Title: The War of the Worlds
Author: H. G. Wells
Genre: Fiction, classics, science fiction
Where I got the book: I purchased this book through Bokkilden.
My rating: ★★★☆☆
Summary: The first Martians land in Woking, Surrey, arriving in large artificial cylinders. A curious group of spectators approach them with a white flag but shockingly, they are incinerated by a Heat-Ray. The Martians then begin to assemble their Fighting Machines; massive three-legged machines that make them near invincible. The humans are powerless and can only attempt to escape alive as the newcomers cause boundless destruction. But, there is one crucial factor the Martians did not consider.
“For a time I believed that mankind had been swept out of existence, and that I stood there alone, the last man left alive.”
– The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells
H. G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds” was first serialized in 1897 and is considered one of the earliest science fiction stories ever written. It has inspired many adaptations through the years and even influenced the work of several scientists.
I think this can just as much be seen as a book on human nature as a book about Martians invading Earth. It is a depiction of humanity’s struggle to survive while facing a power that is much greater and stronger. However, at the same time Wells points out that mankind have also been savage, ruthless, and greedy in their ways throughout history, and therefore we’re not really in any position to harshly judge or blame the Martians for what they have done. Also, if we think we are superior to other animals, then the Martians must think they are superior to us much in the same way. These are some points that I found interesting, introspective, and valid. It also fits as a social commentary on the British Empire, which is one of the common interpretations of this novel.
However, I honestly have to say that I found the majority of this story to be plodding along. A Martian invasion is definitely an exciting and promising premise, and when we consider the time period it was written in (1895-1897) it’s absolutely very forward-thinking, thorough, and innovative. However, I think there’s very little characterization to speak of here. Sure, there are some philosophical and interesting passages that depicts different aspects of human behavior, but the characters themselves remained very flat and distant for me. The language is rich and quite beautiful but mostly descriptive, and most of the time everything is described from a distance – people in various situations, the Martians themselves, the Martian instruments, and the surrounding environment. The narrator just happens to be in the middle of the chaos (and conveniently enough he is extremely lucky on several occasions), but he is also in a way removed from everything as he is literally telling us his story after the actual event. This type of narration therefore falls into a certain pattern that is basically just a retelling of what happened. It has a “and then, and then, and then” quality to it that I personally don’t find engaging enough. If this book had been any longer I would have thought it very tedious to read.
I’m also not sure what I truly think about the ending. On one hand it is clever and actually very plausible, and I kind of did like this way of “solving” the problem as it was somewhat unexpected. On the other hand however it also felt a bit too easy and anti-climactic. I admit I was left thinking “that’s it?” after I was done reading, so I have mixed feelings about it.
Overall I’m glad I finally got to read this famous classic and I do appreciate how ahead of its time and inventive it is. This writing style and type of narration just isn’t my kind of thing, and in the long run the book simply failed to properly engage me.