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The War of the Worlds

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When an army of invading Martians lands in England, panic and terror seize the population. As the aliens traverse the country in huge three-legged machines, incinerating all in their path with a heat ray and spreading noxious toxic gases, the people of the Earth must come to terms with the prospect of the end of human civilization and the beginning of Martian rule.

Inspiring films, radio dramas, comic-book adaptations, television series and sequels,The War of the Worlds is a prototypical work of science fiction which has influenced every alien story that has come since, and is unsurpassed in its ability to thrill, well over a century since it was first published.

192 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1897

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About the author

H.G. Wells

3,182 books9,647 followers
Herbert George Wells was born to a working class family in Kent, England. Young Wells received a spotty education, interrupted by several illnesses and family difficulties, and became a draper's apprentice as a teenager. The headmaster of Midhurst Grammar School, where he had spent a year, arranged for him to return as an "usher," or student teacher. Wells earned a government scholarship in 1884, to study biology under Thomas Henry Huxley at the Normal School of Science. Wells earned his bachelor of science and doctor of science degrees at the University of London. After marrying his cousin, Isabel, Wells began to supplement his teaching salary with short stories and freelance articles, then books, including The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898).

Wells created a mild scandal when he divorced his cousin to marry one of his best students, Amy Catherine Robbins. Although his second marriage was lasting and produced two sons, Wells was an unabashed advocate of free (as opposed to "indiscriminate") love. He continued to openly have extra-marital liaisons, most famously with Margaret Sanger, and a ten-year relationship with the author Rebecca West, who had one of his two out-of-wedlock children. A one-time member of the Fabian Society, Wells sought active change. His 100 books included many novels, as well as nonfiction, such as A Modern Utopia (1905), The Outline of History (1920), A Short History of the World (1922), The Shape of Things to Come (1933), and The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (1932). One of his booklets was Crux Ansata, An Indictment of the Roman Catholic Church. Although Wells toyed briefly with the idea of a "divine will" in his book, God the Invisible King (1917), it was a temporary aberration. Wells used his international fame to promote his favorite causes, including the prevention of war, and was received by government officials around the world. He is best-remembered as an early writer of science fiction and futurism.

He was also an outspoken socialist. Wells and Jules Verne are each sometimes referred to as "The Fathers of Science Fiction". D. 1946.

More: http://philosopedia.org/index.php/H._...





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Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book934 followers
March 9, 2021
Paraphrasing Whitehead, I would say that the safest general characterisation of the science-fiction tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to H. G. Wells. Indeed, The War of the Worlds is probably the most influential novel of the whole science fiction genre, as well as a significant part of the horror category. I remember reading this short novel as a child and being viscerally engrossed and terrified. Rereading it now made me aware of a few more things. First, I realised how this book sums up and, in a way, accomplishes some of the things H. G. Wells had experimented with before. To name a few: the Darwinian conflict between two similar species (The Time Machine), the fascination for freakish life forms (The Island of Dr Moreau), the chase around working-class London and its surrounding area (The Invisible Man).

It is possible that H. G. Wells’s remarkable book was perceived, at the close of the 19th century, as just a fin de siècle catastrophic story — similar to, say, Mad Max or Terminator at the end of the 20th. In hindsight, The War of the Worlds is much more than that. It is indeed the kernel and the seed of all the later tales of extraterrestrial invasion and tropes of apocalyptic destruction, from H. P. Lovecraft’s The Colour Out of Space to Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood's End, Robert Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, Arkady Strugatsky’s Roadside Picnic, Michael Faber’s Under the Skin, Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life, or Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation… Not to mention films and TV: Alien, Independence Day, and so many more that I forget as I write this short note.

What strikes me the most is that Wells depicts humanity in the shoes of the invaded party and pictures the invaders as an alien race of bloodthirsty molluscs — which, in itself, sounds like a veiled but stark criticism of Western imperialism and sense of superiority. But, as it turns out, Wells’s prophetic vision was not so much that of a War of the Worlds with extraterrestrial invaders, but precisely a vision of the World War between fellow humans, that would break out some twenty years later, with a technological arsenal not unlike that of the Martians (cf. mechanised artillery, chemical warfare, surgical strikes). Later still, when the Second World War began, and the Nazis were about to invade the whole of Europe, Orson Welles remembered this old tale about a Martian invasion. He turned it into an incredibly relevant radio sensation. The masses of refugees, described by H. G. Wells, fleeing the war in a disorderly and life-threatening manner is a sight anyone may witness even today, despite all the concrete walls or steel fences that are supposed to stop them.

In short, this is an unavoidable masterpiece. The only reproach I could make is regarding the ending. The deadly flu epidemic the Martians eventually suffer from feels a bit like a disappointing Deus ex Machina. As a side note: historically, things unfolded the other way around when Spanish Conquistadors landed on the shores of the New World. They didn’t win against the Aztec and Inca Empires so much because of the superiority of their weapons, religion or culture, but because they were bringing the smallpox virus along with them — the first major and unwitting case of biological warfare.

Edit: Wells’s novel has been brought to the screen a significant number of times, one of the most recent ones being Steven Spielberg’s adaptation (2005) with Tom Cruise. The film takes a few liberties with the book, setting the story in present-day Connecticut. However, one very clever unfaithfulness is that the aliens do not come from Mars but from underground (a nod to The Time Machine, no doubt). Spielberg isn’t new to the alien-first-contact genre. But this is an outright nightmarish and nail-biting take on what had once been a benevolent musical spaceship or a heart-warming horticultural E.T. longing for home — in this film, aliens also play the trombone and are versed in landscaping. Still, they spray their gardens with human blood. Spielberg’s War of the Worlds comes after the intense and graphic scenes of the Omaha Beach assault in Saving Private Ryan and is roughly in the same vein. Some scenes, like the innumerable bodies, suddenly floating down a glistening river, or the empty cloths raining from a blazing sky, are strangely beautiful and horrifying. In the midst of the gruesome devastation, Tom Cruise, Tim Robbins and Dakota Fanning are exceptional, playing the parts of regular people, suddenly overwhelmed with PTSD and facing the brutal ending of all things.
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
431 reviews4,217 followers
September 8, 2023
Written in 1897, The War of the Worlds is one of the earliest stories about mankind and aliens. Many consider this book to be the inception of the science fiction genre.

This story is relatively straightforward: An unknown man is going about his life in jolly old England when aliens invade, causing chaos and destruction. How will this story end? Will humans overcome the aliens or will they all be captured, killed, or enslaved?

The War of the Worlds starts off smashingly. HG Wells doesn’t need a 100-page warm up. The action starts flowing from the start. Also, there are some very humorous bits. It is quite easy to see how with the humor amplified, this could turn into The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The War of the Worlds seems so realistic in many ways. In fact, on October 30, 1938, there was a radio broadcast that adapted The War of the Worlds, changing the invasion point from England to New Jersey. People who listened on the radio actually thought that it was real!

Although the story started strongly, I became bored around the halfway point. Some of the sentences and paragraphs were way too long. We can only store so many words in our short-term memory. If you write an extremely long sentence, people will forget the beginning by the time they reach the end. Modern guidance suggests 15-20 words per sentence. It appears based on my Google Search, that around the time of Wells the average sentence averaged 20-30 words. However, Wells has sentences which are greater than 100 words!

This style of writing is difficult to read, and I appreciate how literature has evolved (Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, Blake Crouch).

Additionally, Wells gets a little too far off the path with the copious descriptions of the aliens: the organs and the clothing. As Philip Pullman warns, the author must not leave the path. “The reason for this is simple: if you leave the path, the readers put down the book.” With this, I wholeheartedly agree (especially combined with the massive paragraphs).

Overall, I admire HG Wells for his inspiration into future works of science fiction. Of course, the Flesch Reading Ease score had not yet been developed at the time that Wells authored The War of The Worlds.

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Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews41 followers
October 4, 2021
The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke

Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. — H. G. Wells (1898), The War of the Worlds.

The War of the Worlds is a science fiction novel by English author H. G. Wells, first serialized in 1897. The War of the Worlds was one of the first and greatest works of science fiction ever to be written. Even long before man had learned to fly, H.G. Wells wrote this story of the Martian attack on England.

The plot has been related to invasion literature of the time. The novel has been variously interpreted as a commentary on evolutionary theory, British imperialism, and generally Victorian superstitions, fears, and prejudices.

Wells said that the plot arose from a discussion with his brother Frank, about the catastrophic impact of the British, on indigenous Tasmanians. What would happen, he wondered, if Martians did to Britain what the British had done to the Tasmanians? The Tasmanians however lacked the lethal pathogens to defeat their invaders. ...

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «ج‍ن‍گ‌ ج‍ه‍ان‌ه‍ا»؛ «جنگ دنیاها»؛ نویسنده: جرج هربرت (اچ‌.ج‍ی) ول‍ز‏‫؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1999میلادی

عنوان: ج‍ن‍گ‌ ج‍ه‍ان‌ه‍ا؛ نویسنده: اچ‌. ج‍ی ول‍ز‏‫؛ مت‍رج‍م: ع‍ل‍ی‌ ف‍اطم‍ی‍ان‌؛ ت‍ه‍ران‌ وزارت فرهنگ و ارشاد اسلامی، سازمان چاپ وانتشارات، نشر چشم انداز، سال1377؛ در 254ص؛ مصور، شابک 9644220749؛ خلاصه شده از نسخه اصلی؛ چاپ دیگر 1379؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده ی 19م

عنوان: جنگ دنیاها؛ نویسنده: اچ.‌جی ولز؛ مترجم گروه ترجمه انتشارات آریانگار؛ تهران آریانگار، ‏‫1389؛ ‬در 64ص، رنگی؛ شابک9786009214389؛

عنوان: جنگ دنیاها؛ نویسنده: جرج هربرت ولز؛ مترجم: سیدرضا مرتضوی؛ تهران آفرینگان‏‫، 1394؛ در 64ص؛ شابک9786006753935؛

عنوان: جنگ دنیاها؛ نویسنده: اچ.جی. ولز؛ مترجم میرپویا حسینی‌اصل‌اسکویی؛ تهران انتشارات قافیه‏‫، ‏‫1397؛ در 64ص؛ شابک9786226605496؛

جنگ دنیاها عنوان رمانی علمی-تخیلی است، که «اچ.جی ولز» نویسنده ی «انگلیس»، در سال1898میلادی نگاشته و منتشر کرده اند؛ این رمان شرح تجربیات یک راوی گمنام است، که در حومه ی شهر «لندن»، شاهد هجوم موجودات بیگانه‌ ای از «مریخ» می‌شود؛ «جنگ دنیاها»، یکی از نخستین رمان‌هایی است، که ستیز بین نژاد بشر، و موجودات ماورایی را، با واژه هایش به تصویر می‌کشد؛ با الهام از این رمان، کتابهای مصور، مجموعه‌ های تلویزیونی، و فیلم‌های سینمایی بسیاری ساخته شده اند؛ «استیون اسپیلبرگ» نیز، در سال2005میلادی، با اقتباس از این کتاب، فیلمی با شرکت «تام کروز» را کارگردانی کردند؛

لندن، سالهای پایانی سده ی نوزدهم میلادی: مدتی است برجستگیها و انفجارهایی در سطح سیاره‌‌ ی «مریخ»، به چشم می‌خورد؛ چند دانشمند در رصدخانه های گوناگون، متوجه این پدیده ‌ی شگفت انگیز شده اند؛ آیا روی این سیاره، موجودات هوشمندی زندگی می‌کنند؟ کسی پاسخی برای این پرسش ندارد، تا اینکه شیئی به زمین اصابت می‌کند؛ نخست به نظر می‌رسد، این شیء شهاب سنگ باشد، اما شهاب سنگی در کار نیست....؛

جنگ دنیاها، نوشته‌ ی «هربرت جورج ولز»، یکی از نخستین آثاری است، که ستیز انسان و موجودات فضایی را بازگو میکند؛ این اثر خواندنی و هیجان انگیز از آن روز انتشار الهامبخش نویسندگان بسیاری بوده است؛ موجودات مریخی به سبب استفاده ی بسیار از هوش خود، تنها مغزی بزرگ و دهانی از آنان باقی مانده است، و با آشامیدن خون انسان نیرو میگیرند؛ در مقابل اما دستاوردهای فنون و آلات جنگی آنان چندین برابر بزرگ‌تر از ماشین جنگی «انگلستان» است؛ و مردم در برابر آن زبون و هراسان هستند، و جز تن دادن به مرگ راه چاره‌ ی دیگری ندارند؛

اندیشه ی نوشتن رمان جنگ جهان‌ها زمانی برای نویسنده پدید آمد، که استعمارگران اروپائی، با حمله به جزیره «تاسمانی» در نزدیکی «استرالیا»، مردم بیگناه و بومی آن جزیره را میکشتند؛ نویسنده با برادرش «فرانک»، درباره ی این جنگ گفتگو میکرد، که برادرش گفت: «فرض کن که موجودات سیاره‌ ای دیگر از آسمان فرود آیند و سراسر انگلستان را به تسخیر خود درآورند!»؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 27/10/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 11/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Anne.
4,055 reviews69.5k followers
September 13, 2021

I didn't listen to the novel-novel, but I listened to a radio adaptation performed by some fan-favorite cast members of Star Trek. <--Leonard Nimoy is amazing.
It was cool as hell.


And hilarious.
Because it doesn't really have a Big Battle or anything that humanity has to do to overcome these invaders. They just show up, and we watch in horror as they thoroughly hand us our asses.


Eventually, they just...die off because (regardless of their superior intelligence & firepower) they didn't get their shots before they landed on Earth.
Basically, humans were saved because Mars was full of anti-vaxxers.


And if it happened on Mars, who's to say it can't happen here? Perhaps the true moral of the story is that by unlocking space travel, we can rid ourselves of some of our less desirable brethren by letting them roam around the universe unchecked?
I like to think that this story had a happy ending for more than just the Earthlings.


An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: John de Lancie, Meagan Fay, Jerry Hardin, Gates McFadden, Leonard Nimoy, Daryl Schultz, Armin Shimerman, Brent Spiner, Tom Virtue and Wil Wheaton.

Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
805 reviews3,846 followers
January 15, 2023
Invading aliens have never been that ridiculously incompetent

That´s an often seen problem in classic sci-fi, the authors didn´t really care about thinking too much about logic or readers' problems with suspension of disbelief, they just wanted to tell their story. As long as there were no other genre writers and they had the monopoly, that worked out quite well. But

Aging well and growing old gracefully is a completely different thing
Many old and classic sci fi has problems with realism, often combined with struggling to fuse plot and characters. Some worst cases like general bad works and the weak ones by Heinlein and Dick, even mix this together with strange ideology, passages with poor writing, and authors' voice. But at least

Wells added some hidden criticism about the British empire
By satirizing colonialism and making humankind the colonized victims, he opened up many important questions about the ethical implications. Of course, these were totally ignored and never discussed, just as the dark past of many big countries like the US, France, Turkey, Russia, China, etc. People don´t want to get their flag tainted with the blood of millions and their patriotism vilified, because it helped promote exploitation and genocide. So all media of the time, and nowadays too, prefer to drivel about

How cool alien invasions are
And no one loves them more than I do, because I may have seen and read something between 1 to 3 k versions in all media I consumed united over the decades. There can be so much more added to the mix, science fantasy, cosmic horror, mind manipulation, infiltration, cooptation, friendly assimilation, and especially how many different species on different technological levels do it.

Mentioned plot holes are always a running gag element in sci fi
But honestly, no virus scanners, biotech enhanced vaccinations, or any kind of quarantine plan? After having handled lower Clarketech, thereby probably physics manipulation and understanding of astrophysics we just could dream of? And then they are unable to do what freaking apes like us could do with the stone age smallpox vaccination warp speed concept of rubbing infected, dried pus and creepier stuff in fresh cuts? Come on, alien overlords, you can do so much better, ask me if you want some tips. I believe in your supremacy and will always help you colonize our planet by betraying my species

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for [ J o ].
1,950 reviews434 followers
July 14, 2023
Read as part of the Infinite Variety Reading Challenge, based on the BBC's Big Read Poll of 2003.

The War of the Worlds goes beyond the of-the-time popular military invasion fiction, which took away the standard protagonist/antagonist arc of single characters and popped whole countries or tribes in their place, and brings down to Earth a whole new enemy at a time when science fiction did not exist and science itself was oft thought of as fiction.

In Surrey, a professor is caught up in the invasion of Martians as they sweep through London and its surrounding boroughs after witnessing several explosion on the planet Mars at the Ottershaw observatory. We follow the un-named professor and his brother in first-person narrative, seeing through their eyes this invasion and the destruction caused.

The air was full of sound, a deafening and confusing conflict of noises-the clangorous din of the Martians, the crash of falling houses, the thud of trees, fences, sheds flashing into flame, and the crackling and roaring of fire. Dense black smoke was leaping up to mingle with the steam from the river, and as the Heat-Ray went to and fro over Weybridge its impact was marked by flashes of incandescent white, that gave place at once to a smoky dance of lurid flames.

The first thing one needs to reference is the radio adaptation of 1938, which was narrated by Orson Welles and caused panic due to its news-bulletin style: those listening thought it was the truth. Whilst reading the novel, there is no doubt that the imagery, style and prose of H.G. Wells purported this panic. It is written with such imagination that it's difficult not to imagine oneself standing on the side of a crater as Martians crawl sluggishly out of their spaceships.

It is not often that I can forgive a book its downfalls due to the time of its writing. (It's all very well to accept that, for the most part, racism and sexism and things of that ilk were at many times in history acceptable behaviour, but enjoying a book from a period with those things in this day and age is a thing I find difficult to do.) However, in the case of The War of the Worlds I think it is vitally important to read the book with the exact time and place it was written in history to be lodged within your mind alongside every word you read.

We have a primitive form of speculative fiction, the very foundations of what we now call science fiction. At the time, H.G. Wells was writing fiction that had scientific and imaginative leanings, but no-one would dare think that perhaps the fiction was not quite fiction after all. There is little mention of the Martians weaponry or technology except when it is in use: any modern-day writer of sci-fi would absolutely be telling you all about the nuts and bolts of the piece. We have primitive science, because that is what they had at the time of writing. Whilst the future may have been thought of, the idea of futuristic technology was as alien to them as the Martians and their technology are in the book.

So, the excitement of the scientific exploration of futures is not to be found here. But the imagination of Wells is so beyond almost everything else that was around at the time and coupling it with popular militarist fiction means that this is an extremely important novel in the progression of English fiction. It is not surprising that Wells was, like Darwin himself, stuck inextricably between the truth of science and the tradition of religion.

The story itself, if put in perspective-removed from its time period and thought of solely as a novel-is nothing special. The narrator is disjointed with his surroundings, the story disappointing in the way it ends and less dramatic and climactic than it could have been. The style of prose is lacking, the dialogue just standard and the characters just slight breezes on a warm day. In that, it would require a mere two or three stars: enjoyable, if a little boring. But this is a novel that should be remembered for when it was written.

The imagination of a scientific man who is at odds with what is right and wrong. The spectacular birth of a new genre of, not only writing, but of thinking, too. The fact that even though my oestrogen levels were almost at zero, the reunion at the end made me cry my eyes out because it was written so perfectly, so unexpectedly.

Of course, that film with that actor was better. Of course it was. We have perspective and technology now that means the original The War of the Worlds is pretty pathetic. It cannot possibly compete with our high standards of today, unless you have half a brain and take this novel for what it truly represents. Unless.
Profile Image for Matt.
935 reviews28.6k followers
May 2, 2021
“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; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns 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. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter…”
- H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

Many Halloweens have come and gone since I first purchased H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, intending it to be part of my seasonal reading. There it sat, with many other good literary intentions. With this book in particular, I never felt any urgency. That’s a function of how many derivative versions I’ve consumed. I’ve seen the movies, the television adaptations, and the parodies on The Simpsons. I’ve also listened to a recording of Orson Welles’s infamous 1938 radio broadcast.

In short, I felt a nagging duty to read it, but nothing more.

Having finally finished The War of the Worlds, I discovered that in some ways, the experience was superfluous. This is a short novel, coming in at around 200 pages, and it doesn’t have much in the way of plot. It is quite episodic, and the various filmed versions of this tale have ably captured the major beats. In other words, there wasn’t much left to surprise me, at least in terms of how it all unfolds.

What did surprise me was its execution. For all the meanings heaped upon Wells’s slim book, it is first and foremost brutally entertaining. This has the gloss – and sentence structure – of a classic. But at its heart, it’s really just a pulpy clash between aliens and humans.


A summary of The War of the Worlds is probably unnecessary. Suffice to say, at the end of the nineteenth century, cylinders from Mars begin burying themselves in the soil of Great Britain. From these cylinders emerge big-brained Martians, who immediately begin building war machines, which are then turned loose upon poor England.

The story is told in the first-person by an unnamed narrator. We never learn too much about him – characterizations are not a strong point here – except that he is a philosopher, and that he is married. Most of The War of the Worlds consists of the narrator’s own experiences as he tries to get back to his wife. Somewhat awkwardly, however, Wells also has his narrator spend time relating his brother’s travails, even though he wasn’t present for them. (There are some truly great scenes involving the brother, yet I found this second storyline a bit of an authorial cheat).

With our narrator as a guide, the reader is taken on a tour of a section of blasted-out Great Britain that really sets the bar for all the postapocalyptic fiction to follow. Showing an absurdly keen appreciation for local geography, Wells has his narrator travel from Woking to Weybridge, Weybridge to Halliford, Halliford to Putney, Putney to London, and so on and so forth. Along the way he witnesses battles between massed artillery and alien tripods; scrounges for food; gets trapped in a house with a raving curate (perhaps the most gripping set piece); and exchanges philosophical musings with an artilleryman who has lost his unit (and possibly a few marbles).

Wells’s descriptions – as has been widely noted elsewhere – eerily prefigure the mechanistic slaughters to come in both the First and Second World Wars. There is poison gas and shattered cities. There are mass exoduses of terrified civilian populations, with rioting and looting in the streets. Though this is not graphic in the modern sense, Wells writes with a certain unsparing ruthlessness. In one memorable scene, a British ironclad engages in a suicidal delaying action in the River Thames.

Suddenly the foremost Martian lowered his tube and discharged a canister of the black gas at the ironclad. It hit her larboard side and glanced off in an inky jet that rolled away to seaward, an unfolding torrent of Black Smoke, from which the ironclad drove clear. To the watchers from the steamer, low in the water and with the sun in their eyes, it seemed as though she was already among the Martians…They saw the gaunt figures separating and rising out of the water as they retreated shoreward, and one of them raised the camera-like generator of the Heat-Ray. He held it pointing obliquely downward, and a bank of steam sprang from the water at its touch. It must have driven through the iron of the ship’s side like a white-hot iron rod through paper…

The evocation of total warfare and its aftermath is impressive, and Wells seems to take a bit of pleasure in fictionally destroying his real-life neighborhood.


Far more than most novels featuring aliens and Heat-Rays, The War of the Worlds requires close attention. This was published in 1898, and it shows. Wells employs a rather ornate, formal style, with long, compound sentences that often try to do too much. Occasionally, I had to read a page twice to understand what was actually happening (it can be especially hard to keep track of the unnamed characters). Despite its brevity, this took me longer to finish than expected. Still, there are certain sequences that have the taut pacing and tension of a thriller. Furthermore, while Wells can occasionally be a bit wordy, he uses those words to good effect, creating lasting images.


The War of the Worlds is one of those titles that is ripe for projection. Because it feels prophetic, there are many interpretations. The most obvious, of course, is that it is a critique of colonialism. After all, it features the world’s great imperial power being forcefully subjugated by a foreign invader. Wells pointedly suggests this himself in the text, referring to the Tasmanian people of Australia being “swept out of existence,” and then asking whether humans were “such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?”

This is all well and good, but it is worth mentioning that viewed from the twenty-first century, Wells has more than a bit of baggage. He was enamored of a certain construction of “natural selection” wherein all the “lesser” races would eventually disappear, a prospect he did not exactly mourn. Wells was also known as an anti-Semite, and some of that bleeds into these pages, especially in his description of an “eagle-faced man” who is run over by a fleeing cab while trying to pick up gold sovereigns that have spilled on the ground. For the most part, though, The War of the Worlds seems free of whatever reprehensible notions Wells carried. While there is definitely some Darwinian concepts interwoven into the narrative, the “natural selection” angle is played out vis-à-vis the conflict between humans and extra-terrestrials.


Science fiction has always been a marvelous vehicle for addressing real social concerns through entertainment. The War of the Worlds is no exception. As noted above, it can be seen as a criticism of imperialism, or of technology, or of any number of other things. Wells has built a foundation that can support many different structures. Steven Spielberg, for example, used Wells’s setup to create what is perhaps the best film to deal with America’s post-9/11 anxiety and dread. If you want to think deeply about it, you can. Based on the introduction to the edition I read, many have.

Just as importantly, you can choose to simply enjoy it – as I did – as the relatively lowbrow adventures of a man trying his best not to get blown up, while everything around him is spectacularly obliterated.
87 reviews12 followers
June 26, 2007
I acknowledge that I am one of the few people who actually enjoyed the recent "War of the Worlds" movie. The reason for this has to do more with the original book than Tom Cruise or Steven Speilburg's tendency to wittle everything, including alien attacks, down to simple family problems. In a lot of ways, "War of the Worlds" (2006) was a close to dead-on adaptation of the original Victorian novel.

Just a few words on why you should like, or if you don't like, respect "War of the Worlds" as a movie:

It avoids alien movie cliches:
1. There are no characters (Presidents, generals, etc.) who tell you what is going on on a global scale--all information is through rumors.
2. You do not see a major city destroyed nor any iconic landmarks.
3. Instead of humanity banding together to defeat a common foe, the characters and others they interact with are left increasingly fragmented and isolated.

That being said, Speilburg's "War of the Worlds" adapts much of the plot line and themes from the original novel. Instead of the 1950s version which pits a united front against the aliens (Cold War adapted), the original Victorian novel has a character travel isolated. Wells' narrater, like Tom Cruise, finds himself on a ferry-crossing, holed up with a panicked priest (who conflated with the artillery-man, provides us with a freaky Tim Robbins. Robbins even shares a few lines with the artillery-man). The ending is much the same, a kind of "Now what?" sense pervades. And of course, Morgan Freeman's opening and closings, are practically word by word from the novel.

The movie is also a great window into some of the novel's most important themes. "War of the Worlds," is a very Post-9/11 movie. There is the dust, the annhilation of things we find familiar, clothing floats from the sky in mimic of office paper...There is a pervading fear of complete and nonsensical annhiliation. Whereas the 1950s adaption pits humanity against an enemy, the updated version worries itself with unknown enemies who spring from the ground. And, Speilburg, not one to be subtle, has Dakota Fanning ask Tom Cruise, "Is it the terrorists?"

That being said, the Victorian novel is a catelogue of Victorian anxieties. This is the age of colonialism, afterall, and suddenly England is beset by a much more powerful force, unexpected, and completely foreign. 'Reverse' colonialism? The aliens take England's resources, kill off its people, and even cover the landscape with alien plant-life.

And perhaps the most over-arching anxiety of all: Darwin. Here we have evolution at its cruelest; then consume us (drinking our blood like in Bram Stoker's Dracula). Just when humanity seems at its lowest, nature kicks in and saves the day. The ending seems anti-climatic now, but you have to remember that H.G. Wells did not have a pop-reference that included Will Smith destroying the mother-ship.

So my point is, "War of the Worlds" is an amazing book and good movie, and one can inform the other.

"This is not a war any more than it's a war between men and ants."

Profile Image for emma.
1,865 reviews54.3k followers
July 27, 2022
you've heard of The Book Was Better, now get ready for The Old-Timey Radio Adaptation Was Better

this was very impressive for its time, but...

hard to live up to a radio show so immersive and captivatingly realistic it tricked a bunch of dweebs from the past into thinking we were being invaded by aliens.

2.5 stars

tbr review

one of the better first dates of my life involved going to look at a special moon event while listening to the radio adaptation of this book.

the person it was with turned out to be the worst so i'm going to read this and override the memory
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,215 reviews9,887 followers
January 4, 2017
This was not anything like the Tom Cruise movie so be warned. If you’re expecting an action story about a divorced union container crane operator with a 10 year old daughter you ain’t gonna find it here. They changed like 99% of everything around. As far as I could see there are only two things which are the same, one is that the Martians attack Earth in these COOL THREE LEGGED METAL 70 FOOT HIGH HEAT RAY KICK ASS DEATH MACHINES and two is that they die in the same way which I won’t say here because that would be a giant spoiler but really it’s a bit feeble but I guess could happen because they came from Mars which don’t have bacteria. I don’t do biology so I don’t know if a whole PLANET can not have bacteria. Seems like also they couldn’t have had YOGHURT as well, but HG Wells does not make this clear. Nor Stephen Spielberg either. Now this book version I think is not the book of the movie, I think it came first so that may explain why the movie is better, because really this book is lame. Yes more realistic because like the main guy is no Tom Cruise, but less action. What happens is that the Martians land and like fry everyone up with the DEATH HEAT RAY and send out the BLACK SMOKE to finish off anyone left alive and the main guy hops around and hides and eats really gross stuff and just sees stuff. As for instance he sees the army get a lucky shot in and kill the one single Martian but then like his buddies just wipe out the whole British army. Boom, heatray zzzzz – GONE! Oh yeah the book is set in England which I thought was strange. Why not America like the movie? Anyway just when the guy has realized that from now on we’re just going to be MARTIAN FRENCH FRIES and kept in cages (when not heatrayed) then the Martians just like shrivel up and die. End of. So, in my opinion, I say watch the movie. Or you could go for the prog rock version, lol. Oh I guess I did give away the end. Okay, SPOILER – sorry. But everybody knows this story. It’s like saying oh in the end Dracula dies with a steak in his arse. It’s a known fact.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,983 followers
April 14, 2022
I swear that I read this when I was younger, but when I went to add this to Goodreads as a re-read (it was the January selection for my Completist Book Club), I did not find it in my list. And, because this is one of those books that has a plot people tend to know because of movies and/or its general pop culture relevance, it is difficult for me to know which parts of my memories of this are from the book and which are from other places. But, re-read or not, I am glad I read it in January 2022.

This is classic sci fi. It is easy to see how many parts of this led to the tropes we see in literary and cinematic sci-fi today. And it is pretty amazing the creativity Wells had for coming up with such vivid and scientifically based alien technology and biology. This book was way ahead of its time!

While the setting is late 1800s England (horse carriages, telegrams, etc.), it is not hard to picture this in a modern setting. Wells did a great job making the story timeless. Often when I read books set in this era, they may be good, but they can also feel dated – not a bad thing, it is just that time moves on. But, with this one, society may have advanced, but it did not feel like time had moved on.

If you love the classics and/or love sci-fi and you have not read this book, I feel like it is a must for you to get it on your list right away. I was leaning toward 4 stars on this book, but the classic status and the effect it has had on sci fi over the years push that up to 5 stars!
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews805 followers
June 22, 2020

“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; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”

A beautiful opening to the book but I must say the Martians did a very poor job of scrutinising us human chappies and our little blue planet considering what transpires later. Ah, but I must not spoil the book even though I imagine most people reading this review (all three of them) already know how it ends. Which brings me to my next point, if you know the story of The War of The Worlds quite well already but have not actually read the book I urge you to read it, especially if you are a science fiction fan. I don't think there are many books in the pantheon of sci-fi as important as this one. This is the book that launched the alien invasion sci-fi trope and even manages to remain one of the best examples of it.

H.G. Wells was literally* light years ahead of his time, the mind boggles to think what he was able to conceive in the 19th century; alien invasion, time travel, genetic engineering, all these when TV sets are still decades in the future. If historical importance is not much of an inducement for you and you are just looking for a thumping good read Mr. Wells is also at your service here. The War of The Worlds is often thrilling, skillfully structured and narrated with some unexpected moments of philosophising and surreal dialogue. I generally find that Wells wrote much better prose than most of today’s SF authors do.

He even included some element of hard sf into his novels, here is an example from this book:

“It is still a matter of wonder how the Martians are able to slay men so swiftly and so silently. Many think that in some way they are able to generate an intense heat in a chamber of practically absolute non-conductivity. This intense heat they project in a parallel beam against any object they choose, by means of a polished parabolic mirror of unknown composition, much as the parabolic mirror of a lighthouse projects a beam of light.”

Yes, you may already have a fairly good idea of The War of The Worlds’ beginning middle and end without ever reading the book but you would miss Wells’ marvelously immersive and visual storytelling and the subtexts embedded in the original texts. The scene of naval battle between the military’s ironclads and the Martian tripods is vividly depicted and should please fans of military sf and general badassery. The slightly surreal chapter involving the artilleryman is a particularly interesting depiction of people who always seem to be brimming with ideas, plans and suggestions but never actually do anything.

The story of The War of The Worlds is so potent that Orson Welles’ 1938 War of the Worlds 1938 radio broadcast “became famous for causing mass panic, although the extent of this panic is debated”. Still, even moderate panic is an amazing achievement for a radio drama.

This book has of course been adapted into movies several times. Unfortunately a straight adaptation complete with the Victorian setting does not seem to have been made. The most recent adaptation being the 2005 Spielberg directed movie with Tom Cruise being the usual Cruisian hero, dodging Martian heat rays like nobody's business.

For this reread I went with the free Librivox audiobook version, very well read by Rebecca Dittman.

I hope to eventually read all of Wells’ sci-fi and perhaps his more mainstream books also. Anyway, never dismiss H.G. Wells' sci-fi as old hat because he invented the hat and it is still superior to most of today's headgear.

* I have a bee in my bonnet about today's frequent (and incorrect) overuse of "literally".

A quick note about the ending:

I love this album cover art from Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds. For some reason, I never heard the album in its entirety, but the hit single Forever Autumn is great.

• Update May 6, 2017: Now the Beeb is making a proper Victorian era adaptation, hurrah!

• Update June 22, 2020: Haven't seen the (above-mentioned) 2019 BBC series! LOL! There is also a 2019 French / US adaptation. Havn't seen that either!

"The Martians" by Rodney Matthews
Profile Image for Nayra.Hassan.
1,259 reviews5,614 followers
July 14, 2022
الإنسان لا يحيا و لا يموت هباء
و لكن اتى النهار الذي ستعرف فيه المدينة اي هول كانت ترقد فوقه لالاف السنين
لقد انطلق الرعب في الشوارع في صورة مركبات ثلاثية الارجل ..يوقظها برق فتخرج من باطن الارض
Screenshot_2018_10_02_04_15_38_2لتحرق و تدهس و تنشر الفناء و تسرق الامان.. و يلاحظ ان ويلز حرص على ان يكون الشر كامنا في باطن ارضنا..بيننا و ليس قادما من كواكب اخرى

و مع انتشار الدمار تنتشر اخلاق الزحام
و ينقسم البشر الى : أكثرية تتصرف بانانية مطلقة و حماقة متناهية
و أقلية : يساعدون و يساعدون لو على حساب انفسهم
و مع توالى الاحداث الكابوسية يصبح البقاء للاذكى و الاوفر حظا

و يقرع ويلز اجراس الخطر🔔
و يزعزع إحساس العالم الغربي الزائف بالامان
و انه لا امل للبفاء الا بالتكاتف و التأزر حتى لا تفنى الموارد و نهلك جميعا
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
May 10, 2020
This classic 1898 science fiction novel has teeth to it, and it’s not just the Martians. The War of the Worlds is a lot more thoughtfully written than I had remembered. In between deadly heat rays, huge tripod machines striding around the country killing everything in their path, and bloodthirsty Martians trying to take over Earth (starting with Great Britain), there's also critique of colonialism, religious hypocrisy, and even how humans treat animals. The ways in which people react in a crisis is given just as much attention as the Martians' actions.

I read this when I was a teenager, but for whatever reason I didn’t get much out of it at the time. But I let myself get roped into a GR group read of it, partly because it's so short. And also because my literary diet needs more classics. And you know? I'm glad I did.

Upping my rating from 3 stars to 4.5 on reread, partly in recognition of how advanced this book was for its time in some of its concepts, and the influence it's had on the SF genre.

Group read with the Non-Crunchy Classics Pantaloonless crew.
Profile Image for Fernando.
684 reviews1,128 followers
May 29, 2021
"Las obras de Mr. Wells pertenecen, sin duda, a un tiempo y un grado de conocimiento científico futuro muy alejado del presente, pero no completamente fuera de los límites de lo posible."
Julio Verne

Ya lo he afirmado en reseñas anteriores. La capacidad de anticipación a la tecnología y el futuro que tenía Herbert George Wells era ampliamente superior a la de Julio Verne a punto tal que el visionario francés lo admitía sin reparos.
Pero además de esta característica tan marcada en sus novelas, Wells nos alertaba sobre los posibles peligros que involucraba a la tecnología en poder de los hombres, sobre los riesgos de los avances científicos y los alcances de la ciencia sobre el planeta.
Sumado a esto, es importante reconocer también que Wells profundizaba en el costado psicológico del ser humano ante tantos cambios inesperados y en cómo el hombre tiene que lidiar con estos.
En tan sólo cuatro años, Wells había escrito cuatro novelas inolvidables: "La guerra de los mundos", "El hombre invisible", "La máquina del tiempo" y "La isla del Dr. Moreau", lo que demuestra su poderío narrativo que perdura aún hasta nuestros días.
"La Guerra de los Mundos" no es solamente un libro sobre la invasión de la Tierra a partir de la llegada de los marcianos. Tiene muchos elementos más que la hace una novela muy entretenida para ser tan corta y, como comentara anteriormente, nos muestra otro costado: el de la reacción del hombre ante la pérdida de su libertad.
A lo largo de la historia, hemos conocido acerca de las distintas invasiones y en todas ellas el patrón común es precisamente ese, el de la libertad perdida. Usualmente pondemos el ojo en el vencedor, pero no prestamos atención al vencido o dominado y en cómo influye en éste el hecho de ser sometido en todos los aspectos.
Es sobre esa faceta en donde Wells ahonda el desarrollo de su novela, porque para ser sinceros, si reemplazamos a los habitantes de la tierra, por ejemplo con un ejemplo cualquiera, por los polacos, luego de la invasión nazi en 1939 a Polonia, veremos que ese sufrimiento es similar al que nos cuenta el narrador de esta historia.
La opresión que viven los habitantes de la Tierra puede compararse a la de este pueblo o a cualquiera que haya experimentado un suceso similar.
Para ello y a la par de lo que sucede con la caída de los distintos cilindros a Inglaterra, Wells comienza a relatarnos las reacciones de los hombres que sufren el asedio y de cómo va esto trastocando su vida.
Durante el transcurso de la novela nos encontramos con grandes diferencias entre los seres humanos como sucede entre el narrador y el cura y también con el artillero. Estas distintas maneras de pensar nos llevan a un contrapunto interesante.
En primer lugar descubrimos que insólitamente la falta de fe y esperanza repercute totalmente en el cura, que es casualmente quien por su posición ante precisamente esa fe es quien más debe reconfortar al débil. En este caso no funciona y creo que se debe a una crítica que Wells entabla hacia la Iglesia como constitución.
Desconozco si era o no creyente pero pude notar que por momentos el narrador (que es tal vez un Wells encubierto) nos daba una imagen paranoica, frágil y temerosa de alguien que supuestamente debe mostrarnos exactamente lo contrario.
En el caso del artillero, se desarrolla una personalidad completamente opuesta. La de aquellos hombres que bajo la influencia de la invasión a la que están sujetos intentan tomar partido para su beneficio o pactando secretas sumisiones a cambio de una traición a los suyos o en otros casos queriendo intentar una represalia que es imposible llevar a cabo y es ahí en donde el autor pone al descubierto nuestras defectos, ambicione o debilidades como personas.
El punto del artillero es de todas maneras muy válido, pues éste pone de manifiesto que la supervivencia de los seres humanos está ligada directamente a que entendamos que, ante un dominio tan brutal como el que ejercen los marcianos, éstos estarán unidos o dominados. En nosotros está descubrir la verdad.
Un dato interesante que descubrí durante el tramo final de la segunda parte es que los marcianos comienzan a rociar toda la zona con un una nube letal negra, principalmente en la ciudad de Londres que en ese libro equivale a la Nueva York de las películas de Hollywood, y este detalle me recordó a la de la nevada mortal con la que comienza la mítica historia gráfica de Hector Oesterheld en "El Eternauta". Tal vez, a partir de esta novela haya habido algún tipo de inspiración en el autor argentino para desarrollar su historia.
Para finalizar, simplemente dejo una pequeña reflexión e interrogante, ya que sabemos que esto es ficción, que la ficción es justamente la creación de mundos a partir de la realidad, que se han escrito muchos libros sobre el tema y que se filmaron centenares de películas pero, si un día nos despertáramos con la noticia de una invasión extraterrestre...
Tú: ¿cómo reaccionarías?
Profile Image for Susan Budd.
Author 6 books223 followers
November 4, 2021
You would think that as Man grows in intelligence he would likewise grow in morality. But you would be wrong. Or at least, that is what history teaches us. About a hundred years before Harvard professor Robert Coles wrote his now famous article “The Disparity Between Intellect and Character,” H.G. Wells made much the same observation.

At the end of The War of the Worlds, the unnamed narrator returns to his house and sees the paper he had been working on before the war began. “It was a paper on the probable development of Moral Ideas with the development of the civilizing process” (194). There’s one for the wastepaper basket! As with much science fiction, the aliens in The War of the Worlds reveal more about us than about them.

Throughout the book, Wells compares Man with the lower animals. And it becomes increasingly uncomfortable. At the start, we are microbes under the Martians’ microscope. We might be able to pass over the metaphor without much thought if only he didn’t go on to compare us to monkeys, lemurs, dodo birds, bison, ants, frogs, rabbits, bees, wasps, and rats ~ animals we exploit or exterminate without compassion.

The narrator doesn’t fail to make the connection between the Martians’ treatment of humans and our treatment of animals. When he discovers that the Martians regard human beings as food, he is able to shift his perspective and see the human diet from the point of view of an animal that is typically regarded as food: “I think that we should remember how repulsive our carnivorous habits would seem to an intelligent rabbit” (139).

Moreover, it is not only animals that we destroy. Other humans are also fair game.

And before we judge of them too harshly, we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its own inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?” (5).

If only moral growth went hand-in-hand with intellectual growth! But apparently evolution doesn’t work that way. So a look at the Martians is a look into a mirror. It is also a look into our own future. And it is a future difficult to look upon. The Martians are ugly. And not just on the outside.

Evolution has turned them into little more than heads. Thanks to natural selection, their bodies function with marvelous efficiency. They need not eat, sleep, or engage in sexual intercourse. They communicate by telepathy. Through Darwinian adaptation, they lost what they did not need to survive and developed what they did need. And what they needed was intellect, not character. Heads, not hearts.

Is this where our species is headed? Wells was an advocate of Darwinism and if the Martians represent the future of Man, then The War of the Worlds must be read as a cautionary tale. The Epilogue supports this interpretation:

If the Martians can reach Venus, there is no reason to suppose that the thing is impossible for men, and when the slow cooling of the sun makes this earth uninhabitable, as at last it must do, it may be that the thread of life that has begun here will have streamed out and caught our sister planet within its toils. Should we conquer?” (198-199).

Should we conquer? If we don’t want to become blood-sucking heads without hearts we had better not! On the contrary, we had better learn compassion for those over whom our superior intelligence gives us power. “Surely, if we have learnt nothing else, this war has taught us pity —pity for those witless souls that suffer our dominion” (166).
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,462 reviews3,611 followers
January 27, 2020
The War of the Worlds belongs to the league of immortal books.
Tribal wars, civil wars, colonial wars… H.G. Wells managed to raise a phenomenon of war to the higher interplanetary level.
The air was full of sound, a deafening and confusing conflict of noises – the clangorous din of the Martians, the crash of falling houses, the thud of trees, fences, sheds flashing into flame, and the crackling and roaring of fire. Dense black smoke was leaping up to mingle with the steam from the river, and as the Heat-Ray went to and fro over Weybridge its impact was marked by flashes of incandescent white, that gave place at once to a smoky dance of lurid flames. The nearer houses still stood intact, awaiting their fate, shadowy, faint, and pallid in the steam, with the fire behind them going to and fro.

Panic and terror… It is useless to fight back… The only way to escape is to flee and hide… And the horrendous invaders – gigantic extraterrestrial bedbugs – know no mercy.
Four or five little black figures hurried before it across the green-grey of the field, and in a moment it was evident this Martian pursued them. In three strides he was among them, and they ran radiating from his feet in all directions. He used no Heat-Ray to destroy them, but picked them up one by one. Apparently he tossed them into the great metallic carrier which projected behind him, much as a workman’s basket hangs over his shoulder.

Although the victory may come from an unexpected quarter but all the invasions sooner or later are doomed.
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,256 reviews1,133 followers
March 17, 2022
Was H.G. Wells schizophrenic? I'm just wondering because his novels fall into 2 distinct groups. There are the gently humorous novels such as "Kipps" or "The History of Mr Polly" - and then there are his SF novels, of which The War of the Worlds is surely the most famous.

His prescience is startling. Not only was he writing in the pre-atomic age, but it is as well to remember that this book was written over a century ago (1898) which is even before powered flight (though only just!) I now want to read "War in the Air" to see if his imagination mirrored a potential reality as accurately as this.

The story-line is gripping, and immensely powerful. H.G. Wells is particularly good at seeing the individual's experience set against the whole devastating picture, (shifting between the viewpoint character and his brother), which draws the reader into the story.
Profile Image for Adrian.
570 reviews210 followers
June 3, 2018

Well with GR telling me I haven’t read any books this year (doh !), I thought I’d finish my first.

In all seriousness this is a re-read because I want to go on to Stephen Baxter’s The Massacre of Mankind, which is part of one of this years numerous challenges (why do I do this to myself ?)
Anyway GR says this is my 2nd read of this classic book (hah, what does GR know), whereas in fact it is probably my 5th or maybe 6th. To me it is certainly 4.5 stars and is enjoyable for so many reasons. The book itself is well written, as per usual from HG, it is not just a science fiction book but an in depth look or even examination of human nature and lastly I spent my childhood growing up and walking around the villages and countryside where the cylinders landed, so expected to see a Martian at any moment. How can I not like it, I know the roads the “writer” walks, cowers and scuttles along through the course of the story.
Let’s hope Mr Baxter can live up to this high standard with his authorised sequel.

PS I have added this postscript as some witty people have enquired if I was wandering the lanes and byways of this book with HG Wells. Now I maybe approaching my prime (cough cough) but I’m not Victorian 😂😂
Profile Image for Lena.
199 reviews91 followers
June 11, 2021
Wells invented cliches for a Hollywood blockbuster before Hollywood had any. He was truly a visionary: predicted all possible plot twist for the post-apocalyptic stories. Except one - in his book aliens attacked Britain not the USA.
Profile Image for Lisa.
991 reviews3,321 followers
November 23, 2019
Wells sort of made a bet and wanted to have it covered both ways: in which shape will Apocalypse come?

Humanity wiped out by super-humans ruling over invincible machines?

Or wiped out by a tiny bacteria?

Choose your ending! And enjoy a vintage science fiction writer while you wait ...
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.9k followers
January 26, 2020

In fiction, the fate of the successful innovator is seldom a happy one; the writer who invents an original plot or fresh theme may seem predictable, even shallow, to later readers, once that plot or theme—appropriated by scores of imitators—no longer shines like new. So it is with H.G. Wells and his The War of the Worlds (1897). Invading creatures from outer space became a cliché of “golden age” science fiction, and a double-cliche after the drive-in movies of the ‘50’s. H.G.’s “bug-eyed monsters” no longer chill us as they did the thrilled readers of more than a hundred years ago.

That’s not H.G. Wells fault, though, for they are certainly bad-ass “bug-eyed monsters,” as “bug-eyed monsters” go. Bear-sized land-octopi with a circle of little mouth-tentacles (shades of Cthulhu!), they make their way around England in walking tanks (tripodal fighting machines equipped with a deadly heat-ray and an even deadlier cloud of black gas), sustaining themselves by draining the blood from any available human (or—in a pinch—a sheep or two) while emitting strange whistles of delight.

Still, scary stuff like this got old a long time ago, and I found myself bored with the whole monster invasion thing (as I suspect you might too). But then I paused, dipped a bit into literary history, and soon realized that The War of the Worlds was a more interesting work than I had suspected.

Ever since the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, dozens of English novels had been written under the umbrella of the “invasion literature” genre, beginning with Chesney’s The Battle of Dorking (1871), which featured a German invasion of England. The name of the invading country varied in these books—often Germany, sometimes France—but all the novels tended to feature surprise attacks, the devastation of Southern England (including London), and the inadequacy of English military preparedness. By the time Wells published his short novel in 1897, the genre of “invasion literature” had prepared an enthusiastic audience for his books.

Of course Wells enjoyed the invasion genre, and thought that the addition of Martians would “up the ante,” making The War of the Worlds the invasion novel to end all invasion novels. But I believe his intentions were more complex and richer than this.

I believe that what Wells admired most about the invasion genre was that it shattered the complacency of the English middle class, demonstrated that not only the horrors but—perhaps worse—the profound disruptions of war were possible even here, here at the heart of the Empire: the destruction of villages, the separation of families, the forced movement of whole populations. The problem with the invasion genre, though, was that its villains were too specific, too localized, too susceptible to British dislike of the Hun, mistrust of the Frog. Such parochial prejudices diminished the profound experience of disruption.

But what if the invading forces were not men at all, but beings from another planet, organisms that did not look or act like men? If so, then the writer could use the genre’s images of dislocation and disruption—the burning houses, the victims of a black gas, the horde of Londoners fleeing in terror—to say something about the vulnerability of the human race itself, a race all too convinced of their own imperial destiny.

I’ll end with this passage in which the principal narrator, who has just experienced the demolition of his hiding place and the death of his only companion (a selfish, vexatious, half-mad curate) looks out upon a landscape transformed by Martian war.
For that moment I touched an emotion beyond the common range of men, yet one that the poor brutes we dominate know only too well. I felt as a rabbit might feel returning to his burrow and suddenly confronted by the work of a dozen busy navvies digging the foundations of a house. I felt the first inkling of a thing that presently grew quite clear in my mind, that oppressed me for many days, a sense of dethronement, a persuasion that I was no longer a master, but an animal among the animals, under the Martian heel. With us it would be as with them, to lurk and watch, to run and hide; the fear and empire of man had passed away.
Profile Image for Jeff .
912 reviews707 followers
February 20, 2018

One of my favorite movies growing up was the old War of the Worlds movie – the ‘50’s film, not the itty-bitty Tommy remake. I had to watch it each and every time it played on television. The same running dialogue would go on inside my head: “Cowardly dudes, don’t wave that white flag, they’re Martians, they’re probably color blind or something."

"Oops, too late, you’re toast.”

Or “Maybe the A-bomb will work this time. Nope, you’re toast.”

I also liked to imitate the heat ray sound when I re-enacted the movie later:

“Dododododoodododoodleydo”. It was a combination of a yodel and the sound the cat would make when its tail would get caught under the rocking chair.

“Dododododoodododoodleydo”. Barbie’s dream house is toast.

“Dododododoodododoodleydo”. You can’t use the Barbie car to escape, Ken, you sexless loser. *imitation explody sound as the Barbie car and Ken go up in a ball of flame*

“Dododododoodododoodleydo”. GI Joe, Batman, a Rock ‘em, Sock ‘em robot, and a one-armed cowboy hurl a huge pillow from the sofa at the Martians, thus ending the invasion. Get your asses back to Mars, bitches.

For Wells, this was a pioneering book, its tropes were to be dug up and used over and over again. Wells does here as Wells does in his other books – throws in some social commentary: If the British lorded over much of the known world back then, foisted itself on “lesser” cultures, why could it not get it’s comeuppance by being stomped around by a more powerful foe – in this case, obese, slow-assed, turd-like aliens from Mars.

This was a buddy read with those Pantless connoisseurs of fine, classic literature and is another example of a classic book that doesn’t suck donkey balls.

Profile Image for donna backshall.
677 reviews187 followers
July 5, 2018
Wow. I knew this, but I didn't KNOW this, until I re-read his 1898 novel, The War of the Worlds: H.G. Wells was eerily and impressively ahead of his time.

I'll admit, The War of the Worlds was hardly an easy read. The dispassionate and overly formal style of writing/reporting constantly dragged me back to a long ago time and place almost as foreign as Mars itself. His "speculative philosophy", as he put it, interweaving themes of colonialism and the subjugation of humankind as a whole, was evidently political in its foundation. But it was fascinating to recognize he also set the stage for 20th century speculative and science fiction. As a sci-fi junkie, I am grateful for his ingenious contribution to this genre.

Especially remarkable were artilleryman's imaginings, which are remarkably familiar to any reader of 20th century speculative or science fiction. The artilleryman posits a Martian-controlled future, where humans survive underground (figuratively and literally) and carve out a rebellious life. He envisions humanity playing the part of an inferior or even insignificant race to the alien overlords, until such time we can develop the perfect opportunity to overthrow them. Fast forward A CENTURY, and we've got Skynet's Terminators bearing down on us.

So often I find myself searching for this week's (this minute's?) next great read, but what I need to be doing is seeking out more of the classics to add to my reading list. Each novel surprises and enlightens me in ways I never expected, and enriches my appreciation of those contemporary works I voraciously consume.
Profile Image for W.
1,185 reviews4 followers
February 17, 2021
This is supposed to reflect the anxieties of Victorian England about being invaded,and even when the attack is finished,the author cautions that another invasion is possible.

There is an irony here.It was England itself which had occupied so much of the globe,and it is mankind that has managed to reach Mars.And had it encountered any Martians there,wars would have been waged on Mars,just as they always have been on earth.

It is not a pleasant book to read.It is all about disaster. Possibly the first major book about alien invasion of the earth,something I've grown tired of,given Hollywood's obsession with it.

Wells describes the chaos after the invasion well,as social order is destroyed.And guess what defeats the Martians,earth's pathogens just the way they are attacking humanity now.

The Martians don't need to sleep,they can be active all the time,they don't need the distraction of sex to procreate,they live on the blood of living creatures and they are all intelligence.Sounds pretty efficient.

A novel idea for its time,but I can't say it fully held my attention.Would have liked it to be shorter.

2.5 stars
Profile Image for Peter.
2,776 reviews497 followers
March 30, 2020
Absolute classic. At the end of the 19th century earth (Britain to be precise) is invaded by the Martians. They come in kind of "cylinders" and devastate the surroundings of London. The population of London flees. There is absolute chaos. Can those invaders be stopped? A compelling novel on humanity feeling too safe on their planet. We can't let our guards down. As we can see now the invaders may not come from outer space but a virus may even be deadlier than extraterrestrials. Great descriptions, interesting philosophical ideas (the soldier) and a bit of romance at the end. A modern classic and must read!
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,064 reviews1,907 followers
February 3, 2018
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 our own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most, terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.

Hmmmmm, how fucking amazing is this? Actually, the whole first chapter of this book, titled, "THE EVE OF WAR" is pretty amazing. Very enjoyable. The book loses something when it adopts our MC telling us about his experiences during the invasion, but Wells rescues himself with some breathtaking breakdowns of morality, ethics, war horrors, and survival. Not to mention class differences.

Wells is also, like Faber in Under the Skin, using aliens and science fiction to push a vegan agenda.

"You can't be serious, Carmen. H.G. Wells was not pushing a vegan agenda."

CARMEN: *sips coffee*
*looks at you*

Oh, yes, he absolutely was, and vegans of today who are interested in reading works of fiction which promote vegan lifestyles can enjoy both this book and Faber's book and perhaps incorporate them into a vegan book club. I mean, surely vegans must get tired of what can sometimes be self-righteous and pompous propaganda which exists in vegan non-fiction. Not to mention it is often fucking depressing, especially the books that talk about the suffering of animals in graphic detail. Even if something like veganism was not popular in Wells time and place, you can easily see how this is a vegan book.

The book makes some (what must be at the time: earthshattering) conclusions about humankind. This is a book like The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde which, when you read it now, it seems like old hat, but in its day must have just blown people away with its radical concepts.

Imagine humans NOT being the masters of all they survey. Imagine humans encountering beings smarter, stronger, and more ruthless then themselves, which see humans simply as ants, cockroaches, or rabbits - to be exterminated and/or eaten. That's what we are dealing with here, and it cannot be denied that Wells revolutionized and charged the genre of science-fiction much the way Mary Shelley did with her revolutionary, mind-blowing Frankenstein.

A lot of people read FRANKENSTEIN today and are disappointed. It's so old-fashioned. It's nothing like the media trained you to think it was. It's slow, it's old. You might read WAR OF THE WORLDS or DRACULA or DR. JEKYLL and feel the same way. But you have to understand that at the time, these authors were completely slaying people's long-held beliefs and way of thinking. Some of the old sci-fi/horror classics hold up, and some don't. DR. JEKYLL is particularly weak IMO, but DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN hold up very well (IMO). I loved both and think they are still very arresting and relevant today.

So how does WAR OF THE WORLDS hold up? Amazing first chapter that blows you out of the water.

And we men, the creatures who inhabit this earth, must be to them at least as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us. The intellectual side of man already admits that life is an incessant struggle for existence, and it would seem that this too is the belief of the minds upon Mars. Their world is far gone in its cooling and this world is still crowded with life, but crowded only with what they regard as inferior animals. To carry warfare sunward is, indeed, their only escape from the destruction that, generation after generation, creeps upon them.

And before we judge them too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its inferior races.

Think of everything humanity does to animals, and the genocide, war, and slavery it inflicts on other human beings. Wells keeps bringing this up throughout the novel in a rare show of clear-eyed thinking about humanity, especially for an Englishman in 1898.

Now, the book loses something when we start following our MC around and experiencing the invasion with him. But the book saves itself in a few ways.

One, Wells's writing.

Few people realise the immensity of vacancy in which the dust of the material universe swims.
Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely imagine the strange horror of its appearance.

He's got a lot of good writing in this book and some great turns of phrase.

Secondly, he decides not only to take down humanity's vanity and confidence, but also seeks to offer commentary on religion, class differences, and morality and ethics especially in the context of war. It's staggering how much he chooses to bite off here, but such takedowns engage the reader throughout the book.

He also doesn't skimp on the horror - not only the horrors and ravages of war, but the horror of the aliens and what they do to humans. It's honestly terrifying and Wells successfully scared me and made me disgusted.

I think he made his MC deliberately a member of the intelligentsia instead of a soldier, because - let me tell you - this book would have been completely different if told from the POV of someone who was a combat veteran. And that's on purpose. As the soldier he meets points out to him, after you've seen some shit then shit isn't as shocking.

"I saw what was up. Most of the people were hard at it, squealing and exciting themselves. But I'm not so fond of squealing. I've been in sight of death once or twice; I'm not an ornamental soldier, and at the best and worst, death - it's just death. And it's the man that keeps on thinking comes through."

The way Wells wraps up the book, the way he brings everything to a close, is also fucking brilliant. It may seem cliched or old hat NOW, but you have to realize it was mindblowing back then. Much like the concept of Jekyll/Hyde.

Now. I'm not saying that just because a book has cultural relevance and significance and is a classic in its genre that it's automatically good. Because I don't believe in that shit. Instead, I found myself actually enjoying and liking this book. That doesn't happen to me with every classic. Not every classic holds up. But classics that I enjoy and hold up for me (P&P, S&S, Frankenstein, Dracula, and Jane Eyre) don't please EVERYONE. I understand that old-fashioned books, language, and plotting can be boring and stupid to modern readers. And there are classics that come off that way to me, as well. So YMMV. I've certainly read classics that I've absolutely hated, and this might be one of those for you as well.

While reading this book it seemed achingly familiar to me. I think I've probably read this before. Maybe a decade ago or so, I don't know. It's also possible that this book is SO entrenched in pop culture that I just thought I'd read it, but I don't think so. But I'm going to list it here as my first reading since I can't specifically remember reading it before.

I like Wells's points here.
- His pushing of a vegan agenda; extraordinary for a man of his time.
- His takedown of religion and interpretation of God and what God entails. Not atheist, but a super interesting viewpoint of his time, cackling that 'God is not an insurance agent' and surmising that it's equally likely that humanity's new Martian masters also pray to God and expect God's protection.
- His portrayal as a curate (clergy) as a weak, spineless, helpless and selfish individual.
- His takedown and analysis of class differences, especially when the MC gets into a discussion with a soldier about humanity's future.
- His discussion of the horrors of war - not only what the enemy is inflicting upon you, but what war's victims end up doing to each other. His analysis of the terrible things people find themselves doing to survive, and if that can be forgiven or not when normality is restored.

Those who have escaped the dark and terrible aspects of life will find my brutality, my flash of rage in our final tragedy, easy enough to blame; for they know what is wrong as well as any, but not what is possible to tortured men. But those who have been under the shadow, who have gone down at last to elemental things, will have a wider charity.

I mean, take your pick, he just slays here with his cultural and social commentary. I find him lacking and tone-deaf on the plight of women, but I can't have everything. At least not from this author. >.< LOL

TL;DR - Hmmmmmmmm. Reading the sci-fi and horror classics can be very illuminating and oftentimes rewarding. That was the case here. Even though I don't think this book is a strong structurally as FRANKENSTEIN or DRACULA (the plot meanders a bit), Wells certainly hammers home not only his revolutionary and life-changing ideas, but puts forth some true literary gems.

Although it isn't perfect, I am still giving it five stars. With some caveats.

Also, I want to restate that this won't be for everyone.

Strange night! Strangest in this, that so soon as dawn had come, I, who had talked with God, crept out of the house like a rat leaving its hiding place - a creature scarcely larger, an inferior animal, a thing that for any passing whim of our masters might be hunted and killed. Perhaps they also prayed confidently to God. Surely, if we have learned nothing else, this war has taught us pity - pity for those witless souls that suffer our dominion.

Read with Non-Crunchy Cool Classic Pantaloonless Buddy Read group, February 2018
Profile Image for Paul Haspel.
563 reviews83 followers
April 1, 2023
Wars of invasion were very much upon the minds of people in Great Britain, and in other major nations of the world, during the late 19th century. Would Germany invade Belgium? Would the Austro-Hungarian Empire invade Serbia? But only the visionary mind of H.G. Wells was able to extrapolate from those fears of his time to imagine something even more seemingly unthinkable – an invasion of the Earth by hostile, technologically superior beings from another world – in a way that would capture the imaginations of countless thousands of readers, from Wells’s time to our own. Welcome to The War of the Worlds (1898).

In our time, Wells is best-known for his classic works of science fiction – works that, in his own time, would have been called “scientific romances”: The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), The First Men in the Moon (1901), The Food of the Gods (1904), In the Days of the Comet (1906), and of course The War of the Worlds.

The basic principle in that time – as with many science-fiction works now – was to take what was known from the science of the time, extrapolate from that science, and use that imaginative leap as the basis for a suspenseful story. But because Wells was a thinker of such enormously wide interests, well-versed in history and philosophy as well as science, works like The War of the Worlds went far beyond the “scientific romances” of their time, and continue to thrill and fascinate the readers of today.

The narrator of The War of the Worlds is an unnamed writer of considerable accomplishment and wide-ranging interests – a man much like Wells, come to think – whose peaceful and contemplative life in a quiet corner of Surrey is forever changed when a cylinder, constructed by beings from another world, crashes in a nearby part of his home county, opening a crater where it fell. Wells’s narrator begins his story by recalling ruefully how ill-prepared the people of the Earth were for this event:

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; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns, they were scrutinized and studied, almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. (p. 1)

It is, or course, conscious and deliberate that Wells links arrogant humankind with the microscopic organisms that were relatively new objects of discovery and interest for the scientists of that time – elsewhere in The War of the Worlds, the narrator refers to these creatures as “the humblest things that God, in His wisdom, has put upon this Earth” (p. 103). The major nations of the world – then, as now – competed for power and influence; and meanwhile, “across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this Earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment” (p. 1)

The Martians emerge from the cylinder and quickly demonstrate their hostile intent, spreading death and destruction through the power of a Heat-Ray. A full 62 years before the construction of the first laser device, Wells posited the idea of a new kind of weapon – “A beam of heat is the essence of the matter. Heat, and invisible, instead of visible light. Whatever is combustible flashes into flame at its touch; lead runs like water; it softens iron, cracks and melts glass; and when it falls upon water, incontinently that explodes into steam” (p. 15). Generations of creators of “ray-gun” books and movies owe an incalculable debt to Wells.

It quickly becomes clear that the British armed forces – while well-prepared for a possible war against an earthly enemy like, say, the German Empire – are all but helpless before the Martians and their Heat-Ray. And the destruction that the Martians wreak with their Heat-Ray is increased exponentially, once the Martians in their craters have constructed their tripods – vast war machines with which the Martians can cover territory even more quickly than the tanks that would see action 20 years later in the Great War.

The narrator is utterly shocked by his first sighting of a Martian tripod:

And this Thing I saw! How can I describe it? A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine-trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder. (p. 27)

In narrative terms, The War of the Worlds goes back and forth between what the narrator witnessed in Surrey and what his brother saw happening in London. Both eyewitnesses would agree that “Never before in the history of warfare had destruction been so indiscriminate and so universal” (p. 32). Indeed, while the Great War was still twenty years away, a modern reader of The War of the Worlds, contemplating Wells’s description of the Martians’ indiscriminate killing of soldiers and civilians, of peaceful cities being made the targets of military violence, might well find his or her thoughts moving from Wells’s Martians to the guns of August 1914.

Those parallels with the First World War take on additional force when one reads about how another weapon in the Martians’ arsenal is poison gas. The Martian tripods, it turns out, carry canisters that deploy a chemical weapon that the narrator refers to simply as “the black smoke”:

These canisters smashed on striking the ground – they did not explode – and incontinently disengaged an enormous volume of heavy, inky vapour, coiling and pouring upward in a huge and ebony cumulus cloud, a gaseous hill that sank and spread itself slowly over the surrounding country. And the touch of that vapour, the inhaling of its pungent wisps, was death to all that breathes. (p. 54)

Part of what impressed me, on this re-reading of The War of the Worlds, was a renewed sense of the predictive power of the book. It is not just that Wells’s novel looks ahead to topics like poison gas, or the laser, or mobile war machines that prefigure the development of tanks. A 21st-century reader might be just as impressed by Wells’s description of how the Martians bring with them a “Red Weed” – a strange form of red vegetation that grows in profusion wherever there is a water supply, and that chokes out all the Earthly vegetation around it. The term “invasive species” may not have been much in use in Wells’s time, but this aspect of The War of the Worlds certainly looks ahead to the global problem of invasive species today.

People are undone by the invasion; the truths and philosophies that they have depended on all their lives can no longer sustain them. A curate, who takes shelter with the narrator in an abandoned home after the Martians have destroyed the town of Weybridge, moans with self-pity; in response, the narrator angrily calls upon the curate to “Be a man!” and adds that “You are scared out of your wits! What good is religion if it collapses under calamity? Think of what earthquakes and floods, wars and volcanoes, have done before to men! Did you think God had exempted Weybridge? He is not an insurance agent, man” (p. 43)

The house in which the narrator and the curate have sought shelter is later struck and destroyed by a Martian cylinder, trapping them, for a time, in the ruins. Before long, the narrator gets the chance to see a Martian for himself:

They were, I now saw, the most unearthly creatures it is possible to conceive. They were huge round bodies – or, rather, heads – about four feet in diameter, each body having in front of it a face. This face had no nostrils – indeed, the Martians do not seem to have had any sense of smell – but it had a pair of very large, dark-coloured eyes, and just beneath this a kind of fleshy beak. In the back of this head or body – I scarcely know how to speak of it – was the single tight tympanic surface, since known to be anatomically an ear, though it must have been almost useless in our denser air. In a group round the mouth were sixteen slender, almost whip-like tentacles, arranged in two bunches of eight each. (p. 77)

As if the description of the Martians was not chilling enough, what we subsequently learn of their eating habits is even worse. The narrator recalls how the Martians “took the fresh, living blood of other creatures, and injected it into their own veins” (p. 78). The narrator, who saw the Martians carrying out this process, insists that he can’t even bear to describe what he saw: “Let it suffice to say, blood obtained from a still living animal, in most cases from a human being, was run directly by means of a little pipette into the recipient canal…” (p. 78) It is details like these that make The War of the Worlds a truly disturbing novel – a classic of horror as well as science fiction.

On the chance that there is someone out there who doesn’t know how the novel ends, I will take care to avoid the need for a spoiler alert. I will say only that Wells adroitly scatters clues throughout the early parts of The War of the Worlds, preparing the reader for a resolution that affirms the narrator’s declaration at one point that “By the toll of a billion deaths, man has bought his birthright of the Earth, and it is his against all comers; it would still be his were the Martians ten times as mighty as they are. For neither do men live nor die in vain” (p. 103).

Throughout The War of the Worlds, Wells’s descriptions of the Martians’ literally bloodthirsty behaviour are meant to remind the reader of humankind’s distressingly regular demonstrations of a metaphorical thirst for blood. Near the book’s beginning, the narrator, looking back on the interplanetary war, writes that “before we judge of [the Martians] too harshly, we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought”, and “not only upon animals, such as the bison and the dodo”. Citing the killing of almost all of the Indigenous people of Tasmania, “in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years” – Wells’s narrator asks implacably: “Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?” (p. 1)

And near the conclusion of The War of the Worlds, the narrator writes, more hopefully, that “Surely, if we have learnt nothing else, this war has taught us pity – pity for those witless souls that suffer our dominion” (p. 92). If the world has not yet learned that lesson, or any sort of meaningful lesson about compassion – as the grim record of the twelve decades since the publication of Wells’s novel would seem to indicate – then the blame for that failure cannot be laid at Wells’s feet. Few writers, of any era, have been more prolific in their presentation of plans for social improvement and global peace.

The War of the Worlds is, purely and simply, one of the most influential novels ever written. Orson Welles’s panic-inducing 1938 radio-broadcast version of the novel is very fine, as are the film adaptations by George Pal (in 1953) and Steven Spielberg (in 2005); but there is no substitute for returning to this singularly powerful and disturbing short novel.
Profile Image for Julian Worker.
Author 35 books378 followers
February 20, 2022
The classic science fiction novel from HG Wells that sets the standard for all the others.

The book was written between 1895 and 1897 and published as a book in 1898 although it had been serialised in magazines in both the UK and USA the year before.

The novel is a narrative of both an unnamed man in Surrey and of his younger brother in London

Martians invade England over a period of a week, a separate large container landing each day in various parts of the South. The Martians build killing machines with an infernal death ray that melts everything in its beam.

All the machines seem to be heading for London when their march comes to a sudden end.

There are some surprising inconsistencies in the story, but I can't mention them because they would count as spoilers.
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