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The War of the Worlds

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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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.

Confusing passage...

"He taught me euchre, and after dividing London between us, I taking the northern side and he the southern, we played for parish points." Can anyone explain to me what this means? What are "parish points"? Was London religiously divided around the early 1900's? They were competing, figuratively speaking, for parishes perhaps?

Perfect prose = beginning of this book...

I honestly think that the beginning of the War of the Worlds is the best prose I've yet encountered. It is just so gripping, cold, and hostile; it manages to set the tone to the absolute perfect pitch. Honestly, I was surprised to find prose of such caliber in a sci-fi book. Truely an unexpected surprise. An astounding book all-in-all, but I still believe the beginning to be the most exceptional portion. Does anyone else agree?

Did Wells ever do an illustration of the fighting machines?

I have seen dozens and dozens of depictions of the Martian tripods, and all of them seem to be different, making it difficult for me to imagine what Wells actually intended the fighting machines to look like. This begs the question, "Did Wells ever do any sketches or drawings of what he himself thought the tripods looked like?"

Best reprint with original illustrations?

Hello Everyone, I want to read War of the Worlds, but I'd like to have all the accompanying illustrations from the original if possible. Can someone please suggest a reprint with all the original illustrations? an ISBN number would be appreciated. Thank You.

War of the Worlds vs Time Machine

I have read the War of the Worlds and the Time Machine both by HG Wells and am looking for imput on the themes connecting the two. They dont have a whole lot in common but am trying to draw something from the veiw of technology or something from them. Like the advancement of technology cannot stop the progression of nature. The martians die from bacteria and the evolution of the Eloi end up leaving them as "cattle" dispite being the upper class. I dont have much to work with and would love any and all ideas

War Of The Worlds as social commentary

Looking a little into the sensibilities and social commentary of H.G. Wells one can see that The War Of The Worlds was addditionally part of his ongoing crusade towards the need for the establishment of social democracy as the ultimate form of government. For this reason (amongst others) he is regarded as something of a prophet on scientific and social development. Wells loathed the purely Capitalist (now labelled Neocon) view of the world that he saw as causing the atomisation of society into enclaved groups of haves and have-nots. The director John Carpenter has continued this crusade for the modern generation with his society/sci-fi genre along with the writings of Kurt von Vonnegut. In a very Scandinavian style of sensibility, he sensed the animalistic nature of society that would descend to the lowest common denominator of "me-ism" without the establishment of an underlying perpetuating values system whereby common folk could trust themselves to a system devised for the greater common good. This may seem very paternalistic and colonial in nature but Wells did perceive that people are very fallible (all too human) and far from being as "unknowable" as we presume ourselves to be, this cohesive system would be infinitely preferable to Law of the Jungle style economics. By demonstrating some of the main types of basic humanistic reactions to an event such as the invasion of Martians (or hurricane in New Orleans, if you will) he categorises a range of human emotions within each sub-type (soldier, padre, astrologist, common citizen, rich, poor, etc.) and casts himself as a member of the American 4th estate (journalist) as eternal seeker of truth. The intention is to demonstrate (through the defeat of the invaders by the simplest organism on the planet) that Man is not nearly as clever as he or she perceives themselves to be without a cohesive society from within which to operate..

This is how it's done!

Being a self-proclaimed WotW enthusiast, I've read the book several times. This is how it's done. Eloquent writing, beautiful descriptive prose, and an exciting story. An all-around perfect book. 10/10. Personally, my favorite chapter is the first appearance of the Tripod-fighting machine. It's really actually quite frightening. Particularly coupled with Edward Gorey's eerie illustration for that chapter. Or Peter Fussey's one. But, they're all great. This is a masterpiece. Literally.

War of the Worlds

Art imitating life is the best way of describing the latest Spielberg film, War of the Worlds. When huge spider-like 'Tripods' stalk the American landscape in search of more blood to suck out of the terrified masses who run in vain to escape, we become witness to a CGI special effects extravaganza of mass destruction being meted out by aliens intent on world domination. --and they are apparently unstoppable. H.G. Wells' classic sci-fi novel (written in 1898), terrifies us to this day with its horrific tale about invaders from another world whose planned harvesting of the earth is carried out with cruel precision as they mobilize their machines into action. The terror and chaos that follows in the wake of the devestating power and command that these invaders are capable of, reminds us of another kind of domination attempt taking place in this country and elsewhere throughout the world. More at Glass Onion

Theme Development

This is one of the greatest books I have ever read. I had to read it for my grade 11 book report and I could not put it down. The only thing that I am having trouble with is the theme and the theme development. I think that I have the basic theme of "The main theme of the book The War of the Worlds is the human response to and how we can cope with disasters. In this story, the disaster is the invasion of Earth by Martians. The disaster is used to show how different people react to disasters. One person might question their faith, while another might question their abilities and someone else might question their beliefs.", but I could really use some advice on wheather I am right or wrong and how this theme is developed. Any help would be greatly appreciated, I am not great at finding things like this I just like to read books, not comment on them.

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