My all-time favorite novel from my all-time favorite author. While THE WAR OF THE WORLDS is commonly grouped in with classics of science-fiction, I think that there’s enough terror, destruction, and desperation to also place it as a classic of horror.
Everyone knows the basic plot of the story—Martians are invading Earth and wiping out the human race with giant walking metal machines (referred to as the “tripods” as they walk on three metal legs). However, I find when talking with people that most are more familiar with the various film adaptations and the infamous radio drama than they are with the original novel.
In the novel, Wells paints a bleak and savage extermination of mankind. People are burned alive, drown, and crushed with little to no hope of being able to fight back against the invaders. My personal favorite scene in the book (that rarely is in the adaptations and when it is, it’s dramatically toned down) deals with two steamships attempting to evacuate refugees that are attacked by tripods. It culminates with a steamship going on a suicide mission against the tripods to buy time for people to escape. It’s one of the only glimpses of hope in the story and yet, even then, it involves many people dying just to buy time for others to run.
I’ve come across criticisms of ending. Some find the whole Martians dying by germs conclusion to be anti-climatic compared the rest of the story. I think it fits perfectly. The attack from the Martians has nothing to do with humanity and the end of the war has nothing to do with humanity. In many ways, this is playing with Lovecraftian ideas of cosmic horror decades before Lovecraft. Humans just don’t matter and we’re little more than a nuisance in the grand scheme of the universe.
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