A review of “The War Of The Worlds” by H G Wells

In my teenage years, I read quite a lot of Wells and studied “The History Of Mr Polly” at school. However, while over the years I saw film and television versions and even listened to a musical interpretation of “The War Of The Worlds”, I was 72 before I eventually read the novel which was first published as long ago as 1897. I was prompted finally to read this classic work by a chance visit to Horsell Common in Surrey where, in the narrative, the first Martians landed (at the time he wrote the novel, Wells lived in nearby Woking).

From the opening words, the reader is gripped:“No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own”. From then on, we are introduced to the cylinders from Mars, the Martians themselves, their towering tripods, the Heat-Ray, the Black Smoke, and the Red Weed. There is a wonderful chapter, entitled ‘What We Saw From The Ruined House’ which provides graphic details of the Martian anatomy including the practice of taking blood from living creatures – preferably humans – and injecting it into their veins.

The imaginative and exhilerating story of this fateful month is told in the first person by an unnamed “professed and recognized writer on philosophical themes” (clearly a stand-in for Wells himself) and, at times, there are some existential musings in the text. I read the novel during the global pandemic occasioned by the coronavirus and it is a neat irony that – spoiler alert – the Martians were finally felled by Earth’s tiny and invisible bacteria.


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