Perry Whitford's Reviews > The War Of The Worlds

The War Of The Worlds by H.G. Wells
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Oct 05, 2015

it was amazing
Recommended for: The human race: read and beware!
Read from August 12 to 13, 2012 — I own a copy , read count: 2

A timeless science fiction classic from the most famous progenitor of the genre, it still packs a punch for a modern reader, but just imagine for a moment how this incredible story of invasion and conquest by an alien species with "intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic" must have scared the holy bejeesus out of fin-de-siecle Victorian Londoners?

Mars, long associated with war because of its red appearance in the night sky, was only then beginning to reveal the ancient secrets of its landscape to astronomers, who speculated that the grooves on the surface suggested water - and where there is water there is life.

Wells took this idea and ran with it, imagined a species older and more advanced than ours, desperate to flee a dying planet, gazing on fertile earth with "envious eyes" and making their plans.

I had read this before as a teenager, alongside Wells' other landmark "scientific romances", and like so many others the world over became completely beguiled by it and the many adaptations in film, television and even music.

As a five year old the Jeff Wayne song used to scare me witless (Richard Burton's narration, OMG!), and my Dad bought a cheap domestic film projector, which included two reels of the vintage movie from the 1950s. My brother and I would beam this onto the white-washed wall of our bedrooms, closing the curtains to create a make-shift cinema.

Happy memories!

What struck me on rereading the source material this time around though was the sheer visceral brutality of it, which I did not entirely recall. The aliens are truly frightening, evolved along completely opposite lines to us (Wells makes some inventive use of Darwinist theory), unemotional and implacable, masters of tools and technology, feeders on human flesh and blood.

They are truly awe-inspiring, and the narrator holds nothing back in his descriptions of the carnage they inflict.

Over and above the fantastical elements though, Wells also paints a frightening picture of a city being invaded, of ordered society breaking down spectacularly overnight in the face of terror, of human beings broken and reduced to the status of rats.

Armored machines cut a swath through towns and villages on land and air, chemical weapons choke the lives of thousands within minutes, populations become a desperate rabble in a chaos of self-preservation: a horrendous premonition of the encroaching First World War.

Having just read Around the World in Eighty Days, I was struck by the way in which subsequent retellings have expanded and improved upon that particular Victorian classic, but The War of the Worlds has all it needs in its original incarnation.


p.s. as well written as it is, Wells was sloppily over-fond of the word "tumult" here, which he must have used over a dozen times, and he succumbs to near incontinence for the word "incontinent", which also leaks out more than a few times.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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David Sarkies I liked how Well's used Verne's railgun as the means for the Martians to get to Earth.

Perry Whitford Yeah, a stunning idea that. When I first read the book that notion frightened me as much as the tripods themselves.

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