“We lose ourselves in books, we find ourselves there too."

Spooky book in March – okay then!

“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; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”

When an army of invading Martians lands in England, panic and terror seize the population. As the aliens traverse the country in huge three-legged machines, incinerating all in their path with a heat ray and spreading noxious toxic gases, the people of the Earth must come to terms with the prospect of the end of human civilization and the beginning of Martian rule.

“By the toll of a billion deaths man has bought his birthright of the earth, and it is his against all comers; it would still be his were the Martians ten times as mighty as they are. For neither do men live nor die in vain.”

The War of the Worlds is a prototypical work of science fiction which has influenced every alien story that has come since, and is unsurpassed in its ability to thrill, well over a century since it was first published.

“This isn’t a war,” said the artilleryman. “It never was a war, any more than there’s war between man and ants.”

Wells depicts humanity in the shoes of the invaded party and pictures the invaders as an alien race of bloodthirsty molluscs — which, in itself, sounds like a veiled but stark criticism of Western imperialism and sense of superiority. But, as it turns out, Wells’s prophetic vision was not so much that of a War of the Worlds with extraterrestrial invaders, but precisely a vision of the World War between fellow humans, that would break out some twenty years later, with a technological arsenal not unlike that of the Martians (cf. mechanised artillery, chemical warfare, surgical strikes).

“Few people realise the immensity of vacancy in which the dust of the material universe swims.”

Later still, when the Second World War began, and the Nazis were about to invade the whole of Europe, Orson Welles remembered this old tale about a Martian invasion. He turned it into an incredibly relevant radio sensation. The masses of refugees, described by H. G. Wells, fleeing the war in a disorderly and life-threatening manner is a sight anyone may witness even today, despite all the concrete walls or steel fences that are supposed to stop them.

“I was a battleground of fear and curiosity.”

The War of the Worlds seems so realistic in many ways. In fact, on October 30, 1938, there was a radio broadcast that adapted The War of the Worlds, changing the invasion point from England to New Jersey. People who listened on the radio actually thought that it was real!

“We can’t have any weak or silly. Life is real again, and the useless and cumbersome and mischievous have to die. They ought to die. They ought to be willing to die. It’s a sort of disloyalty, after all, to live and taint the race.”

You can find this wonderous sci-fi masterpiece on Amazon

Until next time,

Keep reading,

D x

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