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The War of the Worlds | [H. G. Wells]

The War of the Worlds

First published by H. G. Wells in 1898, The War of the Worlds is the granddaddy of all alien invasion stories. The novel begins ominously, as the lone voice of a narrator intones, "No one would have believed in the last years of the 19th century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's."
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Publisher's Summary

First published by H. G. Wells in 1898, The War of the Worlds is the granddaddy of all alien invasion stories. The novel begins ominously, as the lone voice of a narrator intones, "No one would have believed in the last years of the 19th century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's."

Things then progress from a series of seemingly mundane reports about odd atmospheric disturbances taking place on Mars to the arrival of Martians just outside of London. At first, the Martians seem laughable, hardly able to move in Earth's comparatively heavy gravity, even enough to raise themselves out of the pit created when their spaceship landed. But soon the Martians reveal their true nature as death machines 100 feet tall rise up from the pit and begin laying waste to the surrounding land. Wells quickly moves the story from the countryside to the evacuation of London itself and the loss of all hope as England's military suffers defeat after defeat.

With horror, the narrator describes how the Martians suck the blood from living humans for sustenance and how it's clear that man is not being conquered so much as corralled.

(P)2009 Tantor

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  •  
    Peter South Windsor, CT 11-01-13
    Peter South Windsor, CT 11-01-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Great story. Great read."
    Any additional comments?

    Having never read "The War of the Worlds," I thought it was about time. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the narration.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David 10-28-14
    David 10-28-14 Member Since 2010

    Indiscriminate Reader

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    "The first, the greatest alien invasion story"

    It's pretty much impossible not to know the plot of this hundred-year-old sci-fi classic, the granddaddy of all alien invasion stories, the inspiration for all Mars fiction ever since, even stories without Martians. The ravaging of London, the iconic tripods, the inhuman, ululating Martians, probably everyone is familiar with Wells' story even if only a fraction have actually read the book.

    I'm guilty of not reading the original until now, though I've read and watched countless adaptations and tributes.

    Wells's story moves along with the first person narrator experiencing the coming of the Martians, falling in cylinders shot from a great cannon on Mars. At first they seem weak and helpless, being just gelatinous bodies without the strength to move about in Earth's gravity, and even after they display their heat ray, no one really considers them an existential threat - the army will show up soon enough to sort them out.

    Once they rise up on their hundred-foot-tall tripods, however, they prove to be an unstoppable force. The British army gives them a bit of a fight at first - the Martian war machines are not impervious to artillery shells - but between poison gas and heat rays, they're soon killing everything in their path, laying London to waste, and driving six million people into panicked flight.

    The narrator makes his way across a ruined London, finds himself trapped in a house beneath a Martian war party, and experiences the horror of their dining habits and the madness of his fellow survivors.

    As a straightforward sci-fi story, of course, this was a frightening tale of alien invasion. But it's also frightening in its description of what almost becomes a post-apocalyptic landscape. The great metaphor of The War of the Worlds, of course, is the domination of less technologically advanced civilizations by stronger ones who feel entitled to take what they need and prey on their inferiors. In other words, Wells describes the British being treated as they have treated others, and the coming of the Martians is no less devastating to England than the coming of the English must have seemed to the natives of Africa, India, and North America. Wells makes this point very effectively without ever harping on, hence one could choose to totally miss it and see the novel as just a SF war story. But then you'd be missing the true dimensions of the horror Wells is describing.

    As a novel, The War of the Worlds is more of a travelogue, in the style of Wells's 19th century contemporaries, than an adventure story. The narrator never actually does much, just bears witness to what the Martians do. The strength of the story is in the gruesome details about the Martians, and the havoc they visit upon hapless Earthmen.

    It may appear to be faded with age, but it must have been quite the hair-raiser back in the day, as evidenced by the famous Orson Welles broadcast that terrified America.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim United States 08-29-14
    Tim United States 08-29-14 Member Since 2010

    My reviews are honest. No sugar coating here.

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    "Sci Fi that Remakes Over and Over"

    I've always thought Steven Spielberg's version of War of the Worlds was a bad remake from the original in 1953. The remake was just awful and I had no interest at reading the book until now. I have always pass up H. G. Wells "The War of the Worlds", because why read the book when every few years, they remake some version of the martian, alien, doomsday story, over and over.

    I'm one of those naysayer that favors the novel over the movie. In "The War of the Worlds", the book is a million times better than the movies, tv shows, and even the infamous radio drama. I can't put my big toe on it, but H. G. Wells wrote this book over a century ago and the book has this ageless science fiction that could had been written just yesterday or in the future.

    We always had this fascination of extra terrestrial landing on Earth and probing us in our butts, or aliens, invading the world and somehow with the help from a genius from scientist and out military, they save the day. Whatever is in the script, the story always remain the same from some adaptation of H. G. Wells.

    I would like to take this review a step further. "The War of the Worlds" has always been the premise of all comic books, action hero movies and certainly all science fiction. Before you think that my review is lame, just think about this. In most superheroes, some kind of foreign enemy comes down from the sky, causing mayhem to all. Magically, a superhero appear from the dust and all becomes well and the aliens either dies or go back to their planet and "until next time..."

    The analogy is always the same from Wells' book. Martians comes from Mars and the Narrator somehow figures out that the Martians are starting to die from a disease that humans are immune to. This is no different from any movie portraying the hero defending the universe.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marie 05-16-14
    Marie 05-16-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Fascinating, without Tom Cruise"

    Not at all what I expected. I had watched the 1953 movie starring Gene Barry but never considered when the story originally took place. I had no idea the book was written in 1897 and was set in England rather than California. What I found most surprising was that attitude of the populous to the arrival of Martians. Until the Martians began to attack, there was no panic or civil disorder. The people seemed very willing to accept the existence of Martians.

    I found the story intriguing. As always, Simon Vance is a superb narrator.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sam Motes Tampa 05-12-14
    Sam Motes Tampa 05-12-14 Listener Since 2009

    Audible obsessed lifelong learner.

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    "Gripping tell of terror"

    A classic in the SciFi genre and a very chilling read. Very dated at times but the world on the brink of snuffing on humanity makes for a gripping read. The sub plot of preserve fence against all odds comes through loud and clear.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Drew (@drewsant) Watertown, MA, United States 04-14-14
    Drew (@drewsant) Watertown, MA, United States 04-14-14 Member Since 2009

    Post apocalyptic listener with some thrillers mixed in. Follow me on twitter at @drewsant

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    "Paints a vivid picture"

    It’s amazing to think that ‘War of the Worlds’ was written at a time when there was very little use of electricity, no planes and most people got around on horses. The vision of Wells is unmatched. The story is a bit lacking on action but it paints a vivid picture putting the reader right in the middle of the invasion.

    Well narrated by Mr. Vance.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie W. Capell Milwaukee, WI USA 04-14-14
    Julie W. Capell Milwaukee, WI USA 04-14-14 Member Since 2007

    notthe1

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    "The Ur SciFi Novel"

    This is one of those books I try to read every ten years or so. It contains so many of the seminal ideas of science fiction that even today, more than a century later, there is scarcely a science fiction book that does not riff on several of the same concepts. All the tropes are here: alien invaders, weird new technology, government forces valiantly attempting to protect Earth, the last man standing. But there is so much more. The protagonist is the epitome of Joseph Campbell’s “everyman” hero going to hell and back. On the journey, he ruminates about everything from germs to the place of humans in the cosmos. I love the way Wells describes everything in perfect detail, not just everyday things like how the English countryside looked after the Martians ravaged it, but also how Mars looked through the telescopes. I imagine how he would have taken particular care to describe such a sight, which ordinary readers of the time might never have seen. We take for granted the abundant photos of space that we are exposed to every day on our computer monitors, television sets and in movies. But in the late 1800’s, I suppose it was much less common to see such images. Wells’ descriptions are much more potent than most writing I pick up today. Even after so many adaptations have been done, on radio and in movies, the scariest Martians are still those that attack us from his printed page. (On this occasion, I listened to the book via my smartphone. The reader, Simon Vance, did an excellent job.)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phebe Joppa, MD, United States 03-29-14
    Phebe Joppa, MD, United States 03-29-14 Member Since 2011
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    "The movie carefully follows this book"

    Nothing like this ever was ---- a novel published in 1897 that prefigured powered flight, space travel, poison gas, lasers, and alien invasion from outer space. This is a short, exciting novel vividly read by the great reader Simon Vance, and I recommend people listen to it rather than read it: Vance makes it much more exciting than one can do reading silently to oneself. Every detail of the story was interpreted in modern terms in the Tom Cruise War of the Worlds movie and it's a lot of fun to listen to this book and then watch the movie and consider the parallels: the fleeing population, the loud moaning tripod-machines, the blackbirds at the end. The movie vividly illustrates the Martian takeover exactly as the book describes it in all its living red color. I appreciate the respectful homage paid by Hollywood to this great pioneering scifi story.

    Our hero is quietly reading his paper at breakfast when news comes of a big crater splashed into the nearby Common from something large falling out of the sky. Many people go to see, and watch as a large cylinder unscrews at the top and strange beings emerge. A deputation arrives to parley, but talk is not what the Martians are after. Very bad things start to happen to the people, the town, London, and the countryside. More and more cylinders fall to Earth from Mars. A few people survive, but only by chance and only temporarily. It is the planet Earth itself that rejects the invaders.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Oz 06-28-14
    Oz 06-28-14 Member Since 2012
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    "In a word: Boring"

    It appears that most people loved this novel, so my opinion is a contrarian one: I found it extremely boring.

    The first 2/3 of the novel mostly talks about people's reactions, or lack thereof, to the landing of the aliens. The aliens themselves only appear in a handful of scenes. The story just goes on an on about news in the papers which said this, then they said that, this rumor, that rumor, such and such misinformation. And when the aliens reach the cities, hear about people running away by boat, people running away by train, people running away by foot, WHATEVER.

    Towards the end of the book, the author switches gears and focuses on our hero, and his specific circumstances. He manages to make this micro view of the happenings more interesting.

    My recommendation is to spend your credits elsewhere.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
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