on 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.
on 24 July 2013
This is the first time that I have ever read the War of the Worlds. I have been meaning to for a while now, but just never quite got around to it.
It is written as a narrative, from the perspective of one gentleman who lives very close to the landing site of the first Martian invader. He goes to see the landing site at Horsell sandpits, and is there when the first Martian attacks. Following more aggressive attacks from the invaders, he sends his wife of to Leatherhead to be with family, and he heads into London. He meets with various individuals, some of which he gets on with, and has to hide with a curate who he doesn't like much, as the Martians rampage across the south east.
It is quite forward looking for a Victorian / Edwardian science fiction book. He is trying to describe lasers and other devices, but he does not have the technological vocabulary to describe them as we would now. The dialogue is quite stilted, but given the time this was written and set, I would not expect anything different. What Wells does manage to convey is the terror that the population, and himself and his companions experience, and the despair and helplessness that he feels.
on 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. The hoard of scientific knowledge has practically exploded since that time and also, people have read dozens of sci-fi books, watched countless sci-fi films and played a range of space invader-type computer games. It is easy to forget that when Wells wrote this book, his ideas were new - generated by him alone - and he, himself, had never had the chance to read a story about extra-terrestrial life. I'm full of admiration for this author.
This particular version of "The War of the Worlds", the Penguin Classics publication, has a few extras that I found helpful and interesting. There are Biographical Notes by Patrick Parrinder that briefly describe the life of Herbert George Wells and mention some of his other books, of which there were many. There is a fairly long Introduction by Brian Aldiss which actually repeats some of the information offered in the Biographical Notes and then provides a much fuller description of Wells, his life, his relationships, his motivations and how the War of the Worlds expresses some of his feelings about how technologically advanced societies have subjugated or exterminated more primitive cultures. The Martians' murderous colonization of England could be a metaphor for England's equally destructive colonization of Tasmania for example. Wells subtly hints to the reader that the Martians' lack of moral sense or compassion does not distinguish them from us. Patrick Parrinder then suggests Further Reading and provides Notes on the Text and, finally "The War of the World" begins. The story itself takes up less than 180 pages so it's relatively short. But then there's more: at the end of the book there's an Appendix with a Note of Places in the Novel, including a map, and then, absolutely finally, there are further Notes relating to each individual chapter.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys science fiction.
on 17 May 2006
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.
As in 'The Time Machine' we are shown that despite the trappings of civilisation we are still capable of regressing to animal behaviour albeit peppered with occasional acts of selfless heroism.
Cleverly, the scenes which are truly horrific are those in which humanity turns on itself, such as when the narrator's brother - shepherding two women out of London - encounters a stampeding mob being driven by the Martians. Symbolically, one man, attempting to protect his gold, fights off an offer of help and - after having his back broken - falls under the wheels of a carriage.
The narrator's conversation with the Artilleryman is telling, for although he is shown to be a braggart and has no real inclination to put his grandiose schemes of Resistance into operation, his opinion of the future of humans living willingly under Martian control has the chilling ring of truth.
The Curate is a curious figure, a broken rambling coward, his faith driven to breaking point by the very existence of the Martians. It is interesting to note that in the US, some fifty years after the book was written, the film version portrays The Curate as a heroic figure who faces the Martians openly and defies them. Whether this is an attack on organised religion is unclear, Wells himself, at the denouement - in which the Martians are destroyed by the Earth's bacteria - describes them as 'the smallest of God's creatures' which some might interpret as a kind of Divine plan.
Putting the book in a historical context, we have to look at Britain of the time, still essentially an Empire with Victoria as Empress/Governess of many foreign countries which were being ruled under unwanted occupation. Wells is simply here putting the British people in the position of the citizens of many of those occupied territories. He is clear to point out, in the section of the novel in which the narrator describes the physiology of the Martians, that we are upon the same evolutionary path. In literary terms Wells' Martians are early cyborgs, using their mechanisms as extensions of their bodies, without which they are helpless. Their development has taken them to a point where they are merely a brain, some sense organs and a cluster of tentacular 'fingers'. Once, the novel suggests, they must have been much like us. It is not too much of a mental leap to imagine humanity on a dying world, watching a younger, life-bearing world with envious eyes, and to make comparisons between our Victorian Empire-building and the Martian invasion.
Ever since this novel was first published it has always proved to be popular with the reading public. A tale told in the first person narrative we read about how suddenly Martians invade the Earth. The narrative takes place in the South of England and is still quite gripping, with the Martians in their machines and their death rays causing havoc and destruction.
Like most people I have read this story countless times, but I have never got bored with it. Influencing other writers in the field with their own 'invasion' stories this is a story that will never go away or age. If you have never read this before then snatch up this edition whilst it is free.
You do have an active table of contents here, and there is also the beginning excerpt of Felix J Palma's 'The Map of the Sky' at the back of this book, after the main story. I should point out that you will see occasionally small numerals in the text of this, but there are no footnotes. The reason for this is that the publisher, Simon and Schuster, have allowed the main text to be used, but not the footnotes as they publish that in a complete 'enriched' edition.
As well as a sci-fi novel this can be seen as so many other things, an allegory for instance of Imperialism, as well as other topics. As I noted above, there are no footnotes for this particular edition, but lets be honest, I seriously doubt that you would need any, and no, the tiny numbers that appear where there would be one doesn't detract from reading the novel.
I won't go into the socio/political debates about this book as I am sure most of you won't be reading this book for them. Most of you will be thinking about reading this because of the recent Speilburg / Cruise movie adaption.... Now whilst I have seen the movie and did enjoy it (well apart from the last 5 min which where a real let down, oh and a couple of holywood science moments).
I am a huge Sci Fi fan and have over the last year or so started to read a lot of "clasic" sci fi, I had yet to read any of Wells' books, after watching the movie (and listening to Jeff Waynes musical) I decided to get hold of the book and read it, boy was I in for a suprise...
This book felt to me like modern sci fi, it had none of the quaintness or clichies that I have grown used to when reading clasics, it grabbed me from the 1st page and led me on a roller coaster of emotions, it created a geniune sense of fear and forboding for the characters and it left me scratching my head as too its age. I know this was written over a hundred years ago but it honestly doesn't feel that it was.
The science was good and too my mind still holds water, I fail to see why other people question the heat rays, lack of wheels, or the microbobes / bacteria.... Wells said in his discusion of the Martians that they had either out evlovled these or they had never existed on Mars (yes I know with my knowledge of how life started on Earth this seems unlikely) but we are talking about an author who was in his day talking about cutting edge science, and who says that life has to evolve elsewhere the same as it did on Earth....
Mind you nevermind that, if you haven't read this book I would HIGHLY recomend that you do, this is a book that truely is a Classic.
on 13 September 2010
I got my first Classics Illustrated copy of 'The War of the Worlds' when I was six years old, in the 1960's. At the time, I considered it to be a 'comic book', but in modern terms it is a graphic novel in the truest sense of the word. The narrative is lifted directly from the original book and I remember struggling with some of the words at age six. At any rate, I'm sure I was captivated by the amazing artwork.
Everything in this reprint is exactly as I remember. Well, not exactly -- the paper stock is better and the colors are deeper and more vivid. I reread the original 'War of the Worlds' a couple of years ago. This Classics Illustrated version does a surprisingly effective job of capturing the essence of Wells' book. Although I purchased this strictly for the nostalgia, this is a wonderfully executed graphic novel that stands on it's own merits.
on 6 April 2005
First published in 1898, The War of the Worlds was the first of many tales concerning good old God-fearing planet Earth and alien invasion. Modern stories of alien invasion or human annihilation, like Independence Day or Alex Garland's 28 Days Later, are but mere hand-me-downs in comparison, sloppy seconds that owe everything to the unquenchably creative imagination of the original Sci-Fi master, H.G Wells. The scenes of desolation that confront Garland's lonely antagonist as he walks the empty streets of London in 28 Days Later are taken straight from the final chapters of Wells' original. How many times have we seen 'laser beams' on screen in a million B movies and dozens of Hollywood rip-offs? How many episodes of Star Trek have we to put up with? How many more sci-fi plagiarists will have their second rate books published on the back of Mr Wells's masterpiece? On the plus side, without The War of the Worlds, there may never have been a Star Wars. There may never have been a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
What is most astonishing about this book is the fact that it was written in the nineteenth century; post Verne, but pre-Hitler. The themes explored in the book - the notion of invasion, of social disruption, war and domination -, are all themes associated with the subsequent World Wars. Wells was not only dealing with his own notions of extraterrestrial life and the choices man faces in his slow path toward earthly extinction; he was also perhaps toying with the notion that mankind, in its fin-de-siecle obsession with technology, could indeed bring about its own, premature destruction through the war of nations. In this sense, the book also has much in common with Orwell's '1984'.
As the world awaits the release of Spielberg's 2005 film, the sheer inventiveness of Wells' original story becomes clearer with every day that passes. Inevitably, Spielberg has set his story in America - how inventive, how novel! -, thus, in my opinion, totally undermining the potential of a modern cinematic interpretation. Why not set the story in Georgian London? Having the multitudes escape the aluminium tripods of the "big greyish rounded" aliens in horse-drawn carriages, as Wells describes it, would surely provide a greater cinematic aesthetic juxtaposition. Instead, Tom Cruise will look upon the wreckage of a destroyed white house, perhaps, or a red-weed encrusted Statue of Liberty; images that have been played with before, therefore diminishing the impact that a ruined Westminster or a wounded St. Paul's would provide.
At 180 pages, it is a short book; but Wells manages to build the tension from the very first page. Those first few words, made even more famous by the irrepressible Orson Welles during his hysterical radio transmission of the story to an unexpecting American public in the 1950s, continue to send shivers up the spine. "No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligence greater than man's."
The majority of the story is written away from the glare of the Martian 'Heat-Rays', and instead plays with the impact that invasion has on ordered society. But the threat of the invaders instils a suspense throughout that has the reader racing through each chapter in order to look again upon the alien intelligence. Perhaps the most thrilling episodes are those where man displays his own ability to fight back. But the finale, and the images described in the final chapters, make the book an undeniable classic.
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.
on 11 January 2007
It's extraordinary to think that this book was written in 1898. That's only 33 years after Dickens completed his last novel and actually contemporaneous with Hardy's poems. Imagine tripods from Mars storming all over Fagin's lair or burning up Hardy's Wessex! Ideas of colonialism and invasion are admittedly explored, but these go on, in different forms, all the time, and are not uniquely Victorian concerns.
The book is obviously ground-breaking and way ahead of it's time. It's also very well written and moves along at a cracking pace. It's great on local detail too, and if you know these places, it's immense fun to read about them being smashed up by Martians!