Although eyewitness accounts of the Martian invasion in The War of the Worlds were limited to England, there were some hints that the destruction took place on a much larger scale. Here, in War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches, editor Kevin J. Anderson gathers a collection of other stories of the devastation: historical reports from all over the globe, from people as diverse as Kipling, Einstein, Jack London, Twain, Tolstoy, H. P. Lovecraft, and many others.
It's quite a fun collection, though slightly flawed (more on that in a moment). My biggest worry on starting this was that the stories would be shallow echoes of Wells' original, with the predictable three-act arc of the Martians' arrival, attacks, and downfall, with little variation. A few of the stories were limited to that, but most of the authors realized that the strength of the characters, and their individual reactions to the attacks, were what best propelled the stories: from Theodore Roosevelt, whose first instincts on encountering a Martian is to kill it and then commission a more powerful hunting rifle from Winchester in order to kill the next ones more efficiently; to Tolstoy, who takes charge of a refugee camp as the rest of Russia falls; and from the Texas sheriff with a score to settle ("These things done attacked citizens in my jurisdiction, and they killed my horse."); to Joseph Conrad, who watches the world end in an unexpected way, and many others. Expect enough humor sprinkled throughout to keep the despair at bay, and if nothing else, check out Connie Willis's hilarious Emily Dickinson essay ("The Soul Selects Her Own Society: Invasion and Repulsion: A Chronological Reinterpretation of Two of Emily Dickinson's Poems: A Wellsian Perspective").
Some of the best stories were those that unflinchingly portrayed the horror of the war, such as the total destruction of St. Louis as witnessed by a newspaperman committed to his duty, as well as the long-term effects of the invasion, from Russia's recovery to the way China and India take advantage of Europe's power vacuums to rebuild and become independent powers in their own right fifty years early. H. G. Wells may not have explored the long-term repercussions in his novel, but the stories in this anthology (at least, some of the superior ones) make it clear that a worldwide catastrophe costing millions, perhaps hundreds of millions of lives, would have both terrible and unexpected impacts on the next century.
It's a mixed bag, and I feel a bit hesitant giving this four stars, but that favorable rating is based more on the strength of the better stories than any of the weaker ones. There really aren't any "bad" stories in the collection (although I wouldn’t recommend the Churchill story, "The True Tale of the final Battle of Umslopogaas the Zulu"), I only have one complaint: the collection is a bit too inconsistent. Pablo Picasso's and Jules Verne's accounts of the attacks on Paris contradict heavily, and the Verne account contradicts almost blasphemously with Wells; Winston Churchill's encounter with the Martians during the Boer War is jumbled and confused; "Mars: The Home Front," an Edgar Rice Burroughs-inspired tale, feels rather out of place despite its setting; and Percival Lowell’s location varies from story to story.
Although the foreword to this collection recognizes these inconsistencies and attributes them to "the great turmoil of the time," both foreword and afterword make it clear that these accounts are supposed to chronicle the same worldwide invasion, and therefore connect to tell a larger story. It does attempt that, but the result is not as strong or as satisfying as I would have liked.
Still, I don't wish to discourage anyone from reading this: as I mentioned above, a number of the stories are very good, and manage to stand well on their own while remaining faithful to the original. The inconsistency between tales will really only bother the most nitpicky of readers (hello!), so how to view the collection on that note is really up to individual taste. Overall, it's a fun collection for any fan of Wells’s original novel--or just someone curious to see what happens when Mars invades Texas.