“This isn’t a war,” said the artilleryman. “It never was a war, any more than there’s war between man and ants.”
This is one of the original and most famous alien invasion stories. It is set in Victorian England just before the start of the twentieth century when Great Britain was at the height of its colonialist ambitions. The unnamed narrator tells his tale in the first person in prose which is crisp and eloquent.
His step-by-step chronicle of the invasion is fascinating and the scenes involving the invading Martians really stand out. These initial accounts of the emerging Martians are thrilling. I felt a sense of wonder at what the author was describing and got completely caught up in the story, turning page after page to discover what happened next.
“I think everyone expected to see a man emerge. […] But, looking, I presently saw something stirring within the shadow: greyish billowy movements, one above another, and then two luminous disks—like eyes. Then something resembling a little grey snake […] coiled up out of the writhing middle, and wriggled in the air towards me—and then another.”
Equally exciting are the scenes in which the narrator is hiding with a terrified curate in the ruined remains of a house. As the clergyman’s sanity unravels, the Martians draw ever closer to detecting the two men. Wells’s depictions of the poor man’s gradual loss of his wits, as well as the narrator’s reactions to the dangers inherent in this, are harrowing. This is page-turning storytelling of the highest order.
If you have only seen the movie adaptations then I wholeheartedly recommend this book to you. Treat yourself to the pleasure of Wells’s journalistic prose. It’s written in such a matter-of-fact way that you will find yourself believing it before you know it. Yes, this really happened, in another reality perhaps, or it could happen still. With all of our so-called advanced defences and weapons of war, how much of a fight could we really put up against superior invaders?
“We must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its own inferior races. […] Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?”