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The War of the Worlds [Paperback]

H.G. Wells , Brian Aldiss
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (451 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

31 Mar 2005 Penguin Classics

The first modern tale of alien invasion, H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds remains one of the most influential science fiction novels ever published. This Penguin Classics edition is edited by Patrick Parrinder with an introduction by Brian Aldiss, author of Hothouse, and notes by Andy Sawyer.

The night after a shooting star is seen streaking through the sky from Mars, a cylinder is discovered on Horsell Common in London. At first, naïve locals approach the cylinder armed just with a white flag - only to be quickly killed by an all-destroying heat-ray, as terrifying tentacled invaders emerge. Soon the whole of human civilisation is under threat, as powerful Martians build gigantic killing machines, destroy all in their path with black gas and burning rays, and feast on the warm blood of trapped, still-living human prey. The forces of the Earth, however, may prove harder to beat than they at first appear.

The War of the Worlds has been the subject of countless adaptations, including an Orson Welles radio drama which caused mass panic when it was broadcast, with listeners confusing it for a news broadcast heralding alien invasion; a musical version by Jeff Wayne; and, most recently, Steven Spielberg's 2005 film version, starring Tom Cruise. This Penguin Classics edition includes a full biographical essay on Wells, a further reading list and detailed notes. The introduction, by Brian Aldiss, considers the novel's view of religion and society.

H.G. Wells (1866-1946) was a professional writer and journalist. Among his most popular works are The Time Machine (1895); The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), filmed with Bela Lugosi in 1932, and again in 1996 with Marlon Brando; The Invisible Man (1897); The War of the Worlds (1898); and The First Men in the Moon (1901), which predicted the first lunar landings.

If you enjoyed The War of the Worlds, you might like Wells's The Time Machine, also available in Penguin Classics.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (31 Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141441038
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141441030
  • Product Dimensions: 19.9 x 12.8 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (451 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 118,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Authors

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Product Description


"The creations of Mr. Wells . . . belong unreservedly to an age and degree of scientific knowledge far removed from the present, though I will not say entirely beyond the limits of the possible." --Jules Verne --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

H.G. Wells was a professional writer and journalist, who published more than a hundred books, including novels, histories, essays and programmes for world regeneration. Wells's prophetic imagination was first displayed in pioneering works of science fiction, but later he became an apostle of socialism, science and progress. His controversial views on sexual equality and the shape of a truly developed nation remain directly relevant to our world today. He was, in Bertrand Russell's words, 'an important liberator of thought and action'.

Brian Aldiss is a famed science fiction writer.

Patrick Parrinder has written on H.G. Wells, science fiction, James Joyce and the history of the English novel. Since 1986 he has been Professor of English at the University of Reading.

Andy Sawyer is a Librarian at the University of Liverpool with a particular interest in science fiction. He has annotated four volumes in this series.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched1 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. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Sci-Fi, ahead of its time 22 July 2005
Having heard the Musical Version of War of the Worlds when i was a kid and with the new movie coming out, I thought I'd buy the origianl book and see if it was any good. It is fantastic! A real piece of genius from a visionary H G Wells. I just couldn't put it down and would recommend to anyone, sci-fi fans this is a definate must read. Just don't go and see the film after reading it cause there was no way it was going to live up to the book.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
The problem with the current public perception of this novel is that it suffers from a certain level of subsequent re-imagining in various forms, from Orson Welles' 1938 historic real-time broadcast through to the 1953 film; Jeff Wayne's truncated but brilliant concept album version and - in the Nineties - an execrable American TV series which is best forgotten, as is the dire Spielberg film in relation to the far superior novel.

Re-reading this afresh is a liberating experience and an affirming one since Wells' original version is as chilling and compulsive a read as I remember it, and dispels some of the subsequent myths which have arisen more from the original American film version than from the book. The Martians, for instance, do not have three eyes or travel in threes. Apart from the fact that their fighting machines are tripods there is no other mention of 'threes'.

One legacy of other versions is that it is now difficult to read without imagining Richard Burton's voice narrating in one's head, which is not on the whole, a bad thing.

Wells' problem in limiting his book to first person narrative is that he is faced with having to describe both the Martian arrival and initial attacks in Woking, and then their subsequent rout of London, which he does by giving a retrospective account of his brother's escape from the Capital. It's a clumsy device which telegraphs the fact that he is eventually reunited with his brother and that the Martians are defeated, but this is a minor criticism of what is the definitive novel of Earth invasion which features most importantly Wells' sharply observed characters and the range of reactions of humanity to such an event.
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77 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic sci-fi first 6 April 2005
The narrator, who's name we never learn, recounts the terrible events that took place six years earlier, which alerted the people of Earth to the danger from space. Strange lights, like huge spouts of flaming gas are observed on the surface of Mars - a curiosity that stimulates much speculation in the newspapers. Later, when great cylinders begin to drop from the sky onto areas around London and disgorge weird creatures that immediately start fabricating machines of war, it becomes clear that these lights were the first signs of an invasion from Mars. Mars is a dying planet so the Martians need to find a new home. They have no thought of sharing with the indigenous inhabitants of the planet they've chosen to colonize. The initial, innocent, friendly approach by some of the residents of the village close to the first landing is repelled with lethal force. Soon their intentions become all too obvious. The Planet Earth and all its animals (including human kind), vegetation and minerals are nothing more than resources to be consumed or otherwise exploited by the Martians. Their technology is far superior to ours and they employ it with cold and shocking efficiency. How can the people of late 19th century England resist such overwhelming power? The situation is grim indeed, and once England has been vanquished, the Martians mean, of course, to conquer the rest of Britain and then the rest of the world.
When you consider that this book was first published in 1898, and that up to that time no other author had written a tale about invasion from beyond our planet, the original ideas H G Wells poured into this work are very impressive.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still Gets Under My Skin 5 July 2005
I read this at the tender age of 11, and it terrified me. In a pop culture where aliens have big eyes and abduct people, the original tale of alien invasion couldn't be more unique. Wells wrote this at the end of the 19th Century. Many see it as a sharp metaphor about British colonialism, something Wells touchs upon overtly in the first chapter. It's a story open to interpretation, but it works best as a gut-wrenchingly dark sci-fi story that's distinctly different to common perceptions of the genre.
The plot is simple, yet brutal. With their home planet becoming increasingly inhospitable, the Martians fire cylinders at the Earth. These land around London- capital of the world's greatest super-power. The un-wary locals investigate, and the cylinders open to reveal writhing, tentacled aliens. Wells orchestrates the ensuing violence brilliantly, depicting their cool, calculating destruction of humanity and the enslavement of mankind. There are moments of epic battle, moments of personal survival, and moments of claustrophobic horror.
I won't say more, because it will simply ruin the novel. It probably won't affect you as badly as it does me, but my mental scars have engrained themselves in my brain. This won't stop you enjoying one the most influential and captivated science fiction novels ever written.
Many people know the Orson Wells radio adaptation. Others know the Jeff Wayne musical adaptation. A lot will remember the 1950s film that runs very loosely to the original. Most of you will have now seen Spielberg's excellent cinematic update. However, all of these incarnations have lost that bit of magic Wells weaves into his story-telling. That it was written without any prior influence or any previous template may be why The War of the Worlds is one of the most distinctive and impacting pieces of literature I've ever read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars War Of The Worlds
I am enjoying this book, I have the musical version on cd and I have noticed that the book differs slightly from the musical version
Published 2 days ago by Stu
5.0 out of 5 stars War of the Worlds
A sample of how to write a suspense novel ,I was fascinated from the word go and it certainly motivated my imagination as it drew you into the thoughts of the author.
Published 3 days ago by David Zigler
5.0 out of 5 stars A sci-fi masterpiece
This is probably one of the most theory provoking books I've ever read. I wander how hg wells came up with this twisted tale of wonder. Truly a must read
Published 5 days ago by flynn martienssen
4.0 out of 5 stars Rediscovered gem
Loved this first time round and just as good this time. Well ahead of its time and certainly a classic
Published 5 days ago by Neil
1.0 out of 5 stars Bore of the Worlds
Not what I had expected at all,quite a turgid narrative written in the style of a Victorian journal. Found it hard to persevere, and. Read more
Published 8 days ago by D P CAMPBELL
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
Brilliant story, much better than the film. Even though it was an old book I really enjoyed it and didnt think it was dated at all. Kept me enthralled all the way through. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Rebecca
5.0 out of 5 stars Great classic
If you haven't read the book but seen the film you should still read it, has impact even after all the years it has been written, would recommend.
Published 13 days ago by shashootwiggy
5.0 out of 5 stars Favourite
One of my all-time favourite stories - I've had several copies over the years but something always happens to them - people forget to give it back! Read more
Published 14 days ago by PT
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic!
Short but gripping read. An influential classic of sci-fi it is a must read for those interested in the future of our quest into outer space.
Published 15 days ago by Avid Cyclist
5.0 out of 5 stars one of my favourites
I have always loved this book since chilhood. Part romance, part adventure, part political statement. In turns contemplative then exhilerating.
Published 16 days ago by Paul S. Gibbs
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