War of the Worlds

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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.

A Clockwork Orange

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“What’s it going to be then, eh?”

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is one of my all time favourite novels and seemed like a perfect starting point for my little literature reviews. I’m also currently studying this novel alongside 1984, Fahrenheit 451 and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? for my dissertation on dystopian fiction.

Just to set off on the right foot, the novel isn’t nearly as steampunk as the title and above cover make it seem. I was looking for a cover to attach to this review and found the cover art on deviantart at throatwolf.deviantart.com , I absolutely loved it so figured it was worth putting in a mention~

A Clockwork Orange is a novel written by Anthony Burgess and was designed as a response to the controversial work of B. F. Skinner, a famous behavioural psychologist of the time whose work focused on the possibility of controlling behavioural habits.  The novel follows the narrative of fifteen year old hooligan, Alex DeLarge, who loves nothing more than indulging in a little ‘ultra-violence’ with his streetwise ‘droogs’. However, when a burglary goes array and escalates to murder, Alex is abandoned by his ‘droogs’ and sentenced to life imprisonment. After months of imprisonment, Alex shows a seeming want for reform by reading the Bible (though in actuality he enjoys reading about the violence of the Old Testament), and is offered a way out; a form of experimental therapy that will compel him away from the impulse to do evil and force him to react only with good. Sacrificing his free will for a shortened prison sentence, Alex agrees to take part and is released onto the streets once more. But the world has changed and without the ability to defend himself against the past, Alex is chased away from his family and friends. Searching for refuge and help, he eventually comes to the home of a political spokesman and former victim of his youth. Unfortunately, Alex does not recognise his victim from so long ago and accepts the man’s help; but the victim remembers Alex all too well. Seeing an opportunity for revenge, the man uses Alex as a tool to gain political favour then disposes of him in the only way he sees fit: using Alex’s lack of free will to force him to attempt suicide.

A Clockwork Orange is an incredibly powerful novel that explores these themes with surprising ease. The ‘nadsat’ language used throughout the text is beautifully crafted and is based on an ingenious blend of Elizabethan English and Russian. It is catchy and endearing, often intruding in the reader’s own speech for weeks after reading. While it is true that the language is intimidating and challenging at first, it is almost guaranteed to be a second language to the reader by the time they have reached Part 2.

Alex himself is a veritable charmer; despite his crimes and violent, psychopathic faults, he is at heart a true gentleman. He takes pride in cleanliness and appearance, a fan of Beethoven and waltzing, he is charming and entertaining to follow through his narrative. One can almost forgive him his crimes for the sympathy he draws at the later stages of the novel and his narrative is engaging throughout. There is no narrator more unreliable, but there is no narrator easier to believe.

A Clockwork Orange is entertaining, challenging and philosophically engaging. I would recommend it heartily to anyone who doesn’t mind a streak of violence in their evening reading.