The night after a shooting star is seen streaking through the sky from Mars, a cylinder is discovered on Horsell Common in London. At first, naive locals approach the cylinder armed just with a white flag - only to be quickly killed by an all-destroying heat-ray, as terrifying tentacled invaders emerge. Soon the whole of human civilisation is under threat, as powerful Martians build gigantic killing machines, destroy all in their path with black gas and burning rays, and feast on the warm blood of trapped, still-living human prey. The forces of the Earth, however, may prove harder to beat than they at first appear.
Student review by James Hobson, Cardiff University
…a review on why we shouldn’t let this work sink into the digital mire…
Few books ever written in human existence quite sum up the human presence on this planet, free of bias and religion quite like H.G. Wells’ seminal classic ‘War of the Worlds’ does. This book is one of the pillars that hold up the temple of literature written over the last few centuries. It, needless to say, is a classic. To this date, it was written 112 years ago, and as such has been in the literary consciousness of three generations of human beings.
Countless reviews have been published on the text and other many creations spanning all kinds of media that the text inspired. So you may say, why write another review on it? It is true that the world does not need another document telling potential readers of its incredibly lucid text. People know about Wells’ ability to convey scientific insight as well as fantastical imagery with equally as much import in the same breath. This is why the story, borne in a human beings’ head has been with us for so long. All great art is ahead of its time and is in a sense timeless. So the reason for my choice of review at this point in time is one of a call to people to actually read it.
Obviously hundreds of thousands of people have read the text, but what of our new generation? Our new generation that will seem to be trying to phase the printed word out with ‘useful’ digital alternatives to the beautiful tangible experience that is reading an actual book. This is to me what the ‘War of the Worlds’ says to us. It tells of our need to re-evaluate our position and frailty on this earth and make the most of everything we can. Of course, it is not likely that the world will end tomorrow or even next year, but as with all great art, this volume says to us very clearly that things could so easily be very different. But again all great art over time undergoes a strange institutionalisation. I use this word to illustrate the fact that most classics, being as ‘classic’ as they are, are seldom read by this new generation. People have heard the radio play, they have seen the films. They as a consequence know the story line and don’t see the need to read the original text. It is an unfortunate state of affairs that we could treat this work with such disconnection. Although it is a waste of time to reiterate how lucid the text is, as I said before, it will only pass by the new generation of reader as obvious trivia.
So why should someone, who has heard the plays and seen the films go out and buy this book? My answer is this. No radio play or film will ever quite compare to the book’s mood. A story told so effortlessly by such a visionary needs to be read, not seen or heard.
The story’s rich run of events undoubtedly make for an unputdownable book, and it is the authors opinion that few others are quite so thought-provoking. To be able to step back and objectively survey your own species’ existence on this earth is a very privileged ability. This book will enable anyone to do so. Until you read it you won’t quite understand the full value and import of the above stated gift.
The culmination of the events that make up the works’ 180 or so pages is quite the master stroke. The author will not outline it here, for faith in at least one or two people not knowing the story, but it comes from nowhere and is the perfect ending to a work as scientific as it is fancy. The events surrounding the end of the text (to use an overused phrase,) really put in perspective how perfect the situation is for our being able to live and breathe on earth for as long as we have. Make this one of your favourite stories for the reason that you have read it. It would be a travesty for the original text of this story to sink further into obscurity.
The excellent Penguin Classics publication of the text is available from the penguin classics website for £6.39.
A beautifully British, human-defining story from the ultimate scientist-cum-novelist of this or any lifetime. Try reading it. You will not be disappointed.