Comments on Classics posts often contain spoilers,
so go read the book first and then come back. It’s ok, I’ll wait.
The War of the Worlds – 1898 – H.G. Wells
In a nutshell:
Martians invade England with plans to take over the world.
I was reading Felix J. Palma’s The Map of the Sky recently and thought it was about time I read H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. Mr. Palma seems to be getting me to read a lot of Wells’ work lately, The Invisible Man will be coming up soon in anticipation of The Map of Chaos.
The first two-thirds of the story read like a victorian disaster novel. This part wasn’t as interesting to me since I’ve seen the modern equivalent plenty of times with the usual mass panic, running, and destruction. However, at the time, it must have been riveting.
The last third, however, was the most interesting. I find the psychology of people surviving in a post-apocalyptic world to be fascinating. What do you do? How do you handle it? The narrator’s time trapped in a house with a good view of what the Martian’s were doing, and his conflict with his cumbersome curate companion were the most illuminating. The narrator managed to hold it together while the religious man fell apart. I suppose that might happen when you’re presented with something you can’t fit into your beliefs in a positive way. The proximity to the Martians gave us such wonderful information about their anatomy, how they fed on human blood, and how they might have evolved on their own world. It was very well thought out.
When the Martians dominate the planet, humans are reduced to prey, scurrying for cover like rabbits. The suggestion that the Martians will learn to domesticate humanity, the way we have domesticated cattle and the like, was as frightening as it was practical.
In the end, humanity was useless in stopping the threat, but bacteria, something we think of as so much less worthy than ourselves, managed to wipe out the invading force. We’ve convinced ourselves of our own superiority, but how strong are we really? Supposedly, Wells wrote this story in response to the colonization of the time, turning the tables, and highlighting the horrors of such a fate. Like all good science fiction novels, it makes you think. Until next time…