This story is set in the early 20th century, and begins with the unnamed narrator, a writer of speculative scientific articles, visiting an observatory in Ottershaw on the invitation of a "well-known astronomer" named Ogilvy. There he witnesses an explosion on the surface of the planet Mars, one of a series of such events that arouses much interest in the scientific community. An unspecified time later, a "meteor" is seen landing on Horsell Common, near London. The narrator's home is close by, and he is among the first to discover the object is a space-going artificial cylinder launched from Mars. The cylinder opens, disgorging the Martians: bulky, tentacled creatures that begin setting up strange machinery in the cylinder's impact crater. A human deputation moves towards the crater and is incinerated by an invisible ray of heat.
After the attack, the narrator takes his wife to Leatherhead to stay with relatives until the Martians are killed; upon returning home, he sees first hand what the Martians have been assembling: towering three-legged "fighting-machines" armed with the Heat-Ray and a chemical weapon: "the black smoke". The tripods smash through the army units now positioned around the crater and attack the surrounding communities. The narrator meets a retreating artilleryman, who tells him that another cylinder has landed between Woking and Leatherhead, cutting the narrator off from his wife. The two men try to escape together, but are separated during a Martian attack on Shepperton. More cylinders land across the English countryside and a frantic mass evacuation of London begins; among the fleeing swarms of humanity is the narrator's brother, who is thrown together with the wife and the younger sister of a man named Elphinstone; the three of them eventually gain passage on a ship, crossing the English Channel to safety. One of the tripods is destroyed in the Shepperton battle by an artillery barrage and two more are brought down in Tillingham Bay by the torpedo ram HMS Thunder Child before the vessel is sunk, but soon all organized resistance has been beaten down, the Martian-imported red weed runs riot across the landscape, and the Martian war-machines hold sway over much of southern England. The narrator becomes trapped in a half-destroyed building overlooking the crater of one of the later Martian landing sites. He covertly witnesses the Martians close at hand, including their use of captured humans as a food supply through the direct transfusion of their blood. He hides together with a curate, who has been traumatized by the attacks, and is behaving erratically. Eventually the curate starts loudly proclaiming his repentance. Terrified that they will be heard, the narrator knocks the curate unconscious, but the man's body is discovered by the Martians and dragged away. The narrator barely avoids the same fate, and the Martians eventually abandon their encampment. The narrator then travels into a deserted London where he discovers that both the red weed and the Martians themselves have abruptly succumbed to terrestrial pathogenic bacteria, to which they have no immunity. The narrator is unexpectedly reunited with his wife, and they, along with the rest of humanity, set out to face the new and expanded view of the universe which the invasion has impressed upon them. --Submitted by Anonymous
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