Book Review: The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells

November 24, 2010 Comments Off on Book Review: The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells

By: Balazs Andras Khoor

Just how effective was science fiction author Herbert George “H.G.” Wells’ The War of the Worlds? Perhaps you have heard the anecdote. During a radio broadcast based on the novel, those who did not realize they were listening to a fictional tale believed that aliens were invading the Earth and became genuinely panicked. First published by H.G. Wells in 1898, The War of the Worlds (WotW) is the grandfather of alien invasion fiction. That is not to say that other authors did not write similar stories prior to H.G. Wells, but that WotW set many standards for the genre that 19th century sci-fi writers used as a foundation for their own work. WotW opens with an ominous message from an omniscient narrator revealing that Earth has long been watched by beings more intelligent than humans. As the narrative progresses, seemingly innocuous reports of strange occurrences on Mars escalate to Martian sightings near London. While the Martians seem harmless at first–barely able to move on our planet–their deadly nature becomes apparent when otherworldly machines towering hundreds of feet above Earth’s tallest edifices rise from below the Earth’s surface and begin destroying civilization. While the story is interesting in its own right, where WotW succeeds is in setting and maintaining an eerie tone that often rises to “foreboding” and never dips below a “tense.” The Martians’ invasion and subsequent dominance over humanity is harsh and devoid of cheesiness. The reason is because the book is rooted in the scientific thinking of the day, which lends a sense of reality to the tale. Even those who do not typically dabble in the sci-fi section of their bookstore will find WotW a suspenseful book that lingers long after the final page has been turned.

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