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

Title: The War of the Worlds
Author: H.G. Wells
Published: 1897
Genre: Classic Science Fiction

Synopsis: A cylinder from space lands in south-west London, and naïve locals approach it armed with a white flag – only to be instantly incinerated by an all-destroying heat-ray, as tentacled Martians emerge. Soon the whole of humanity is under threat, as the invaders build gigantic killing machines that chase and feast on human prey.

My Rating: 8igbk4dbt8igbk4dbt8igbk4dbt8igbk4dbt

Somehow or other and quite unexpectedly, this year I’ve been discovering H.G. Wells much to my delight.

The War of the Worlds (WotW) is quite a Victorian novel and I realize it was published in 1897 so that’s a bit of a redundant sentiment but what I mean to say is that while The Island of Doctor Moreau has aged well, WotW feels dated. Our premise is that London becomes attacked by Martians and we follow our narrator as he narrowly escapes death and see humanity and the nature of destruction from his eyes. In a way one can replace Martians with anything, ISIS, North Koreans even Alt-Right Trumpers and you get a great story of what happens when one is invaded. Humanity is the focus in this novel, much like Island of Doctor Moreau, Wells loves to theorize of what happens to a civilized man when encountered with atrocities. How some men rise above it, survive, remember and live on. There are other men who succumb to a sort of animalistic nature.

WotW showed how humans and civilization completely collapses in on itself when faced with such a situation. One can even say that what he’s conveying is that civilization and civilities, for that matter, are a fragile thing that are dependent on social order and when said order is removed civilization crumbles. There are many comparisons in the book of men are like ants to the Martians which I thought were apropos to the general sentiment. Despite the science and the scientific thought being based very much in 1890s mentality there is a profound sense of lack of scientific advancement, the self-awareness of being helpless against such an invasion. I can appreciate that as if we placed this today, if we were invaded by an advanced space-traveling race, there is little we can do to hold them off and civilization will crumble. In that sense the story transcends time.

I did find many passages very humorous but I think they were unintentional… the disorder and mayhem is described in such an English Victorian sensibility that I laughed many times. There is a particular chapter towards the very end which ended up being my favorite. It is when the narrator finds another living man and they discuss how there’s two types of humans, those who allow themselves to be captured and even enjoy the security of the capture because they are weak and lack the will to live. Then there’s the other type of person who refuses to be caught, mentally they are the survivors and eventually they will overthrow the invaders. It was the truest chapter in the book and though it lasted but a moment, it touched on the post-apocalyptic genre which I appreciated.

I think I will definitely be reading The Time Machine and the Invisible Man because apparently Wells is my jam.

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