The War of the Worlds

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The War of the WorldsThe War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
Published: 1898
Length: 302 pages (huge print, Goodreads lists it as 192 pages)

This one felt good to move off the to-read list. It’s such a major work in science fiction, and it always felt a bit wrong that I hadn’t read it. This is the second H.G. Wells novel I’ve read, the first being The Time Machine, and I’m excited to read more.

Shortly after the main protagonist observes a few explosions on the surface of Mars, extra-terrestrial machines crash into the countryside of England. At first they didn’t seem a threat and raised more confusion than fear. Humans had obviously never seen such a thing, and it took some time for the aliens to stir, so they actually didn’t even know if anything was still living inside. Once the visitors did stir, however, the weeks that followed were hopeless chaos.

“Death!” I shouted. “Death is coming! Death!”

This is the ultimate alien invasion story. Old-school Martians! There’s something jarring, but fantastic, in hearing Martians mentioned in casual conversation at the beginning of the book. It’s such a gloriously dated concept, obviously not something you see anymore, and I really love that.

I also love that this was set in the current day for when it was written, in the late nineteenth century, because dealing with a disaster of this magnitude in that period was a world of difference from how it would be now. When the invasion hit, he couldn’t hop in a car with his wife or call his out-of-town relatives. He had to borrow a horse-drawn carriage to bring his wife to another town at an excruciating slow pace. When he arrived, the neighbouring townsfolk had no idea an invasion was happening just hours away. There was no #martianattack hashtag to follow on Twitter back then.

Sure, the cellular networks may become overloaded and the roads backed up, but at least the world would have some idea of what was happening and potentially be able to offer help. In modern stories, there’s always the hope that over the next hill will be relief workers, the armed forces, or at least someone with a working phone. This setting gave the story an eerie hopelessness that I think modern adaptations and comparable stories often lack.

“This isn’t a war,” said the artilleryman. “It never was a war, any more than there’s war between man and ants.”

I really enjoyed this. I feel like we don’t really see alien stories anymore these days, but maybe I’m not looking in the right places. I also loved how different this was to The Time Machine. I’m not sure which I’ll tackle next, maybe The Invisible Man, but I’m excited to see where else his stories take me.

7 thoughts on “The War of the Worlds

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  4. Geoff W

    Could you imagine reading this when it was first released?! I’ve always wanted to listen to the radio adaptation but have never had the impetus to seek it out. I remember hearing the stories when I first read this about how people actually freaked out over it!

    1. Rob Post author

      I’ve wanted to listen to that for years now, but always thought I should wait to read the book first. Maybe I’ll seek it out next week and give it a listen.

    2. JE Fountain

      Geoff makes a great point. I’d love to somehow escape present day, and go back in time (if only I had a time machine), and read it during its day. It’s really incomprehensible…but fun to try and imagine.

      1. Rob Post author

        It’s very hard to imagine. Even without reading it until now, I’ve had so much experience with the stories it influenced in my lifetime. It must have been mind-blowing at the time.


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