The War of The Worlds–Vintage SciFi Not-a-Challenge Review

A couple questions you probably have:

1. Why only ONE update last week?–Well, see, my school concluded its interim  month (a month where students either study abroad or take a course taught by a professor about their particular area of interest/expertise) and in the ensuing break, the anime club that I am a proud member of had its annual 24-hour marathon. After actually staying awake through most of that, I was understandably exhausted and also became mildly sick. So, that’s why that happened. Sorry.

2. Why on Earth am I devoting a post to a classic H.G. Wells novel when there are more important things to talk about? Well, the Little Red Reviewer has been challenging people to review vintage sci-fi books all month and since this is the second to last day of January and I just finished it, that’s why.

(This is the version I have, printed in 1964.)

I’m guessing most of you who know about this book know about the ending. I did too, and I won’t spoil it here, but it is an interesting ending, not what you’d expect.

Actually, that’s a good way to describe Wells’  1898 novel: “not what you’d expect.” Given that Orson Welles’ famous radio adaptation largely focuses on depicting the invasion through a series of news broadcasts, the 1953 film version shows the front lines of the Human-Martian war and the 2005 film version focuses on a father and his kids, you’d think it would be more bombastic. But really, it’s not.

The bulk of the story is just the main character, a writer whose name is never revealed, struggling to survive in the shadows as the Martians first invade the English countryside and then storm through London. Apart from a brief interlude focusing on his also unnamed brother, that’s it; we’re just watching this one guy try to survive. He doesn’t try  to fight the Martians, he doesn’t try to communicate with them, he just tries to stay alive. But that macro-scale approach to things makes it ultimately more human; if such an invasion did happen, especially in this point in history, the average person would be cut off and isolated, and try to go it on their own rather than become a hero.

That human approach is what makes it more interesting instead of boring; Wells’ narrative voice, as well as the way he establishes the characters of those the narrator meets, is very strong and in control, carefully pacing out details when we need them and never going full on into detail.

So, it’s pretty easy to see why this book has inspired so much in SF. Because that’s one of the best kinds of SF for me: the kind that show an impossible thing happening, then showing how the ordinary person reacts to it. It’s truly remarkable. Recommended.

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