Tim Giauque's Reviews > The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
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Jun 06, 10

bookshelves: classics, sci-fi
Read from May 29 to June 05, 2010

Hey, this is a great book! I mean, yeah, it's a classic, but it's really a fun, quick read, too. The premise - a contingent of Martians come to Earth and stomp the sugar-coated snot out of England - has been copied and referenced endlessly, but it's still fun to see how Wells envisions this happening.

Two things really struck me about this book: 1) it's well over a hundred years old, but it feels fresh and fairly contemporary, apart from the nineteenth-century setting. This is probably partially due to the fact that, as stated previously, it's been copied so many times - a new movie version was made a couple of years ago - but the story has character archetypes that would be present if aliens invaded today. The disbelieving citizens, the government officials denying the severity of the threat, the rugged individualist, etc. all made the story feel like it could be happening at any time.

2) I love the way that Wells incorporated discussions of contemporary scientific thought into the story. Alien-invader stories from the 50s and 60s always involve nuclear weapons and/or lasers, because they were high-tech and new and scary back then. Well, there were no nukes or lasers in 1898, but there was thermodynamics, so Wells's Martians have a Heat-Ray. The book also touches on evolution, astronomy, and one delusional artilleryman even gives a passionate argument in favor of social Darwinism that sounds eerily like something Adolf Hitler might have argued decades later. (He dies.) The inclusion of actual science makes this story "hard" science fiction, several decades before there was a term for it.

Overall, the story is a great mix of postapocalyptic disaster fiction, horror, and science fiction that has had such an enormous impact on our culture as a whole, it's impossible to measure. Now I'm going to have to watch the original 1953 film, or, if I can get my hands on it, listen to the radio broadcast from the 30s that famously scared a lot of people into thinking it was real.
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message 1: by Karen (new)

Karen Giauque That's very interesting. I vaguely remember, when I was a kid, someone talking about how they or someone they knew had almost died of fright after hearing the famous radio broadcast. I've never even thought about reading the book. Now maybe I will.


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