Author: H.G. Wells
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Science Fiction
Encouraged by the Sci-Fi reading challenge I joined this year and accompanied by a love for classics, I decided to go to the roots of the genre and read the first and most acclaimed authors of Science Fiction. Following Jules Verne’s A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, I grabbed H.G. Wells’ masterpiece The War of the Worlds. Popularized by its several adaptations (including Orson Welles’ legendary broadcast and Spielberg’s box office hit), this book continues to amuse its readers and keeps standing firmly as a must read.
The War of the Worlds narrates a martian invasion at the beginning of the twentieth century, following the protagonist’s struggle to get reunited with his wife while trying to hide from the aliens.
Though written in first person, this book isn’t so much about the characters. Their names are not mentioned, nor are we told much about their lives and personalities. The protagonist describes the events without making it very personal, and he even explains this throughout the book: “At times I suffer from the strangest sense of detachment from myself and the world about me, I seem to watch it all from the outside, from somewhere inconceivably remote, out of time, out of space, out of the stress and tragedy of it all.” Nevertheless, in this detached way of description, he tells us about his and other people’s reactions to the martian attacks, which I think is one of the most interesting things about the book. Their behaviour is irrational and inexplicable, and I like that because it makes us feel they’re real and human. Besides, the protagonist is not one of those insanely brave heroes fighting back the enemies. He’s just a regular guy who’s trying to survive and get back with his loved ones.
What is great about this book (and others of the sort) is that you can just stay on the surfarce and enjoy it, or go deeper into its layers and never finish exploring it. Wells did a good job entertaining us, but behind that he had other interests in writing the book. He used it to depict and criticize some aspects of the time he was living, directly or by way of a metaphor (like the Martian invasion as a mirror of British imperialism), which provides us with plenty of material to analyse. Being a Sci-Fi writer, Wells also took the most recent scientific discoveries (Darwin’s evolution theory, sightings of strange lights and canals in Mars, etc) as the foundation for his book, and speculated about the technology and weapons aliens would have (the latter of which turned out to be disturbingly similar to the weapons invented years later for both World Wars). As I was saying, there are many aspects to explore in The War of the Worlds, definitely more than the ones I’ve mentioned, and is this complexity what I think makes it so fascinating.
Though interesting all the time, I found some parts of the book a bit dull, contrasting with others that were immensely compelling. My least favourite parts of the book were the ones told from the point of view of the protagonist’s brother. They’re just a couple of chapters, and then we don’t get to know anything else about the character, what bothered me a little. But then again, I don’t think Wells was particularly interested in the character when he wrote those chapters, and it is overall a clever device to show us a wider picture of the incident (the protagonist and his brother live in different areas of London, thus they see different things). My favourite chapters were In the Storm (I could feel the desesperation! and those last lines were superb), What I Saw of the Destruction of Weybridge and Shepperton (and the later encounter with the curate) and The Man on Putney Hill (there were so many amazing quotes in the conversation in it, that I ended up taking note of the whole chapter). The description of the Martians in What We Saw from the Ruined House was amusing as well.
I really think The War of the Worlds enters in that list of books to read before you die. It will particularly appeal to Sci-Fi lovers and to those who like classics, though I think it is an interesting read for the public in general. It is imaginative, complex, gripping, and as if that wasn’t enough, it was written by a pioneer of the genre. ●
– Written by GuadiRC –