Orson Welles famously scared everyone half to death during his one hour radio play adaptation of The War of the Worlds. The first forty or so minutes were presented as a emergency broadcast relating events of a real invasion. Welles narrated the radio play in one of the best pranks ever. If you have been reading these reviews for a while now you may have noticed a certain science fiction trend in the books I choose. I am making my way through the ‘top 100 Sci Fi novels’ and The War of the Worlds sits pretty at no. 20.
The War of the Worlds tells of the invasion of earth by martians at the turn of the 20th century. This has been a frequently rehashed idea and even ignoring the genre which it birthed there are multiple war of the worlds movies and sequels and plays and adaptations galore. The idea of aliens arriving from space and attacking humanity clearly has a hold on the imaginations of entire generations of people and this novel (and it’s offshoots) explore a few key aspects of humanity and civilization with the lovely clip and pace of 1900s London (perhaps the most civilized civilization there ever was…) and it is thoroughly readable. Last year I read The Time Machine and I enjoyed that immensely. The War of the Worlds is, simply put, a better tale. The narration is better, the ebbs and flows are numerous and unexpected, and the characters are much more real.
The narrator tells of his own experiences during the invasion of earth by the enormous tripod martians, as well as his brothers experiences and a few of the people he meets during his flight from the war zone his home had become. Personally I quite like this narration style, it feels like sitting beside the fire and listening to stories with family during winter. The individual ebbs and flows are lost in translation to film, especially when the 2005 version staring Tom Cruise takes only the title, the description of the ‘baddies’, and the ending, and then jam it full of Hollywood dross to pad back out to 90 odd minutes. If there is another war of the worlds film I really hope they do it right and go with the late 1800s ascetic (so I can steampunk in my head…) and show the Maxim Guns firing while the hussars charge the alien tripods to no effect and then are cut down by the heat ray and so forth. Pipe Dream I’m sure…
There isn’t much to say about one of the most innovative novels ever written that hasn’t been said before. The War of the Worlds is a masterpiece of fiction and definitely one of the finest novels I have ever read. This, I’m sure, is Wells’ best work and if you are like me and want to experience alot of different writers then this is a great place to start.
Read it now!