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

Nov 5, 2018

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

The suburbs of north London are an unlikely spot from which to witness the total breakdown of society, and yet in 1897-8 that is what happened—at least in the imagination of H.G. Wells. In The War of the Worlds Martians lands in Woking, and then make their way remorselessly towards the capital, wreaking chaos, death, and destruction. The novel echoes anxieties about a possible invasion of Great Britain at the turn of the century, and growing concerns about imperial expansion and its impact, while drawing on the latest astronomical knowledge to imagine a desert planet, Mars, turning to Earth for its future. The Martians are evolutionarily superior to mankind, and the fate of civilization remains in doubt until the final pages. Disturbingly realistic and peopled with believable characters, the novel exemplifies the mixture of scientific scepticism and vivid imagination that made Wells the father of modern science fiction.

This new edition and introduction examines the literary and social climate in which Wells wrote and lived, and contains notes on contemporary geographical and cultural references.

This book was a pleasant surprise. I did not know what to expect from this book as I’ve never watched the movie. What surprised me the most was how long ago this was written. It was written in the late 1800’s. I never realized that. Growing up, I always thought this was written in the 30’s or something like that. This just astounds me. It’s incredible to me to think that H.G. Wells had so much imagination in the 1800’s to think of such a story. Admittedly, I don’t know how prevelant the concept of aliens are.

What really intrigued me about this book was how it ended. These huge giant Martian monsters are wiped out only due to their own biology not being able to cope with Earth’s environment. I never saw that coming. When I think about it, it would be totally plausible. What I’m surprised at is how the reverse didn’t happen as well. Think about all the different bacteria and viruses on Mars!

Everything else about this book is very typical science fiction. Of course, there is the scene where a man loses his mind during the apocalypse. People are largely in disbelief during the onset of the invasion. Masses killings. The military trying their best and pretty much failing at killing aliens.

I don’t want to say this fell flat for me but it was a pretty average book. That doesn’t mean the significance of it is lost on me. I can imagine this made a big splash back then. And H.G. Wells is a very good writer. Definitely worthy of being a classic!