as described in the book, in different depictions. Wells himself was unhappy with one the first visions by an illustrator and even surreptitiously referenced this in the book amongst the narrative. Some prefer to display space-scape with an approaching craft, the Earth being held by an alien hand, or panicking crowds running from the destruction. There have been many artistic interpretations of The War of the Worlds, and are abundant of the internet.
--Plot Summary and Primary Characters--
I can honestly say the plot of The War of the Worlds is a very basic one, but don't let that detract you if you have never read it, because despite it's twist-free story, It's a tale that has had a lasting impact on the the science fiction genre. Quite simply, creatures from Mars arrive on Earth and begin to destroy the human race at genocidal levels, and all this is told to the reader through the eyes and thoughts of a single character who is only known as "The Narrator". The entire book to written in a first person viewpoint, and we follow "The Narrator" in his attempts to escape the Martians and the interaction he has with people he meets along the way.
The characters are quite sparse, as almost the entire story to spoken to you by "The Narrator". We get very little scope of him, with just basic details about his marital life, family and occupation. You are lead to think he is a philosophical writer and journalist, but this is never made clear and hardly any of his back-story is told. Critics have panned this as weak characterisation, but I don't agree, because you don't need this knowledge to experience what he witnesses. In the same vein as "The Narrator", almost none of the other principal characters are named or given any back-story, but are important to put across different human reactions to the extremity of the situation. "The Curate" is a man whom has lost faith and slowly becoming insane, "The Artilleryman" shows the firstly the hopeless fight, and then impossible dreams of survival. "The Narrator's Brother" experiences things that are not apparent to "The Narrator", as do other minor characters like "The Narrators Wife" and "The Women in the White Dress". Surprisingly, having no names to remember is not as hard to follow as it seems, and soon you become accustomed to the way this is done.
I believe when The War of the Worlds was first published, it was a mind-blowing concept for many people of the time to grasp. Brimming with ideas that were so new and far-out for it's time, coupled with the fact its written in such a personal way, I would think many readers of the early twentieth century would have struggled with it. Creatures coming from Mars and attacking Earth, with technology so brilliantly and vividly imagined, and the creepy descriptions if the Martians themselves. The pictures your mind creates are quite scary, even in this modern world of crazy science fiction stories. So while the plot maybe straightforward, the images and thoughts it triggers still hold up well for me. What makes it even better for me personally is that if you have lived or know off the West London area and its southern suburbs, you can match the locations in your mind and picture the destruction and panic as if it were real.
The first-person narrative maybe off-putting for some, and it does take a few pages to get used too, but after a while it becomes unnoticed. At many points, "The Narrator" shares his in-depth thoughts with the reader, and these can be lengthy and deep. Still keeping your attention, but hard to read without concentration, the occasional obscure word crops up and sometimes the sentence construction maybe confusing for the more casual reader. These small discourses of thought trigger emotions too, and you may find yourself angrily disagreeing with some of his words. All this still remains connected with the events that are happening though, and are relevant to the extraordinary and sometimes nightmarish experiences he has throughout the book. The sections of the book where "The Narrator" describes his brother's personal account is a nice aside to his journey, and this is where a real feelings of panic, fear, hope and loss are expertly put into words. The "Thunderchild" scene is especially excellent for this.
The story highlights many themes in human society too, something H.G. Wells had strong and sometimes hard-line opinions, and this is echoed with the words of "The Narrator". To be honest, I get the impression that "The Narrator" is an alternate version of Wells himself, and he uses this and the story to drive some of his opinions home. Commentary on human social behaviour such as kindness and hatred, naivety, mindless panic, and the loss of hope are frequently eluded too, and make it all the more fascinating and, even more real to a degree. Also, political systems and human management are another topic frequently talked about and compared too this total and unstoppable destruction of the human race that happens. Imperialism, religion and, in a more flippant way, the press are all heavy referenced and discussed within "The Narrator's" own mind, as he tries to make sense of all that is happening around him. In a way, you bond with him and his predicament, particularly the parts of him with "The Curate" and "The Artilleryman", and the contrasting dialogue and vastly different experiences he shares with them. You care for "The Curate", like he does, and also like him, you feel detached and ashamed from the wild thoughts and dreams of "The Artilleryman". This is down to clever writing and thought put into how different minds handle such incredible events.
Finally, away from the primary human dissection of the events, are the Martians themselves. Although the descriptions given are detailed, they still allow enough for your own imagination to paint a haunting picture of these creatures. Further explanations of their movement, behaviour, anatomy all help to make you picture them, again fuelled by your own imagination, and be horrified at their unexplained actions of wanton destruction and genocide. I believe this is why no other version or film of The War of the World can capture this horror as if it were real. If you become immersed in this book, it can change the way you think about human behaviour and the possibility of a superior race. I'm of course not going to disclose how it ends, its an ending pretty well known anyway, but it makes heavy connections with either Earth's evolution or the human belief in God, it's really how you interpret it.
Much the like the original book, the Kindle version is separated into two parts containing the original chapter titles from the first edition. No digital cover art is included, but contents page, and the Epilogue are all present. Clearly presented with very few errors. (I found one!) It's a faithful conversion with no serious problems to speak of.
It pretty obvious that I will recommend this book to you, if your a socialist or science fiction fan it's right up your street, (I'm just a Sci-Fi Fan!) but I think everybody should read this at some point, its one of those classic books that deserves even a glance from all types of readers. Its not a hefty tome like The Lord of the Rings, but it does have similarities. Difficult to read in parts, with many old-style references and even more older and more ambiguous words, but stick with it. The plot is easy to follow, and the characters easy to bond with. It's a very enjoyable, dark and a sometimes deep tale, but really hits the mark on realism for me. Certainly, it's more believable and engaging than a lot of other, and newer books of a similar ilk.
Thanks for Reading. © Novabug
H.G. Wells is often described as the father of modern sci-fi writing, and he truly is a master of the genre. War of the Worlds is one of his better known novels. The plot describes the arrival of strange alien crafts that start landing in London and the south. Piloted by weird space monsters, they march through the countryside destroying villages and killing anyone they meet whilst apparently impervious to all military efforts to stop them. The story is told from the point of view of one man who first saw them land, and subsequently observes their take over of the countryside. Of course, the aliens are defeated in the end, in a rather surprising way!
I am not a big sci-fi fan, but I absolutely love H.G. Wells' stories because they are so believable. Yes, he is writing about aliens, but they are not absurd monsters and they behave just like humans in many ways. Also, he takes his stories seriously and the plot and people's behaviour are both realistic.
It is also worth reading his stories to marvel at his imagination- many later inventions, such as spacecraft, are described, and are not too different from reality!
Highly recommended to Sci-fi fans and general readers alike.
At over 100 years old, H.G. Wells is still as entertaining now as ever. The story of alien invasion told from the viewpoint of an unamed survivor in Victorian England still has the power to grip any reader. Published in 1898, it is a sci fi novel yet it is a tale that has often been shown to have it's influences in Darwinism and the fears of Germany's expansion that was to come to reality less than two decades later.
The first half of the story deals with the arrival of the Martians. The sense of wonderment at the strange occurences in the night sky followed by the landings of cylindrical shapes, is tempered by the sense of foreboding. The narrator tells the story to us in the past tense as if relaying it in a review. In doing so it lets the reader know that inevitabley itwill end badly. And so it does, as the Martians emerge and unleash their fury on a defenceless country. The books second half focus on the Earth under the Martians.
While the language used is of its' time, it still is as gripping a read as ever. It is only around 300 pages long and rushes along at a good pace meaning that you won't put it down quickly. As mention earlier it drew it's inspiration from the political air at the time, as well as much of the social thinking, but this in no way dates the book.
The story takes place from the point of view of the narrator, so we are given only a localised view of events. There are no grand set pieces as the nations capitals are trounced by the war machines, just rumours passed by those we encounter on our journey. In doing this experiences the invasion from ground level, immersed in the events as they happen.
This book has been adapted at least three times in various forms, two films and perhaps most successfully by Jeff Wayne in his musical, yet none have captured the mixture of excitement and terror. Then there are the predictions in Wells story. Weapons useds as tools of the invaders have become the definition of modern warfare, while the science of the Martians demise is now accepted medicine. Perhaps though, the biggest success is that the book is still so accesible and enjoyable to any age. And I imagine in another 100 years we will still be saying the same thing.
The War of the Worlds is told from the perspective of an unamed character (the narrator) about the events that took place 6 years previous. He tells of how engaland was invaded be huge metal tripods form mars, how they took over and started exterminating the population and how they eventually died.
If your into sci-fi then you'll love this book. I had to read it for school and at first thought I would absolutly hate it however after the first couple of pages I was hooked, Wells has a sophisticated writing style that is very stimulating. In my opinion the book as a whole is very easy to read and understand.
Pros - The book is shorter than alot of novels being at around 250 pages, which means that you can get through it quite quicky and it's great for taking in holiday. It's very interestigng as the reader comes away with a desent insite into how people of the late 100s, early 1900s viewed martians, space, science and religion and how society differed from today. Also the Wells has cleverly made the reader connect with each character so they are taken on a terrifying journey with each charater.
Cons - Wells refers to events and proverbs that would have been common understanding in his time however today aren't that well known, therefore you might (like I did) have to look them up on the internet or get the peinguin classics edition which explaind it all in footnotes.
I really enjoyed reading this. I'd seen both the very old and the newer 2005 film versions, both of which are OK but pretty uninspiring (the first one being a lot more faithful and interesting though).
Being written before 1900 I thought it would be a really hard read with difficult language but thankfully it was a very accessible read and very enjoyable. It's only 200 pages long as well so you're not reading it for ever. The first half focusses on the build of the Martian invasion and how they conquer the Earth. It starts off with meteors coming from Mars and landing on Horsell Common, Surrey (this was near to H. G. Wells home). The arogant atitude of the narrator character is soon overturned when the Martian invaders aren't as easy to destory as first thought.
The picture painted is of a very advanced civilisation with great technological achievements and intelligence from which Earth has no hope of defence. In the first book the Martains take over Surrey and advacne into London.
The second book is absolute mayhem as English civilisation breaks down and even Martian vegetation starts to displace human vegetation. They are cunning, smart, efficient, ruthless, incompassionate - in fact inhuman. Just when ll hope has been lost they're defeated by the humblest creatures on the Earth.
The characterisation is good - the artilleryman provides some entertainment through his ridiculous schemes to overthrow the Martians - the portrait of Martian society is also very detailed and believable. The book is short but well developed and also doesn't needlessly ramble. I'd say the book is accessible from GCSE up easily, possibly a bit younger. It is worth readnig very much though if you're into classics or sci-fi.
For those who are only aware of Jeff Wayne or Steven Spielberg, this slim but eerie volume of late Victorian prose may come as a surprise. Just over 200 pages long (and originally serialised in "Pearons Magazine" in 1897), 1898's "The War of the Worlds" by HG Wells is effectively the great-granddaddy of every alien invasion story. And it reads like Thomas Hardy.
The unrelenting reality strikes the reader from the very beginning, with that portentuous and famous "no one would have believed ... " first chapter. "War of the Worlds" was a novel written for various reasons, but perhaps most importantly it was a parody. In the previous twenty years or so, "invasion novels", fantasies of England being invaded by other European powers, had become a popular if very-badly-written branch of literature. By taking his brother Frank's original idea (what if aliens invaded and behaved to the British the way the British had behaved to other countries in their Empire) and melding it to the structure of these xenophobic penny dreadfuls, HG Wells came up a very memorable and novel idea. Despite the tremendous suspension of disbelief required to envisage creatures from Mars invading in giant armoured tripods, Wells makes this a lot easier for the reader by setting his invasion in a "true" setting - certainly, far more realistic than many of the settings of the other, more-earth-bound invasion fantasies of the time. Wells places his invasion firmly in the Home Counties.
Armed with an Ordnance Survey map of Woking, and his newly learned skill of cycling, Wells began writing the Martian's advance through his home town (Wells lived in Woking for eighteen months in the mid-1890s) and along the Thames valley to London. Every house, every pub, every street, appears to be accurate, and many of the buildings earmarked for Heat Ray destruction in Woking (sometimes due to a perceived slight Wells had received from the owner) can still be seen on the streets mentioned in the novel. There is something endearingly adolescent about the way Wells settles scores in his imagination, on paper - he corresponded with several people saying he was taking particular delight in destroying South Kensington in the final London scenes (an area he had known well as a student).
Almost incidentally, the Martian invasion takes place against some amazingly evocative scenes of a late Victorian high summer spent amongst the dormitory towns and golf links of Surrey. This is the sleeping heart of empire - and one which is ripped apart by a foe that appears in the landscape as naturally as a skylark or a light breeze. With this, Wells set in motion one of the great archetypes of British science fiction: the Apocalypse always seems to go to the Home Counties first. John Wyndham, Terry Nation, John Christopher, Alex Garland, J G Ballard, even the Surrey-obsessed Douglas Adams, all in some way adhere to this rule.
It could be argued that without this couching of suburban pastoralism, the actual plot of "War of the Worlds" would be exposed as being over-slight. Certainly, compared to his 1902 work "The First Men on the Moon", this is not a story that could have been easily adapted into a Saturday matinee serial, or a Peter Cushing "Doctor Who" movie ("The First Men on the Moon" was first adapted for film in the same year as publication; "The War of the Worlds" waited five and a half decades). However, it is no more slight or paceless than Wells' previous novels "The Time Machine" and "The Invisible Man", both of which are effectively one idea stretched out over several chapters. With "The War of the Worlds", Wells' writing reached a new maturity which would tumble out further in his socio-realistic novels of the Edwardian era ("Kipps", "Love and Mr Lewisham" and "Tono-Bungay").
The plot itself is (of course) old and well-known: but if you don't know it yet, then I amn't going to be the one to divulge it. And even if you do, there is still enough unique moments in the book, as opposed to the three (four?) movies, the TV series, the various radio adaptations, steam-punk comic books, and the prog-rock musical, that even if you have devoured all subsequent incarnations and adaptation and have yet to read the original, there is still pages and pages of the novel which reveal fresh delights that all subsquent versions either ignore or fail to make as good.
This review has also appeared on ciao and on glasgowwho.co.uk soon.
It was 1986 when I first heard Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds - one hundred years exactly since Wells wrote the novel. I was ten years old, and Richard Burton's opening monologue stuck deeply into my brain. The unfolding plot combined with the eerie music to have a profound effect on me - I had nightmares, I couldn't listen to it if I was on my own and I absolutely had to read the novel.
Since then, it's one of only a handful of books I've read several times, and I still have the same battered copy twenty years later. To feel passionate and enthusiastic about H.G. Wells' novel is easy but I don't want my over-excitement to lead to a gushing, hyperbole-laden critique. I'll try to keep it real.
Herbert George Wells wrote The War of the Worlds in 1896. At the time, around Europe, there was an interest in and fear of invasion which led to the writing of stories playing out 'what if...' scenarios. Wells, an early craftsman of the science fiction genre, took this idea of invasion in a more Sci-Fi direction.
His main character in The War of the Worlds is a journalist with a particular interest in science. The story is told retrospectively with a first-person narrative, making it sound like an interview in many places. Frequent references to 'what we now know...' give an added dimension to the story.
The story itself is simple. Something amazing happens, which turns into something very bad. Whilst running for safety crises occur which must be overcome, until everything is reduced to a futile attempt at survival. This template could be applied to any number of stories, Ian Serraillier's 'The Silver Sword' for example.
There are a number of reasons why Wells' novel can be regarded as a classic. First of all, we are given the story first hand by a character caught up in the events as they unfold. We share his fear, lack of understanding and incredulity. We sigh with relief as he overcomes one obstacle, only to catch our breath on the next page, when he encounters something worse. The concerns that affect him are the most basic human needs, survival, safety and fear for the people you love. Everyone can relate to these needs and this resonance draws us into the narrative.
The setting is also wonderfully parochial. Wells doesn't need the annihilation of the White House, or the genocide of 90 per cent of the species. He is able to communicate the same terror without ever leaving the south east of England, and I can relate more to his character than a USAF fighter pilot or member of COBRA. I do smile as I read about people being sent to Leatherhead for safety.
The unfolding events are described with superb credibility, even now seeming like they could possibly happen. We may only understand a tiny fraction of what is going in, but then so does the narrator - that's part of what makes it frightening.
To add to the fear is the seeming irrationality of the invasion. In the TV series, V, the aliens come for our water; in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, they want to use us as hosts; the Martians just come because they can, they have no emotion so we can't even say they did it because they don't like us. With an antagonist so relentless and aimless there is no possible hope for survival.
But survive we do. I'm not giving anything away by saying the main character survives. The whole structuring of the narrative is based on this occurrence. What you don't know is what he has to overcome and how he does so and how much he is changed by the experience. For that, you have to read the book, and don't even think about watching any of the film adaptations. They do not do justice to Wells' book. They are about special effects and Hollywood egos and the simple, terrifying pleasure of that 1896 story is lost.
Twenty years later, there are still parts of the book I have to read through before I put it down to go to sleep. If I didn't, I would be too scared to sleep, looking into the night sky, imagining I was 'being scrutinized, as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water...'
War of the Worlds is a science fiction novel written ithe late 19th century. Generally regarded as a classic, it is noticable as being a very early and pioneering work of SF and one of the first ever depictions of an alien invasion of Earth.
I didn't like War of the Worlds. Classic novels have a rather odd position in which they are impervious to criticism. They stand aloft, their status assured. All this makes it difficult to write a critique of one. But that's no reason why I shouldn't try.
Justification of dislike
I understand War of the worlds. Its significance, its originality, how revolutionary it was for its time. I get all that, but none of it can stop it being a very, very dull book. My, my how controversial. Please allow me to elucidate precisely as to which aspects I found to be so intensely soporific.
All of it. I have read many older and more exciting books than this, so age doesn't come into it but I find H.G Wells to write in an interminably flat and monotonous way. His prose is literally fatiguing to the eyes.
The complete lack of any metaphorical colour extends to the plot as well. Not exactly helped by being set mostly in rural England, Wells somehow contrives to make an epic alien invasion of the Earth (well, England) drag.
There are no interesting characters. The protagonist is a complete blank canvas offrering cold and prolix insight in a thoroughly Victorian way. Reading this book I just imagined a moustache floating around observing the events described. There are other characters but none are fleshed out or given any aspects of personality. Characters without character.
An example of Wells' laboured style can be seen by the way in which the protaganists brother's story arc is handled. You would think that we would switch to a first person perspective. Someone elses view of the events (someone more interesting). But no, his story is told in its entirety through the awkward contrivance of 'my brother later told me this happend.' And then this happened, so he told me. And so on. All third person perspective, cold, distant and impassive like the rest of this book.
"No one would have believed in the early years of the 21st century that our world was being watched by intelligences greater than our own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns, they observed and studied, the way a man with a microscope might scrutinize the creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency, men went to and fro about the globe, confident of our empire over this world. Yet across the gulf of space, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded our planet with envious eyes and slowly, and surely, drew their plans against us..."
The War Of The worlds is one of the most famous and influential science fiction novels ever written. It first appeared in 1898 and remains the main inspiration for the numerous alien invasion themed films and television shows that have followed through the years.
The novel is told from the first person by a narrator. The narrator is a perfectly normal and respectable Victorian gentleman living in sleepy Surrey. The book is related as his account of the extraordinary events of several years ago.
The first chapter conveys much scientific information about Mars (Wells had a background in science). The narrator meets with an astronomer friend of his and is intrigued by the stories of strange lights and gases coming from the red planet. "The chances of anything man-like on Mars are a million to one," the astronomer reassures him. Then comes the first 'falling star'. Huge cylinders begin to crash land on commons and in woods around London. The narrator is excited by all the events and talk of men from Mars but considers it something of a shame that these poor creatures are liable to be either dead already or a sitting duck for the military authorities to destroy should they choose that option. The sleepy, summer atmosphere set up by Wells is shattered when the Martians emerge from their cylinders and pits in huge mechanical tripods armed with a terrifying 'heat ray' weapon. Soon the narrator is caught up in the panic and joins the refugees as the Martians lay waste to everything around them...
Clocking in at 172 pages, The War Of The Worlds sets up its story and then takes the reader on a hugely entertaining and often creepy journey. The narrator meets a young soldier who gives an account of how the Martians destroyed the army formations guarding the common. "Bows and arrows agaisnt lightning," says the soldier. Our narrator takes flight and Wells fleshes some vivid descriptions of refugees streaming out of London and the Martian tripods scuttling around the horizon as army batteries of field-guns hopelessly attempt to halt their progress to no avail. The tripods are described at one point as 'vast spider-like machines, nearly a hundred feet high, capable of the speed of an express-train, and able to shoot out a beam of intense heat.' The contrast and unequal battle between humanity and the technological and destructive Martians is chilling and very absorbing.
Soon we are in a world underfoot. The imagery of a dead London reminds one of apocalyptic films and end of the world stories but Wells did it before most of them and the unique setting and period detail make The War Of The Worlds extra special. There are numerous amazing set-pieces and situations in the novel. In one tense chapter the narrator holes up in a ruined building with a Curate and sees for himself exactly how the Martians feed!
Wells includes lots of anatomical detail of the hideous Martians and they are a genuinely terrifying enemy. More than anything they seem strangely indifferent as if they are undertaking a routine task before the real work begins. The routine task is the colonisation of Earth! A strange red weed begins to sprout in and around London and the Martians use a powerful black gas on every area that they've secured...
It's unsuprising that the book has influenced several films. Wells has a very cinematic element to his writing especially when describing crowds of refugees or action. There is a passage where a battleship steams towards two tripods in the sea to protect a ship carrying refugees abroad. Tension is also created when the narrator describes the still of the night as batteries of soldiers wait to suprise tripods with field-guns hidden in woods and hedges. A description of a rare hit on a tripod from a shell is described in the following way; 'A violent explosion shook the air, and a spout of water, mud and shattered metal shot far up into the sky. As the camera of the heat-ray hit the water, the latter had immediately flashed into steam. In another moment a huge wave, like a muddy tidal bore but almost scaldingly hot, came sweeping round the bend up-stream...'
There is a lot of subtext to the novel. Wells uses the Curate to criticise religion and the narrator bickers and fights with him constantly; "What good is a religion if it collapses under calamity? Think of what earthquakes and floods, wars and volcanoes have done to men! Did you think God had exempted Weybridge? He is not an insurance agent."
The parallel between Western colonisation of indigenous peoples and the Martian assault is part of the inspiration for the book. Given our treatment of other humans around the world and species of animals, the narrator suggests we are simply recieving a dose of our own medicine. "Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?" he asks.
The destruction of towns like Shepperton and Weybridge was apparently a bit of fun on the part of the author. He used to cycle around these areas and decide which place the Martians would burn to the ground!
Ostensibly though The War Of The Worlds is a science-fiction/horror/adventure story that supplies much food for thought and some amazing imagery that still resonates today. It has descriptive prose and a very gripping and exciting story.
If you've only ever seen the US film versions you should get around to reading the very British and very brilliant original novel by HG Wells.
The Everyman edition also has a very interesting introduction by Arthur C Clarke.
After watching the awful Tom Cruise film last year, I promised myself I would read this. Or re-read it? I wasnt really sure if Id ever read it at all. So much of the story is familiar, and notorious, of course, from the panic caused by Orson Welles radio version in 1938. So a book, radio play and blockbuster film it certainly seems to appeal to successive generations.
The first thing that struck me was how short it was: 180 pages in a small Penguin paperback edition. Little more than a short story, really. Technically, I guess that given its restricted focus of plot, characters and timescale it is a novella, although this format is not common in English literature. So what makes it special?
The scenario is a Martian attack on Earth. The War of the title is a little too exaggerated. This was no long wrangle between equals, the action as such is over in a few days. The outcome, in case you have neither seen the film nor read the book, I will not divulge, but it does pinpoint where the power on earth lies. The book, nevertheless, tells you straightaway that Earth did win this particular encounter, as the story is told in the first person from a standpoint six years afterwards.
The narrator, whose name we never learn, is privileged, by chance, to be one of the closest observers of the aliens. Wells was fascinated not only by the possibility of extra-terrestrial life but also by how humanity would evolve, and he transposes his ideas of future human development on to the image he creates of the Martians. Basically they are all brain, with many dexterous hands performing the actions dictated by the brain. They dont need sleep so they can work 24/7. They communicate by telepathy, so speech and language are unnecessary, and take nourishment directly into their system by injecting blood so dispensing with the need for a digestive system which Wells thought saps our strength and colours our minds. Oh and procreation is by budding off like a flower or a polyp. So no sex and its tumultuous emotions, sorry.
As an advanced life-form they have some fancy weapons. A heat ray which zaps everything to cinders (Wells was the first to coin the term heat ray) and a noxious dust-cloud canister; both of these are fired by giant metal war machines which stalk across the countryside. This is the stuff of sci-fi over the last 100 years, taking in the Daleks and those big machines in Star Wars. But Wells thought of it all first.
Still, if it was just a product of a fevered imagination, even though a first, it would appeal only to sci-fi addicts. There is a great deal more to it: several themes are woven into this short book, of which the depiction of the Martians is only an element. Wells is also a first-class writer whose work deservedly can be described as literature.
One effective device is to put the Martians firmly in familiar territory. As this is written in 1898 the centre of the world is London and the Home Counties. Woking to be precise. The charting of the Martians progress across Surrey, street by street, common by common, pub by pub, gives the narrative an immediacy which is still alive today. Granted most of the commons will now be housing, but you can still follow on a map pretty much where they went, so precise are the locations, and the fact that it is set over 100 years ago does not diminish the horror of imagining an alien invasion on ones doorstep. The same is true when the action moves into London and out to Essex. If it were set in an imaginary or future world the impact would be much less.
As I said above, the action lasts a very short time. The sophistication of the Martians technology means were a doomed to borrow a phrase from a later conflict. As the war machines approach London, a mass panic exodus begins, and Wells description of this is breathtaking. Its almost as if he were seeing it with a film directors eye, but its much more difficult in writing to switch from crowd scenes to individual close-ups and still maintain pace and urgency. Yet the fear and panic coming off the page are palpable. And I think this is the key to the universality of the book. The Martians are a representative threat: they happen to be aliens but could equally be any superior invading force a blitzkrieg, or the Russians are coming or a natural or man-made disaster hurricane, volcano, poisonous gas cloud. The point is not the science fiction, but a more universal consideration of how human beings deal with such threats.
The state-endorsed approaches of counter-attack or appeasement are both tried. The curate and the artilleryman (again no names) are almost the only other characters described in any detail and these represent selfish despair on one hand, and idealistic but impractical plans for survival on the other. (I guess as a scientist he picked a curate to show his opinion of religion). The exodus from London, which is witnessed by the narrators brother, is made up of the brave, the weak, the selfish, the practical, the improvisers and those whose only concern is money. As the social order collapses looting and drunkenness take over. Its not a pretty picture of humanity and the authors quasi-admiration for the hyper-intelligent, highly evolved Martians is in sharp contrast to the petty bourgeois, narrow vision of his neighbours in Woking. Yet there is a hint at the end of his acknowledgement of human love, as a strength not a weakness, which is missing in the Martian machine-creatures.
From a 21st century perspective, his style is discursive, highly descriptive and florid. Its not a page-turner. In fact, there is almost a tension between the events he is describing and the pace at which he relates them, although when asked, as in the excellent exodus scenes, and an episode where the narrator is almost discovered by one of the Martians, he can do crisp writing, no problem. But its nice to read prose which is fluid, literary and considered, and, after all, its not as if you dont know the ending! He has an eye for the apt expression which can take you aback by its suddenness and complete appropriateness. I particularly liked this:
So some respectable dodo in the Mauritius might have lorded it in his nest, and discussed the arrival of that shipful of pitiless sailors in want of animal food. We will peck them to death tomorrow, my dear.
The shortness of the book doesnt really allow for character development, and the nameless protagonists are representative or observers. But it works well in this short format with a limited time-frame and tightly focused action.
This particular edition was issued after the film came out. Now a major motion picture it says on the cover. Hah! It has 12 pages of endnotes which are a mixture of explanations of English icons and expressions aimed at foreign readers (the destruction of Pompeii, evening star, the Times newspaper, the Albert Hall, the East End), references by the narrator to pamphlets written by Wells himself and current scientific thinking.
So a good read, highly recommended. I just hope that the astrophysicists merrily sending out hello, were over here messages to the universe have read this!
War of the worlds........ H.G Wells created this fantastic work of genius that was responsible for the only recorded full scale alien invasion panic ever recorded, such was it's unparalleled story line and it's conversion to radio play format. Many of you will have heard or be more familiar with the modern day audio transcript of this epic classic, let me assure you that despite being minus the teriffic sound tracks, this is equally inspiring to the imagination and has you so absorbed that you find yourself quaking in fear at the same timely moments. Those of you unfamiliar with one of Well's greatest works, let me tell you a little about the book and the storyline that is common to every format of the tale. Starting when the radio surveillance observatory picks up disconcerting blips suggesting something approaching the earth.........is this the eve of mankinds distruction? - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - "No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their affairs they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water." (from War of the Worlds) - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - We are taken through the horrendous arrival of the Martians, through their death rays and distruction . We follow alongside a young journalist and temper with him his search for his loved one. Encountering the deranged ranting of clergy, panic stricken public, defeated armies through to the hopeful characters, envisaging a brave new world. Having followed the cast through the traumatic times, floundering, hoping and feeling scared with them, the ending takes
an unusual twist that opens your mind to fate and irony. Don't go away from reading this review thinking I've spoilt the plot for you, I haven't. This story is written in such a way and with such detail and suggestive detail that you won't notice that you knew a few of the basics before you started. Not only is the whole story cleverly interweaved with ethical dilemmas and subliminal questions that will have your subconscious doing overtime on for months after, but it is tantalizingly fraught with suggestive what ifs. After all, no one knows what is out there do they? who's to say that they are friendly? And what about when they arrive? As a fore runner to modern day sci-fi greats, it leaves the likes of Star-trek and Dr Who for dust, couple that with its before time birth and it is a ready created epic. I might suggest that its only true rival could be Day of the Triffids, possibly another classic with a familiar theme, but in all honestly I struggle to compare the two. One a well written sci-fi that cleverly makes the ridiculous feel feasible in an adaptive manner pertaining to an alien invasion, the other (War of the worlds) presenting a story line that takes an event however fictional and cleverly plays on our fears and natural wariness of the unknown, then proceeds to endear us to characters with real personality, feeling their hopes, fears and confusion.Still addressing issues that would actually become real in such a situation. The radio play, broadcast On October 30th, 1938, left New Jersey in particular and other areas of the US in a state of mass hysteria, such was it's dynamic nature and detailed news style presentation by Orson Wells Mercury Theatre broadcast. The inspiration to write such a work was derived from many areas, the initiating factor arguably being the fact that In 1894 Mars was positioned particularly closely to Earth, associate this with the pro natzi-
ism t hat w as ha unting the prospect of war and previous writers attempts to fictionalize into stories the political situations. The culmination of these factors resulted in H.G Wells book "The war of the worlds" being published in 1898, the for runner for the evolution that would transform the work into the many shapes that we now know it by. To put it into literary context alongside Well's life and career, it was only one of over 100 books he wrote, 50 of them being novels, the time machine (1895) and the Invisible man (1897) being other famed tittles he was responsible for during his life from 1866 to 1946. Starting his life in Kent, he went on from being an apprentice to a draper, moving on to Windsor and Southsea between 1880-1883 until he became a teacher/pupil at Midhurst Grammar School, then struggling to retain enough interest to doing a degree in 1890 he meandered through further schools teaching and learning. Finally after marrying his cousin Isabel and moving to London he became a full time writer in 1893, something that would turn to be to the benefit of us all. Conclusion - This is a book that no matter what your literary taste, should be read at least once in your life time. A story that I cannot portray enough, as an impressive, engrossing and frighteningly questioning piece of science fiction that is laced with real possibilities and human reactions. **Available from most major book stores for between £7.99 and £18.99 usually in paper back (do cruise ebay first though as bargains can be found)** **Age range suitability - good readers aged 14 and above**
Herbert George Wells is the master! When it comes to any kind of book, film or product you just can't beat the classics and Wells' 'The War of the worlds' is an A grade example. Eat your heart out Star Trek, Babylon 5 and the X Files, when the time comes for real science fictional enjoyment I suggest you reach for a copy of what has to be one of Wells' most interesting and most famous works. Wells' uniqe form of integrity and masterful writing skills become evident by the fact that he is the first novelist to be open minded enough to consider the possibility of life other than on Earth. Indeed Wells would have been scrutinized upon greatly by his peers for such a suggestion in a maror that is comparable to Columbus or Darwin. Set in the suburbanized, claustrophobe of victorian Surrey, Wells follows the first person experiences of himself caught in a series of events which are truly out of this world. Wells is portrayed as a young journalist who's world is shattered by what lands on Horsell Common in Woking, Surrey during the autumn of 1898. "A cylinder, perhaps thirty yards across, with faint sounds of movement coming from within." In my view the opinions given in this book are definately light years ahead of the standard writing ideas of 1898. I cannot possibly imagine how Wells would react if he realised the extremeties of 'The War of the Worlds' over the last one hundred years. It has been the insignia for countless other projects which include Orson Welles 1938 radio broadcast, responsible for the evacuation of half of America's east coast. Jeff Waynes 1979 musical smash which included participation by such names as 'Thin Lizzie's' Phil Lynot, Richard Burton and David Essex. A 1953 film was produced as well as an american TV series. I firmly believe that 'War of the Worlds' deserves the top spot
alongside such classics as 'War and Peace', 'Moby Dick' and the Bible. It is well worth a read, make sure you do or you may regret it. Enjoy The Thundrechild
This is generally one of the best Sci-fi books, forget the Star Trek books, this is Wells at his best, I bought this book after hearing the musical version and i can safely say that i have never regretted buying this book, I cannot stop reading it, I will read it, read another book and then start WOTW again. This book is an eyewitness account of the war between the Martians and England, that’s right no Americans to win the day like a certain film independence day. The narrator goes through his feelings and sightings with some depth; he also gets accounts from other people who he sees along the way. The storyline is that on midnight on August 12th 1894, for ten nights Mars fires a missile at earth, when the missile lands in sleepy Woking panic strikes. The story then goes on about how man tries to repel the Martian advance without victory. The Martians construct giant tripods to wreak their terror, armed with heat rays they advance upon London. Man is powerless as the steam engine is the new thing and flight is the stuff of science fiction. This makes a refreshing change from films of nowadays where nukes are the thing to stop anything.
The War of the Worlds is obviously listed as a classic, but what does that mean? Have you ever read Robinson Crusoe? That’s a classic but could be said to be pretty poorly written. This problem is compounded with science fiction. So often science catches up with the fiction and a novel can look a little bit silly. The good news is that War of the Worlds is a true classic, in spite of it being over 100 years old. The story is well known and has been successfully converted to a radio by Orson Wells, to a musical by Jeff Wayne and to a pile of poo film by someone who should know better. But what really does it for me is Welles’ vision. It is in fact easier to see this now than it would have been when it was written. For example, “the Death Ray” is so obviously a laser and has even found its way into sci-fi as a blaster or phaser. At the time it would have been unheard of. Even the Martians undoing has been bastardised by such poo films as Independence Day, although it obviously has its roots in the invasion of America by the Spanish. The story is riveting and is long before this annoying fashion of having books that are five times the length of the story. If you are a scifi fan, a fan of classic literature or just someone who likes a good read and you haven’t read this yet, you should be ashamed of yourself.