The War of the Worlds

by H. G. Wells
Reviewed date: 2004 Dec 2
Rating: 3
224 pages
cover art

Plot synopsis: Martians invade England and sack London. Nineteenth century Earth weapons are no match for Martian Heat-Rays and their deadly Black Smoke; Man's future looks bleak. Then the Martians all die of disease. Humanity is saved. The End.

The Significance: Published in 1898, The War of the Worlds is one of the very first science fiction books. Because he was first, H. G. Wells has been imitated often, but it is instructive to remember that he wrote it first. H. G. Wells thought up a whole raft of ideas that later became staples of science fiction tales, but perhaps his most-imitated idea is that of Aliens Invading The Earth.

Alien invasions stories have become so mainstream that today we scarcely recall that someone had to think up the idea in the first place. The recent blockbuster movie Independence Day bears a striking resemblence (in theme if not in specific plot points) to The War of the Worlds, and yet War of the Worlds is so far from the minds of the public, and alien invasions are such a cliche, that this connection is rarely acknowledged.

But just because it was first does not mean it was best. I found it a chore to read, mostly owing to the style of writing. Students of literature may want to read War of the Worlds to understand more about the origins of the science fiction genre, but otherwise I cannot recommend the novel.

The copyright on War of the Worlds has expired, so it is freely and legally available online at Project Gutenberg: The War of the Worlds

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