The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
- Hardcover: 250 pages
- Publisher: NYRB Classics; 1ST edition (June 30, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1403717168
I have fond memories of being scared silly by the Martians on Saturday afternoons as a child while watching Gene Barry in the 1953 movie version of H.G. Wells‘ fabulous story of the same name. Later, as a teen, I read the actual book. Wells’ version between those covers was much better than any movie version could ever be. That’s just the nature of the written word, as far as I’m concerned.
It’s been many years since I last read this book, so when I saw it on the shelf at my local library the other day, I just had to grab it. It was a fast and entertaining read. It’s not a very big book, but Wells is a master at packing in much drama and details into his stories, regardless of their word count. This particular edition was an illustrated publication. The unique view of the story from the mind and hand of artist Edward Gorey was definitely a plus. His pen and ink sketches mimic the mood of story. Sinister events just seem better illustrated in monochrome than color, I think.
If you’re not familiar with the story, I’ll give you a brief overview. A species of intelligent life on the planet Mars has initiated an invasion of the Earth by firing large cylinders from Mars through space targeting an area around London. The ballistic cylinders contain a few of the Martians along with the materials and means for them to manufacture tall tripod walking/fighting machines complete with weapon systems. Using these devices, the Martians wreak havoc on the surrounding countryside and suburbs of London.
The story is narrated in 1st person by a writer/researcher of sorts. His name is never given in the book. There is also a brief alternate view of the happenings in London from the narrator’s brother’s point of view, but still written by the narrator himself. Leaving one to understand that the narrator must have gotten his brother’s version post-event.
Wells goes into some detail regarding the science and biology of the situation also. It’s interesting to read and consider in light of modern knowledge of mechanics, interplanetary travel, biology, and evolution. His narration of the technical aspects of the story in no way bogs down the telling of it. If anything, it enlightens the narrative a bit by providing speculative analysis of the events unfolding.
If you haven’t read this old classic Sci-fi book, I assure you that it’s worth the time to read. While you’re at it, you can also check out some of Wells’ other popular stores, such as The Time Machine or The Island of Doctor Moreau or The Invisible Man. I’ll be looking for them in my local library soon. It’s also been a long time since I’ve read any of them.
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