By: H.G. Wells
Told through the eyes of an unnamed narrator, The War of the Worlds is regarded as one of science fiction’s first novels.
In this story, England is under siege from the terrifying and mysterious Martian forces who have come to slaughter and eliminate humanity. These invaders bring not only technology so advanced it’s nearly indestructible but also a red plant that grows so rapidly it will choke the Earth. Told over the course of several weeks, the narrator expresses the hopelessness and degeneration of society due to the Martian presence.
Humanity may be too weak to fight off this threat, but the Martians will soon find out that planet Earth won’t submit without a fight of its own.
Want to know what the most incredible thing about this novel is? It was written before the invention of flight! Originally published in 1898, The War of the Worlds came 5 years before the Wright brothers flew their first plane in 1903. The concept of space flight was impossible for humans at the time, so a grand story about space invaders from the fourth planet was new and exciting. Maybe even a little scary. That just blew my mind when I was reading this book, and it made me appreciate more what we know about space and space travel today.
It’s also the origin of the “heat ray.” Which is pretty darn cool.
I also appreciate how Wells jumps into the story and gets to the point quickly with a focus on the premise rather than the main character. There’s only so much you can say about an unnamed narrator, and I really enjoy stories where we don’t know who’s talking to us. Those kinds of characters always seem to make up novels where the focus is on what is being told rather than who is telling it. Here, it’s just some guy, and that’s so cool! Also, if you pay attention to some of the details early in the story, you will quickly figure out how it all ends.
If you are hoping for a story where all your questions are answered, this isn’t that kind of story. Due to the time this was written, there is some general hand-waving that goes into certain details, but that’s okay! It leaves something for the imagination even if the idea is far-fetched.
I’m glad that I finally understand why Steven Spielberg’s movie adaptation wasn’t well received. It was nothing like the book, but at least he succeeded in making the tripods terrifying. Those hundred-food machines were the coolest part of the story.
The War of the Worlds wasn’t perfect. It’s a relic of its time, but I think it’s great to imagine the kind of impact this story could have had over a century ago when the world was so different. We had no idea what was in store for us. If H.G. Wells could see humanity today, he would think we were the aliens.
Overall rating: 3