Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club
The War of the Worlds (1898)
A classic science fiction novel
Tor Books 1993 paperback
cover art by Alan Gutierrez
204 pages (left)
Signet Classics edition
cover art by Richard Clifton-Dey (right)
The War of the Worlds
10 Wow! Don't miss it
8-9 Highly recommended
5-6 Mild recommendation
3-4 Take your chances
1-2 Below average; skip it
0 Get out the flamethrower!
U Unfinishable or unreadable
- Skipped or no rating given
H. G. Wells - The War of the Worlds
H.G. Wells' vision of a Martian invasion grabs the reader's attention to this day; it must have been compelling in 1898. Often overlooked when people now discuss The War of the Worlds are the effective elements of horror, such the huge scale of death, the eerie desolation of the depopulated British countryside, and the Martians' vampirism. Many today think of Frankenstein as a horror story and The War of the Worlds as science fiction, but the two novels are each equal parts both.
There is little characterization in The War of the Worlds, and some of the storytelling devices are rather weak, for instance the way the story jumps without warning to the narrator's brother so that Wells can tell us what is happening in another location. On the other hand, I much prefer the way the battle with the Martians develops - with a few Martian tripods destroyed, giving false hope that humans may defeat them - to the George Pal film version where the Martians are entirely invincible.
As always with Wells, the metaphoric overlay of the story is interesting, although I am not sure I agree with the standard anti-colonialism interpretation of the book. I think Wells is more concerned with showing the humble state of mankind's development, the tenuousness of our civilization, and how poorly people would react to its crumbling. His examination of this subject is fascinating, although his depiction of the public's initial blasé attitude toward the Martians seems incorrect in light of Orson Welles' very different experience only a generation later. Perhaps people are less advanced than even H.G. Wells supposed.What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to
The War of the Worlds - US radio (October 30,
The broadcast, part of the Mercury Theatre on the Air series of plays, was produced by and starred Orson Welles. Adaptation of the novel by Howard Koch. A number of radio listeners panicked because they believed that the radio play represented a live newscast of an actual invasion from Mars.
The War of the Words - movie (1953)
Paramount. Starring Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, and Les Tremayne. Screenplay by Barré Lyndon. Produced by George Pal. 85 minutes.