10 February 2008
8. War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
More tripods! My first Wells!
This was an excellent book, and if you haven't read it, you should go get yourself a copy right now. The writing is excellent.
This is Wells's classic about Martians coming to Earth to attempt colonizing. Things go really well for the Martians and really badly for the humans. All of England is smashed, except for London. The people are in chaos and disorganized.
I won't spoil the ending, but I will admit that it completely took me by surprise.
I especially like how Wells described the breakdown of order and government. As the Martians are gassing the Englishmen, Wells writes, "Before dawn the black vapour was pouring through the streets of Richmond, and the disintegrating organism of government was, with a last expiring effort, rousing the population of London to the necessity of flight."
Just a little while later our narrator, trying to get back to his wife, tells us, "By ten o'clock the police organisation, and by midday even the railway organisations, were losing coherency, losing shape and efficiency, guttering, softening, running at last in that swift liquefaction of the social body."
As he travels the countryside, dodging the merciless, killing Martians, and crazy, sometimes violent humans the narrator meets with all kinds. He briefly teams up with a curate who loses his mind, meets up with an artilleryman whose dreams are bigger than his ability, and once, a group of would-be socialists who confiscate his pony and cart for the good of the people. (Maybe that was his brother, actually, who shares part of the narrative, but you get my point.)
And sparing me the political, thematic English teacher spiel is the afterword by Isaac Asimov who explains how the book relates to the Europeans' technological advantages and how they used them to colonize and spread uncaring destruction in their path.
And I thought it was a critique of how we don't take care of dangers until they have already passed. The artilleryman makes a long speech about how this invasion has, basically, thinned the herd, leaving behind only the strong, able, and independent.
Strongly recommended, though you have probably already read it.
Doc's review here and Olman's review here.