Hey everyone! It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve actually made any post of substance here, what with the exam and all, but now that that’s all behind me I’m hoping to be writing some more. I can already hear the shouts for joy. Today, I thought it would be nice to reminisce on a book I read almost twelve months ago, and which I was utterly captivated by, HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds.
Yes, that’s right, it was only a year ago that I got to this cornerstone of the science-fiction genre! Quite shameful really, considering Jules Verne has been with me for so many years now. But anyhow. Despite my penchant for Verne – when I was 10, or 11, Journey to the Centre of the Earth became the first book that I was truly lost in, and just could not put down – I’ve never really considered myself to be a big fan of sci-fi, per se. Yes, I know I’m obsessed with Star Wars, but that’s different. I mean, real hardcore sci-fi stuff I usually have to be in the mood for. Largely because it involves so much physics that I can’t keep up. But anyway. Early sci-fi, like Verne and, as I now realise, Wells, is much more my cup of tea. I mean, it’s all so civilised, somehow!
War of the Worlds appears to be more famous nowadays for its famous radio broadcast in 1938, where, due to the manner in which it was narrated, listeners believed it to be a genuine news broadcast. The book has, nevertheless, been a massive hit, and certainly to my peripheral understanding, is a seminal work of the genre.
When I read the book last year, I was immediately captivated by Wells’ style. I’m not going to launch into some literary critique, because I’m hardly qualified to do that, but I can tell you that the writing is plain and immediate, which I think suits this type of story immensely. A first-person account of the Martian invasion of Earth should, after all, have some immediacy! The Martians are what I suppose you’d call ‘classic’ aliens, with advanced technology that allows them to first of all make the journey in this pre-space age, but also to adapt to the atmospheric differences between the two planets, as seen in the rapid construction of the tripods. The Martian weapon of choice is the heat-ray, which I think I’ve read somewhere is the first appearance of a ray-like-gun in a science-fiction novel.
There is a sense of urgency as we follow the narrator around the countryside, dodging Martian patrols as he tries to make his way towards London, which really drives the story along. The character of the Curate has got to be one of the most annoying I’ve ever come across, but even that can’t detract from the general greatness! There is a sequence where the two are hiding in a deserted house when they find themselves trapped there due to the arrival of more Martians, and I was absolutely glued to the page at that point!
I had no idea how the story would end, as I’ve never investigated any of the films that have been made about it, so was propelled through to the conclusion to find out. I have to say, it felt a bit cheap at first – the Martians, it turns out, have no immunity to Earthly bacteria, so die of a microbial infection. However, when you take the book as a whole, it all just makes so much sense that yes, the ending is actually very plausible. In all, it’s a really well-written story, that balances excitement with sensible, well-thought-out mechanics. Marvellous!
It’s definitely worth checking out, and at less than 180 pages, it won’t take up too much time. But you may then find yourself, like me, wanting to check out other stuff from the pen of HG Wells..!