Thursday, March 25, 2010

Review of the Day: The War of the Worlds



The War of the Worlds is a perennial favorite. Every couple of decades, its popularity is regenerated with a new adaptation, most famously with Orson Wells’ 1938 radio production that convinced listeners that Martians were invading in real time, and most recently with Steven Spielberg’s 2005 blockbuster. But there is something to be said for revisiting the original – H. G. Wells’ 1898 novel.

The book is a monumental work of science fiction, both for its science and its fiction. The story itself is particularly exciting in the original because of its historical setting. Martians land in the suburbs of London and proceed to massacre the inhabitants with a terrifying heat ray and smothering toxic smoke. But this is the 1890s – the people have to fight back with infantry and cavalry troops. There are no tanks, no planes, no nothing.

The science gives the book depth beyond the adventure story. Wells provides a roadmap to late-Victorian popular issues, covering Darwinism, Marxism, microbiology, planetary science, military advancements, and even that Victorian favorite, botany. Discussion on these topics gives the reader ideas to mull over after the excitement fades.


NOTES
This counts as one of my books for the Typically British Challenge.

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