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.
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.
I always think that text and audio combine beautifully, it makes the experience all the more chilling to have it read aloud.
The great use of tension in the readers voice, really set the mood.
I have not, but I really want to hear more of his work.
I did it over a few days, due to time constraints, but I could easily listen to it in one sitting.
Even though the time frame is generations ago this is a fantastic book. This comes from a big techno-file. It amazes me this came from so long ago.
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.
Having never read "The War of the Worlds," I thought it was about time. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the narration.
One of my favorite Wells novels. Has some interesting comments on imperialism and colonialism embedded within the story. Definitely, worth a listen with Simon Vance as the narrator.
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