Extraterrestrial invasion, the earth taken over by omniscient intelligences from Mars, the whole of humanity under siege and a nameless narrator who seems to be the lone survivor of the complete devastation of human civilization scenes from a Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster? Far from it!
The War of the Worlds by HG Wells was written more than a century ago and went on to become an iconic work in the science fiction genre, spawning a whole new genre of literature featuring alien invaders.
It was in fact the first book to present the idea of conflict between inhabitants of different planets.
The story begins in an observatory in Ottershaw, when scientists note a series of mysterious explosions taking place on Mars. Some days later, the narrator who is on a walk on the Surrey Downs notices a weird cylindrical vehicle that suddenly opens to release a horde of hideous creatures who are later discovered to be Martians.
The creatures are unable to breathe Earth’s air and swiftly return to their vehicle. A peace delegation of humans tries to make contact but they’re ruthlessly scorched to death by Martian heat-ray weapons.
Thus begins the War of the Worlds. The British military swings into action, but their arms and ammunition are defenseless against sophisticated chemical weapons and heat-rays. Events race towards calamity as the nations of the earth unite to combat these fearful invaders to no avail.
Survivors are reduced to scavenging for food with the cities of the world reduced to mere rubble. Can the human race survive? Will the narrator and his family escape destruction? The author, HG Wells was a science teacher in a small village in Somerset, England.
However, he was also a gifted writer who wrote in several genres science fiction, literary novels, short stories, history, politics and social sciences.
A keen student of war and combat, he created a set of rules for playing war games with toy soldiers, which provides an interesting glimpse of logistics, strategy and close combat techniques. Wells’ contribution to our ideas of science fiction remains unparalleled and the book has been widely filmed, staged and televised.
The War of the Worlds was immortalized as a Halloween prank in a radio show that aired on CBS on October 30, 1938, causing widespread panic and chaos as listeners across the United States tuned in and began fleeing from their homes!
The enduring appeal of this book makes it a must read classic for readers of all ages.