The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

At the end of last year, I finally read H. G. Wells’ 1898 science-fiction classic, The War of the Worlds, spurred on by the release of the BBC’s new adapted TV series.

The War of the Worlds is a groundbreaking, Victorian tale of a Martian invasion, which has gone on to spawn over a dozen TV, radio and film adaptations, as well as becoming a prototypical work of science-fiction which has influenced pretty much every subsequent alien story that has been written! So much so, it is firmly ingrained into our cultural psyche, meaning we all sort of feel like we know the story even without having read it.

After reading it for myself, I can understand why it has so gripped and influenced the literary world. Through the eyes of an unnamed narrator, Wells gives us a first person experience of the danger, panic and terror that takes hold of the inhabitants of Southern England, as abhorrent alien creatures start traversing the country in monstrous, three-legged machines, that incinerate all in their path with a heat ray and spread noxious gases.

This is a pretty frightening tale for a modern-day reader, so I can only imagine what it would have been like for the first Victorian readers! Especially as Wells not only creates an alarmingly plausible alien, but they also have deadly, superior machinery which brings the real prospect of the end of human civilization. Both of which would have tapped into real fears of the industrious Victorians: to see all their hard work, progress and exploration beaten and destroyed.

Having now read this and The Time Machine, I really do think Wells is a genius in his imagination and a real trailblazer in this new genre of science-fiction, which was spurned by the industrial revolution and the new forward thinking optimism. Yet Wells does not offer his readers a rosy view of the future, instead it gives us a very bleak view! It is almost unbelievable what he was writing at this time and even with the contemporary setting, the ideas and story still feels so modern!

My only niggle, as with The Time Machine, was the narrator. In this case, I just didn’t really feel we got to know him that well and what we did find out of him didn’t make me particularly like me. Which overall makes the tale feel a little detached and impersonal, that takes away some of urgency and empathy I could have otherwise had for the narrator’s plight. As both of Well’s characters remain nameless, it does feel like they are more vehicles for his fantastic tales, rather then being intrinsic as characters in themselves.

All in all, The War of the Worlds was a slow, steady, enjoyable read for me, with some really ground-breaking ideas and futuristic vision. I can see how this book is still capturing the human imagination, well over a century since it was published. This is making me think I need to add more of Wells’ novels to my Classics Club list. Good read.

I’d love to hear your thoughts: Have you read this? Have you read any of H. G. Wells other novels? Which do you think I should read next?

 

This is book #14 for my Classics Club II.

14 thoughts on “The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

  1. I’ve never read this but I did see the older movie version (from the 50’s maybe?) and thought it was a well done movie for its time. I’m also fascinated by the whole Orson welles thing and how apparently peope really thought there was an invasion happening! that’s amazing to me the hysteria it must have caused in some quarters. Anyway- great review and now I want to read this!

    1. Thank you Greg – I am very pleased you enjoyed my review and now it has wetted your appetite, I hope it won’t be long till you have chance to read this for yourself! πŸ™‚

  2. I have not read any of H G Wells’s books. I did see the 2005 adaptation of War of the Worlds, starring Tom Cruise. Really all I know about Wells is that he was the father of Rebecca West’s son. And that was not a happy thing for anyone. This all sounds so gossipy but there you have it.

    1. Judy, I have also saw the 2005 film adaptation, which I enjoyed at the time but having now read the book, I realise that except how the aliens/machines look is pretty much all that the film has in common with the book! 🀣

  3. I have the two you’ve named here in my TBR. Though I’ve not read it, I seem to remember seeing a film version of The Island of Dr. Moreau. (maybe the 1977 version?)

    I’d have to go dig through my vinyl LP collection, but I believe I have the 1938 Orson Welles radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds, released later in that format.

    1. Kelly, shockingly I know, I haven’t actually listened to Orson Welles’ 1938 radio adaptation?! 😳 However I know the music and I have watched the 2005 film starring Tom Cruise, which other than how the aliens look/are it is otherwise not anything like the book! I hope you will enjoy the books on your TBR. πŸ™‚

  4. I re-read all five of his major science fiction classics recently and enjoyed them all. I agree about the impersonal feeling of the narrator, but there are so many ideas in it that more or less make up for that lack. I thoroughly enjoyed The First Men in the Moon – it’s mostly lighter in tone and good fun. And I loved The Island of Dr Moreau, though it’s very dark and disturbing with some horrible images of vivisection.

    1. Thank you, FF – I will certainly have to keep The First Men in the Moon and The Island of Dr Moreau in mind to add to my Classics Club list, although will perhaps not be reading the latter before bed. πŸ˜‰

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