“The War of the Worlds” by H. G. Wells

After recently reading The Time Machine, many of you suggested that I should read “The War of the Worlds.”  Thanks to the free/cheap classics on Kindle, I’m discovering a love for Victorian science fiction.

As far as the plot, there’s not much to say that hasn’t been said elsewhere.  The book is broken into two halves.  The first half can be summarized as “Holy shit!  There are Martians!  Let’s all run around like chickens with their heads chopped off!”  In the second half, our dear narrator realizes that he dumped his wife to go see the aforementioned Martians, and that he really ought to be finding her.  The whole leaving the wife somewhere ostensibly safe that really isn’t because there are frickin’ Martians is not a very nice thing to do, in my opinion.  If there’s a zombie apocalypse or alien invasion, my boyfriend and I are sticking together.  There will be no “Sit here while I go adventuring.”

Aside from the narrator’s questionable judgement, I did enjoy the book.  Like The Time Machine, the story paints a broader picture of society and forms a critique on British colonialism.  Constant parallels are drawn between the way that Europeans treated the natives and the way that the Martians treat the humans, although I doubt that in the event of an alien invasion humanity would learn its lesson.  Wells is very optimistic in that respect.

Of the two H. G. Wells novels that I’ve read thus far, I did prefer “The Time Machine,” in part because “The War of the Worlds” feels a bit dated.  It was very imaginative and reflected the fears and science of the time in which it was written, but considering the fact that we’ve put stuff on Mars, the Martians seem a bit more comical than terrifying.  However, I was a big fan of the Martian technology, and the way that the Martians had no concept of a wheel.

Overall, I’d say that “The War of the Worlds” is definitely worth the read, if only for the fact that it inspired so many later works and renditions.  It’s also great if you’re looking for science fiction that has a deeper socio-political message.

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This book counts toward The 2012 Science Fiction Experience, hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings and the Speculative Fiction Challenge 2012, hosted by Baffled Books.  It also counts toward the Vintage SciFi Not-a-Challenge, hosted by The Little Red Reviewer.

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Categories: Fiction, Sci Fi | Tags: , , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on ““The War of the Worlds” by H. G. Wells

  1. I am currently reading this and have recently read both The Time Machine and The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells and what I am finding with this, as I did with the others, is that the idea is a great one, especially for the time it was written, but it always falls a bit short, like some major element is missing.

    They are really short books and I just wonder if he had added another 100 pages to each one if the character and plot development might be a bit better.

    • I felt like the structure of the piece could have used a little tweaking in this one, but I didn’t get that feeling with “The Time Machine.” I think Wells’ concepts are a lot better than his actual writing, but it’s neat to get an insight into what science fiction was like over a hundred years ago.

  2. I remember the treatment of the wife bothered me enormously in this book–especially the way the narrator just kind of forgets about her. I wouldn’t mind so much if he wanted to leave her somewhere (though that’s not great either), it was the way she seemed to completely drop out of his mind once she was out of sight.

    But other than THAT, I remember enjoying this book…especially the twist of what finally defeats the Martians. It feels a little more obvious today, but I read this when I was pretty young and it seemed so clever at the time!

    • I felt like he kind of just threw her to the wolves… it would be interesting to know what was going on with her the whole time. I thought the way that the Martians were defeated was neat too!

  3. StoriesGeek

    Great review! Now I’m looking forward to this Wells after having read The Time Machine very recently. I haven’t seen or read any version of War of the Worlds, so it will be all new to me. I also like reading the vintage science fiction and seeing how remarkably advanced (though not always) their ideas were.

    • It’s also neat to see the way that the ideas from early sci-fi are incorporated into later works by other authors. Wells is fun to read!

  4. I am looking forward to more from H.G. Wells very soon. This is hopefully going to be my next read by him. I read The Time Machine earlier in this year.

  5. Richard

    Some things in the novel I’m still unsure why that was. The Martians that landed in Woking, England it was never said when the war machines were buried. Also, during the last section before the narrator wanted to be killed by the Martians he described a fiery steak across the sky past the London (what was left of it) skyline. This was never explained at all. One more thing I noted was this was the first wave the novel hinted of another invasion.

    Before I go H.G. Wells also parallels Mars with Earth many times during the first part of the novel. Since Mars is around the same size as Earth, it is seen of course as a barren hostile world devoid of any life. The time frame this book was written a amateur astronomer by the name of Percival Lowell made observations of Mars and thought whatever life was left made grand canals from the north pole downward to channel the water that was left. What he really saw was the refraction of his inner eye, while he observed Mars.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lowell_Observatory

    Also, you must have noted the eugenics in the novel as well. I suggest the next novel you read is “The Shape of Things to Come”.

    • I think that a few loose ends helped with the feeling of confusion. The narrator doesn’t know everything, and so we only learn what he was able to find out.

      While reading, I kept getting mental images about how Homeland Security would act if the book was set in the US. Setting the book in England made the criticism of colonialism even more blatant, but it was neat to imagine what it would have been like had it been set elsewhere or in the modern world.

  6. Good review! I struggled to find anything to say about this book when I reviewed it as well, it’s just so culturally ubiquitous, but you make some good points.
    I far preferred this book to ‘The Time Machine’. I felt it was better put together, and I loved what the years have done to it. It’s like a B-Movie descending a English Victorian pastoral.
    I must have glossed over the colonial analogy in my last read of this, but in light of some of Wells’ short stories I would be interested to see hims criticizing the colonial project. Oh well, looks like I’ll have to read it again soon with this in mind. Any excuse!

    • I thought it was interesting to have the narrator explicitly say that the Martians weren’t doing anything different than what we did.

      Books like this one are popular enough that one assumes that everyone has read them or at least knows the story, but at the same time, I’m sure there are a lot of us who are just getting into it. When I started reading Wells, I didn’t expect the amount of social commentary that’s present in the stories.

  7. I haven’t read War of the Worlds – I always get put off for some reason. I love The Time Machine though.
    Good review.
    Ta
    Lynn 😀

    • I loved “The Time Machine.” When I read it, I finished it the same day that I started it, because I couldn’t put it down!

  8. I liked this. I agree that it is a bit dated, but that gave it a bit of quaint charm…

    I’ve still to try The Time Machine though. I hope to read it soon.

    • They are both excellent. It’s neat getting to see older sci-fi ideas, especially when they have a timeless feel to them even if scientifically we know better now.

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