War of the Worlds
When Mars becomes uninhabitable, the Martian race attempts to invade an unsuspecting Earth.
War of the Worlds was written by the grandfather of science fiction himself, H. G. Wells, in 1898. At a time of rapid scientific development, his novels shocked and terrified those read as a result of the realistic and feasible narrative he employs within his writing.
The novel follows an unnamed narrator and his brother through the events of the attempted invasion: from the landing of the cylinders, to the appearance of the Martians, describes the destruction of military forces and cities alike, even describing the events that occurred while the narrator was trapped in a house near the landing site of a cylinder. Wells goes to painstaking efforts to make his narrative feasible and believable; providing scientific reasons for the Martian’s migrating, creating the first ever recorded use of imaginary weaponry within fiction and even discussing scientific detail such as the anatomic construction of the Martians that have been recovered for autopsy. The narrative is thrilling and engaging, showing unbeatable threats and as many human-caused disasters as there are alien attacks. It provides a realistic and gripping representation of the chaos that could be expected to occur in the event of a real alien invasion.
This theorised reaction did not have to wait too long to be proven. In 1938, Columbia Broadcasting aired Orson Welles’ radio drama transcript of War of the Worlds as part of a Halloween special. No-one could have predicted the chaos that ensued. The broadcast was aired as though the events in the drama were occurring in real, live time, hosting interviews and giving news flash updates throughout the course of the programme; but as the programme failed to confirm that it was a fictional story until the very end of the broadcast, the American population became hysteric. Water towers were attacked by people fearing them to be the Martian tripods, police stations were attacked when they refused to help, archaeologist students went out in search of the fallen cylinder claimed to have fallen near their university. People believed that Martians had landed.
I don’t think there is any better way to honour the great works of H. G. Wells than to prove the theories of human nature that he discussed within War of the Worlds.
The novel was engaging and exciting, though in times becomes very scientific and takes a little bit of heavy reading. However, these challenging sections are few and far between, and Wells describes the scientific elements of the text with enough layman explanation to prevent it becoming confusing or intimidating.
I thoroughly enjoyed War of the Worlds and would recommend it to anyone who is curious about science-fiction but doesn’t like the stereotypical space-ships and Battlestar style of the genre. It is a wonderful cross-over novel to get a reader into the world of science-fiction without being clique, off-putting or stereotypical.