The War of the Worlds – H. G. Wells

I’ve been dying to read War of the Worlds for quite some time now. I actually bought a copy at one point from a book fair without realizing that it was the large-print, illustrated, abridged version. Oops. So I eventually downloaded it on my iPhone and read it with iBooks, and it was just as awesome and I had hoped/expected it would be.

The unnamed narrator begins by telling us of several explosions seen on the surface of the planet Mars, raising much interest in the scientific community. Later, when a “meteor” lands in Horsell Common, southwest of London and near the narrator’s house in Woking, he (along with many of the townspeople) go to the crater to explore. They find a mysterious metal cylinder that, the narrator is one of the first to realize, opens to disgorge Martians—giant, slimy, squid-shaped beings. As predicted by the narrator, they struggle to cope with Earth’s gravity and retreat back into the cylinder. Almost immediately, the Martians show their hostility when they use a heat ray to incinerate a group of men offering a white flag.

As the Martians begin to assemble their machinery, the narrator and his wife flee to Leatherhead, where she has relatives. He leaves her there and returns to Woking to discover that the Martians have built enormous three-legged fighting machines and are destroying everything in sight, the multitudes of human armies scarcely giving them pause. The rest of the story is a harrowing account of the narrator’s experiences as he wanders through the burned out towns surrounding London, desperately trying to avoid the Martians as more and more cylinders crash into Earth.

This was a fantastic story. I’m really loving H. G. Wells—I might just have to get myself a boxed set or anthology of his work one of these days! (Ahem, Andrew, if you’re reading, this would make a very good birthday/Christmas present!) I love his “factual account of true events” style. I also found it kind of amusing—but also sort of annoying—that the narrator seemed to look down on all the people who were running around screaming and panicking. I mean, who wouldn’t?? Yes, I realize it’s unproductive to do such a thing, but rational thought often goes out the window at times like those…

I can’t decide if now I’m more or less interested in seeing the Tom Cruise War of the Worlds movie. Maybe just for a fun action movie? But I can’t help but think I would just seethe the whole time about how different everything is. Has anyone seen it (who has also read the book)? Has anyone seen it period and would recommend it just for a fun movie to watch?

Anyway, it’s nice to FINALLY cross this one off my list—and off The List! I would definitely recommend this to anyone who has a taste for science fiction.

A

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8 thoughts on “The War of the Worlds – H. G. Wells

  1. I avoided the Tom Cruise version after my disappointment with The Time Machine remake they did when I was in High School. There’s just something awesomely historical (and quintessentially British) about the way Wells wrote it and the time period that I decided I wanted to leave it there.

    • Yeah, I think I agree. I always have trouble turning off the “This wasn’t in the book” part of my brain, and Tom Cruise is just…no. But on the other hand, maybe it’ll be SO different that I’ll actually be able to keep them separate in my head.

      I think my conclusion is probably that if I’m FORCED to, I guess I would see it…but I won’t actively seek it out.

      Also, you’re totally right about how “quintessentially British” it is. That’s one of the things I love about Wells–you can really get a sense of the historical time period he’s writing in.

  2. This was one of the books that has made SUCH an impact on me (along with Tolkien) about the way that I read and experience stories.

    It’s a tough story to translate to the screen because the journalist is essentially a watcher, not “doer”. In Cruise’s version — which I think they tried to stick to essential parts of the story — this comes across as somehow “wrong” — shouldn’t the protagonist be DOING SOMETHING!?!? That and the shaky camera made me want to puke. In the classic 50s film, they made the protagonist a scientist that was working with the army to combat the Martians which made him more pro-active. Of the two, it works much better as a film adaptation.

    However, BY FAR my favorite adaptation was a concept album released by Jeff Wayne in 1978 with Richard Burton as the narrator/journalist and a host of then-important musicians providing the score.
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Worlds-1978-Studio-Cast/dp/B0000025CO
    I think you can stream it on Spotify, too. It’s a wonderful way to while away a couple of hours and definitely still keeps the sense of its “Britishness”.

  3. I’ve read two books by H.G. Wells so far and I really like his books. I haven’t read this one yet or seen the movie, although I’ve heard the movie is quite good. Maybe I’ll pick this book up and then see the film and do a comparison. I really enjoyed reading your review! 🙂

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