Thursday, 3 July 2008

The War of the Worlds

Title: The War of the Worlds

Author: H.G. Wells

Number of pages: 172

Started: 28 June 2008

Finished: 3 July 2008

Opening words:

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.

Plot summary:

The night after a shooting star is seen streaking through the sky from Mars, a cylinder is discovered on Horsell Common in London. At first, naive locals approach the cylinder armed just with a white flag only to be quickly killed by an all-destroying heat-ray, as terrifying tentacled invaders emerge. Soon the whole of human civilisation is under threat, as powerful Martians build gigantic killing machines, destroy all in their path with black gas and burning rays, and feast on the warm blood of trapped, still-living human prey. The forces of the Earth, however, may prove harder to beat than they at first appear.

Synopsis taken from Amazon.

What I thought:

I enjoyed this book and can see how it has been really influential on later science fiction – I could definitely see elements of The Day of the Triffids in it. It was a very descriptive book and was very good at conjuring up images of London (although I might be at an advantage as I know a lot of the places it referred to). The thing I had to keep reminding myself was that the invaders were more intelligent than humans. It was easy to think that man would automatically superior when actually we were up against a far more formidable foe, who learnt quickly and was beyond man’s ability to defeat. Really interesting read. I didn’t like it as much as The Day of the Triffids but it was well worth reading.

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