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Thread: Thoughts on War of the Worlds

  1. #1
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Apr 2012
    Reading, England

    Thoughts on War of the Worlds

    I think the book must have been explosive when it first appeared, but somehow I did not find it very gripping. I suppose this is the book we can trace back from all those tedious alien invasion films. It is slightly interesting to me because I am somewhat familiar with the west of London towns mentioned in the book. The late C19th seemed to be an interesting period for literature. The earlier great Victorian novelists were dead. Shorter books were becoming popular. The newer novelists were strikingly different. In technology, they had the telegraph but not radio. They had steam engines, but still relied on horses for personal transport. These are some of my thoughts I noted down while reading the book.

    Ch 1 - The narrator assumes Mars was warmer in the past and that life was there when Earth was molten, but that it had cooled. It had cooled because it was smaller than the Earth, as if he thought the planets' surface heat came from the planets' molten cores - wrong.

    The narrator thinks that Earth will cool and be like Mars one day. Well the Earth's seas will evaporate and life start to die off, but that would be due to increasing heat from the sun.

    The narrator refers to the persecution to extinction of other animals, and inferior races, in particular, the Tasmanian Aborigines. This is interesting, so British persecution of the Tasmanian Aborigines was known about. Note, a modern author would never dare call another race inferior, though.

    Ch 5 - The heat ray could be an infra-red laser.

    Ch 8 - The narrator refers to an ultimatum made to Germany. I've read before there was a climate of militarism in Europe in the 1890s.

    Seems unbelievable that the events of that days would not have spread more panic, even without radio.

    Green smoke - what could that be, chlorine?

    The narrator refers to a Martian element with 4 lines, unknown on Earth. It sounds like they put it through a spectrum analyser. Scientists had discovered most of the naturally occurring elements by 1898, but there were a few gaps in the Periodic Table.

    The black smoke used by the Martians put me in mind of the gas warfare of WW1, and also the fear of it at the start of WW2, when Britons were issued with gas masks.

    How many Martians were there, and did they only land in the south of England? It seems that there were not very many of them. I think there were ten pods with a few Martians per pod. Britain was the greatest superpower at the time and London was the biggest city in the world, so maybe the Martians decided to tackle it first.

    One ship, Thunderchild, got lucky and destroyed two Martians before getting destroyed itself. The Royal Navy was vast then. Mightn't they have put up a bigger fight?

    If the Martians landed today, I doubt they'd have it all their own way. The soldiers managed to destroy one with their field guns. Modern targeting systems are much more effective.

    The refugee stream is reminiscent of Dunkirk.

    It was a bit unlucky for the narrator to be in the house right next to where a Martian pod landed.

    Part 2 Ch 2
    It becomes increasingly obvious that the Martian invasion failed. Interesting narrative device.

    Did the pods slow down at all before hitting the Earth? That's a lot of kinetic energy.

    Why wouldn't Martian technology include wheels? Does that mean Martian machinery did not have gears, shafts or other rotating bits?

    Ch 8
    The narrator says there are no microbes on Mars. Seems odd. Today scientists would look for life in the form of microbes where conditions are too tough for higher forms of life to exist.

    Ch 10
    The narrator says the secret of flying was discovered from the Martian flying machine. Surely it was just an engineering problem by then. They knew about aerofoils. It was just a question of putting a light but powerful engine on a frame with some wings and away you go. Difficult to do with a steam engine I imagine, but internal combustion engines were around by then. The Wright Brothers' first flight took place about five years after the book was published.

    The narrator refers again to the unknown element. What equipment was used to analyse it: mass spectrometer, chromatography, spectrum analyser? Each element has a signature spectrum response. An electron in a lower shell absorbs light above a certain frequency to jump to a higher shell. When the electron drops back to a lower shell, it emits light at a certain frequency. I think it's something like that anyway. I think there were still a few gaps in the Periodic Table in 1898, but why would these elements be more abundant on Mars than on Earth? He says this element was combined with Argon. Argon is a Noble gas that barely reacts with anything, so that does not sound likely.

    The narrator says the Martians may have tried landing on Venus. Venus is more inhospitable to life than Mars, so that does not sound likely.

    The narrator says the sun is getting cooler. No it's not. It's getting hotter.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  2. #2
    Registered User Calidore's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Re. Venus:. It wasn't discovered until the late 1960 and 1970's just how incredibly hostile atmospheric and surface conditions are on Venus. Based on knowledge to that point, SF writers often portrayed it as a life-friendly tropical world of jungles and swamps or planet-spanning oceans.
    You must be the change you wish to see in the world. -- Mahatma Gandhi

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