The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells - New
The story is set in England "early in the twentieth century" and begins with a quote of Johannes Kepler and a introduction given by the protagonist "No one would have believed...". After that, the unnamed narrator (the protagonist), a writer of speculative scientific articles, is 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 that the object is a space-going artificial cylinder launched from Mars. The cylinder opens, disgorging the Martians—bulky, octopus-like creatures of the size of a bear—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 projected from a Martian weapon.
After the attack, the narrator takes his wife to Leatherhead to stay with relatives until the Martians are killed; upon returning home, he sees firsthand 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. These three 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 therefore 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. On the way to London he sees the artillery man again. They eat together and talk about how the artillery man wants to restart human civilisation. 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.
About the Author H.G. Wells
Herbert George Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946),better known as H. G. Wells, was an English writer best remembered today for the science fiction novels he published between 1895 and 1901: The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, The Sleeper Awakes, and The First Men in the Moon. Wells and Jules Verne are each sometimes referred to as "The Father of Science Fiction". He was an outspoken socialist and a pacifist; his later works becoming increasingly political and didactic. His middle period novels (1900-1920) were more realistic; they covered lower middle class life (The History of Mr Polly) and the 'New Woman' and the Suffragettes (Ann Veronica). He was a prolific writer in many genres, including contemporary novels, history, and social commentary.
Wells's first non-fiction bestseller was Anticipations (1901). When originally serialised in a magazine it was subtitled, "An Experiment in Prophecy", and is considered his most explicitly futuristic work. Anticipating what the world would be like in the year 2000, the book is interesting both for its hits (trains and cars resulting in the dispersion of population from cities to suburbs; moral restrictions declining as men and women seek greater sexual freedom; the defeat of German militarism, and the existence of a European Union) and its misses (he did not expect successful aircraft before 1950, and averred that "my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocate its crew and founder at sea").
His early novels, called "scientific romances", invented a number of themes now classic in science fiction in such works as The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, When the Sleeper Wakes, and The First Men in the Moon (all except When the Sleeper Wakes have been made into films). He also wrote other, non-fantastic novels which have received critical acclaim, including Kipps and the satire on Edwardian advertising, Tono-Bungay. Wells wrote several dozen short stories and novellas, the best known of which is "The Country of the Blind" (1904).
Though Tono-Bungay was not a science-fiction novel, radioactive decay plays a small but consequential role in it. Radioactive decay plays a much larger role in The World Set Free (1914). This book contains what is surely his biggest prophetic "hit." Scientists of the day were well aware that the natural decay of radium releases energy at a slow rate over thousands of years. The rate of release is too slow to have practical utility, but the total amount released is huge. Wells' novel revolves around an (unspecified) invention that accelerates the process of radioactive decay, producing bombs that explode with no more than the force of ordinary high explosive— but which "continue to explode" for days on end. "Nothing could have been more obvious to the people of the earlier twentieth century," he wrote, "than the rapidity with which war was becoming impossible... [but] they did not see it until the atomic bombs burst in their fumbling hands." Leó Szilárd acknowledged that the book inspired him to theorise the nuclear chain reaction.
Wells also wrote nonfiction. His bestselling two-volume work, The Outline of History (1920), began a new era of popularised world history. It received a mixed critical response from professional historians. Many other authors followed with 'Outlines' of their own in other subjects. Wells reprised his Outline in 1922 with a much shorter popular work, A Short History of the World, and two long efforts, The Science of Life (1930) and The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (1931). The 'Outlines' became sufficiently common for James Thurber to parody the trend in his humorous essay, "An Outline of Scientists" — indeed, Wells's Outline of History remains in print with a new 2005 edition, while A Short History of the World has been recently reedited (2006). From quite early in his career, he sought a better way to organise society, and wrote a number of Utopian novels. Usually starting with the world rushing to catastrophe, until people realise a better way of living: whether by mysterious gases from a comet causing people to behave rationally (In the Days of the Comet (1906)), or a world council of scientists taking over, as in The Shape of Things to Come (1933, which he later adapted for the 1936 Alexander Korda film, Things to Come). This depicted, all too accurately, the impending World War, with cities being destroyed by aerial bombs. He also portrayed the rise of fascist dictators in The Autocracy of Mr Parham (1930) and The Holy Terror (1939), though in the former novel, the tale is revealed at the last to have been Mr Parham's dream vision.
H. G. Wells in 1943
Wells contemplates the ideas of nature versus nurture and questions humanity in books such as The Island of Doctor Moreau. Not all his scientific romances ended in a happy Utopia, and in fact, Wells also wrote the first dystopia novel, When the Sleeper Wakes (1899, rewritten as The Sleeper Awakes, 1910), which pictures a future society where the classes have become more and more separated, leading to a revolt of the masses against the rulers. The Island of Doctor Moreau is even darker. The narrator, having been trapped on an island of animals vivisected (unsuccessfully) into human beings, eventually returns to England; like Gulliver on his return from the Houyhnhnms, he finds himself unable to shake off the perceptions of his fellow humans as barely civilised beasts, slowly reverting back to their animal natures. Wells also wrote the preface for the first edition of W. N. P. Barbellion's diaries, The Journal of a Disappointed Man, published in 1919. Since "Barbellion" was the real author's pen name, many reviewers believed Wells to have been the true author of the Journal; Wells always denied this, despite being full of praise for the diaries, but the rumours persisted until Barbellion's death later that year.
In 1927, Florence Deeks sued Wells for plagiarism, claiming that he had stolen much of the content of The Outline of History from a work, The Web, she had submitted to the Canadian Macmillan Company, but who held onto the manuscript for eight months before rejecting it. Despite numerous similarities in phrasing and factual errors, the court found Wells not guilty. In 1934 Wells predicted that another world war would begin in 1940, a prediction which ultimately came true. In 1936, before the Royal Institution, Wells called for the compilation of a constantly growing and changing World Encyclopedia, to be reviewed by outstanding authorities and made accessible to every human being. In 1938, he published a collection of essays on the future organisation of knowledge and education, World Brain, including the essay, "The Idea of a Permanent World Encyclopaedia."
Near the end of the second World War, Allied forces discovered that the SS had compiled lists of intellectuals and politicians slated for immediate execution upon the invasion of England in the abandoned Operation Sea Lion. The name "H. G. Wells" appeared high on the list for the "crime" of being a socialist. Wells, as president of the International PEN (Poets, Essayists, Novelists), had already angered the Nazis by overseeing the expulsion of the German PEN club from the international body in 1934 following the German PEN's refusal to admit non-Aryan writers to its membership.
The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells - New
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