jueves, 10 de octubre de 2013

The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells

Summary from Goodreads:
Cover by Luis Prado for Recovering the Classics

The night after a shooting star is seen streaking through the sky from Mars, a cylinder is discovered on Horsell Common near 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 civilization 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. The first modern tale of alien invasion, The War of the Worlds remains one of the most influential of all science-fiction works.

I once read The Time Machine and thought it was a boring parable. I actually found the film way more interesting. Accordingly, I dismissed H.G. Wells as one of those authors whose novels haven't aged well. Fast forward to last year, when one of my required readings was a novel by (you guessed it) H.G. Wells. In this case, The Island of Dr. Moreau. And I was utterly surprised at the relevant questions that novel posed to modern readers (you can read my review here). It fortuitously coincided with my reading of The Map of Time, in which Wells is a central character, which reinforced my curiosity about Wells. I actually reviewed that novel earlier at All the Pretty Books.

So this year I had planned on reading the sequel of The Map of Time, which is based on The War of the Worlds. And I thought I better read it first. And this is even better than the other two Wells' novels I've read! It is entertaining, "fast-paced" and poses relevant questions, as any good sci-fi should. It simply hasn't aged. 

What I like best about Wells' novels are the different layers of meaning you can find in them. But I won't comment on the parallelism with British colonialism nor will go into the actual meaning of the different characters because there are already many reviews covering that aspect.

The impact of the Martian invasion on the British population is realistically portrayed. Unlike modern films where the whole world population unites against a common enemy and there are heroes aplenty, there's panic, cruelty and disorganization, people going mad, people with good intentions and little stamina or courage to make them come true and people who take advantage of the situation and of everyone else. I believed wholeheartedly the transition from a quiet Sunday (Saturday?) morning reading the paper to apocalyptic life with no measure of time or civilization.

I also enjoyed the descriptions of Martian physiology and botany, and the ending, even if I'm starting to suspect that Wells had a little fixation on The Origin of Species. I now find it hard to believe that life, and particularly that of a species so similar to us, could have evolved without a prokaryotic stage. But OK, no bacteria in Mars. I can live with that speculation for this story because it was well rendered and nobody knew much about cell evolution when this was written.

So now I'm on a quest to read more H.G. Wells! Any recommendations?

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