Sunday, July 15, 2012
GREAT OLD NOVEL: THE WAR OF THE WORLDS H. G. WELLS
"In another moment the huge wave, well-nigh at the boiling point had washed upon me. I screamed aloud, and scalded, half blinded, agonised [sic], I staggered through the leaping, hissing water towards the shore. Had my foot stumbled, it would have been the end. I fell helplessly, in full sight of the Martians, upon the broad, bare gravelly spit that runs down to mark the angle of the Wey and Thames. I expected nothing but death."
"Surely if we have learned nothing else, this war has taught us pity -- pity for those witless souls that suffer our dominion."
H. G. Wells' 1898 novel The War of the Worlds, besides bringing into being the whole genre of invasion from outer space and alien life forms, is a brilliant novel written in a style that is still quite vivid and accessible today despite its being a work of the 19th century. Wells' distinctive and descriptive prose brings to shuddery life a true horror and science fiction story of an invasion by completely inhuman antagonists. The martians themselves are fully described early in the book, and their terrifying rampage across England in giant war machines as they employ devastating heat rays to decimate the population is fully experienced by the reader through the eyes of the narrator, a journalist separated from his wife. [His brother's adventures are also described.] There is so much going on in the book that it could be said that characterization is not its strong point, but Wells manages to get across much of the psychology of the narrator and supporting characters, such as a curate with whom he temporarily hides away from the martians. The War of the Worlds is also a book of ideas, as Wells' explores the alien nature of the would-be conquerors, their uses for the human race, how they feed and build their machines and so on, and possible ways that humanity might react to both being invaded and conquered. The book is suspenseful, action-packed, and genuinely creepy, and superior to all of its cinematic adaptations.
Verdict: Still a great read after all these years. A masterpiece. ****.