Bookish Discussions

H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds:



‘No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own’

Rating: 3 stars

Read: 9 October – 11 October, 2018


Well, I can tick another #Victober book of the list! I’ve been wanting to read The War of the Worlds for a while now; I mentioned how my dad would regularly play the 1978 musical version of the novel when I was growing up, so I’ve always been connected to it in a weird way. Although it didn’t live up to those expectations, I still found elements of the story that I loved. If you’re unfamiliar with the novel, here’s how my PEL summaries it:

In this pioneering, shocking and nightmarish tale, naïve suburban Londoners investigate a strange cylinder from space, but are instantly incinerated by an all-destroying heat-ray. Soon, gigantic killing machines that chase and feed on human prey are threatening the whole of mankind. The War of the Worlds‘ journalistic style contrasts disturbingly with its horrifying visions of the human race under siege.

I had my own version of the story in my head, which was created from the musical, yet I hadn’t listened to that in years. I clung to this image, which was my biggest downfall. Of course the novel wasn’t going to live up to those nostalgic expectations, and I shouldn’t have expected otherwise. That leaves the question of ‘if those expectations didn’t exist, would I have enjoyed the novel more?’ I guess we’ll never know…

Let’s start with the positives, shall we? I really enjoyed the first book, ‘the coming of the Martians’, for it’s frightening tone. I thought Wells described the creatures so brilliantly; they were unsettling, and so vivid. He described the terror they brought with them so minutely that, at times, I found myself getting anxious. I started to question what we, as a modern society, would do in the place of these characters. How would we cope? and, more importantly, survive? It’s a book that makes you think, which are the best kind of books.

I also found the scientific narrative very interesting. Science played, unsurprisingly, a massive role in the novel, and I thought Wells wrote about it brilliantly. He explored subjects such as the importance of natural selection, of how science and technology is limitless, of space travel (although instead of humans travelling to outer space, it was the Martians), and of the dangers of human evolution. For such a small novel, there was a lot packed into it. I’m not really into science-fiction, but this is definitely an exception.

So, the negatives. There was really only one, but it definitely affected the way I read and engaged with the novel. The narrator was very distant from the story, despite it being his experience. He felt like an omniscient narrator, because he knew everything that was going on, but he was living the experience. I didn’t like the narrative breaks; it would jump from his story to that of his brother’s. I found this quite jolting and frustrating. I more interested in his reality than his brother’s. I can see why Wells chose to write like this, but I didn’t like it at all.

All-in-all, I thought it an interesting novel but at times slightly boring. I must admit, I enjoyed it a lot more than The Time Machine. I can understand why The War of the Worlds is at the top of the science fiction canon – the Martians were utterly brilliant!

Have you read The War of the Worlds? or any other H.G. Wells’ fiction? Let me know your thoughts!

Thanks for reading, Lauren X


7 thoughts on “H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds:

  1. I’ve read two by Wells: The Invisible Man and The Time Machine. I found both only okay. 😦 I think they’d have been AMAZING back in their day, but I wasn’t on the edge of my seat in 2018. Of the two, I prefer The Time Machine, because I did find the last several pages very interesting. I wasn’t sure I liked Wells all that much, or got the hype, but I’ve heard his An Outline of History is excellent, & I just recently learned he was a feminist in full support of female suffrage. AND (though I haven’t read it) he wrote a novel about a suffragette (which may or may not be good?) THEREFORE, I shake his hand and will certainly try more.

    Apparently (I read this in Vera Brittain’s Testament of Friendship), when Winifred Holtby learned she was very likely fatally ill, she decided to call Wells and ask him to chat, because she would normally have been too intimidated, but at that point, what did she have to lose? So she did, and he invited her over for a long talk. Capital fellow!


  2. I read this for the first time earlier this summer and was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did and I really liked how easy and smooth the storytelling was. Definitely want to read more of Wells, though based on what you said, I’ll not rush into The Time Machine any time soon haha.

    Liked by 1 person

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