Sunday, January 5, 2014

On "The War of the Worlds" by H. G. Wells ****

While Wells's Time Machine seemed silly to me, though it had certain philosophical ideas behind it that were interesting to think about, this work seemed the opposite. The plot was compelling, but there seemed to me to be a lot less in terms of interesting ideas behind it. Still, I'd take War of the Worlds any day, because a good story is kind of essential to a good novel.

A few things did strike me of interest in this book, however, beyond the plot. One was the matter-of-fact manner in which Wells reported the story. The novel reads like a true account by a man who was on the ground where aliens have landed. Hence, he's at times caught up in things that seem perfunctory, and beyond that, as a reader, one is left wondering what exactly is the deal with these aliens and eventually whether humanity itself will survive. In that sense, the book seemed like an account of war from the point of view of a civilian, and that was the sense in which the book seemed the most affecting to me. Life changes a lot obviously in such a situation--and quickly. And yet, misinformation and the slow spread of information means that many aren't aware of what is happening at any given moment. Hence, some continue life as normal even as an invading army begins to take its toll in part of the country; then later, people panic, not knowing exactly what is about to occur or what has.

The other thing that was of interest to me was how the novel plays out versus the way Orson Welles's famous radio play does. It was, in fact, quite an adaptation, for Wells's book is in many ways more of a standard book, matter-of-fact tone notwithstanding.

Beyond these things, another item of interest were the enemies themselves, whose technology is vastly superior to human technology and whose main goal is to harvest humans for blood, the means by which these creatures live. It's a gruesome idea fully described on a par with some other more-recent science fiction. In this sense, humans are reduced to something akin to farm and hunting animals, which makes for commentary, I suppose, on how we deal with nature ourselves.

The book is in the public domain and can be accessed here.

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