Book Log

Book Log #17: The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells

By modern standards, The War of the Worlds isn’t much of a plot: Martians come and take over the world, everybody goes OHNOEZ!, Martians conveniently are beaten not by any efforts of the protagonists, but rather by a deus ex machina (which I will not identify, on the off chance that someone reading this review might not actually know what that deus ex machina is). That said, this story is still totally worth reading just for it being one of the very first SF stories, and for the general style and atmosphere that Wells sets up with a Britain falling apart under siege.

I found it interesting that not only was the narrator never identified by name, in keeping with the style of the time, but neither were his wife, his cousin, or any other characters he encountered. Rather, people were identified by their careers and/or general functions in life. This fosters a nice sense of these people less as individuals and more as representatives of humanity falling to the Martians. It makes it a bit hard to keep track of who is who, though, especially when large chunks of the narrative shift over to the narrator’s brother (presumably with the conceit that his brother told him later what he’d done and seen).

Wells’ focus on Britain is pretty much to be expected, and I never got any real sense that the Martians were invading globally–especially when at the very end, you learn that other nations bestowed much aid upon poor beleagured Britain. It’s fun, too, to see what bits of actual science he gets right in his assumptions for how the Martians work as biological creatures and what is just made up right out of whole fantastical cloth. And while the narrative as a whole lacks in overall structure, look for the sequence towards the end, too, when the narrator and a curate are trapped underground on the rim of a Martian pit, which is decently suspenseful and creepy. Overall, three stars.

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