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H. G. Wells, a romantic sci-fi writer, is perhaps most known for his alien narrative, ‘The War of the Worlds’. A story that has been adapted countless times into TV shows, movies and even musicals. I think old science-fiction, such as the works of Wells and Jules Verne, are left under-rated, falling behind modern authors and, often becoming forgotten. But for me, the classics of science fiction, such as Orwell’s ‘1984′, Herbert’s ‘Dune’ or Adams’ ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy‘, should be celebrated alongside new texts. These stories have built modern sci-fi, creating the foundation for ever expanding concepts and universes. These forgotten narratives have formed ground-breaking precedent within the genre and should be forever emulated as the exceptional milestones they are.
Wells has created a unique and fascinating narrative in his most famous work, ‘The War of the Worlds’. I first picked up this book as part of my dissertation, making for a remarkable addition to my focus. Through Wells’ in-depth description of the Martians, explored through anatomical, psychological, and mechanical detail, he creates a vivid picture of the unknown. Despite the lack of sophisticated language, it is this in-depth imagery that makes Wells’ text so iconic.
Personally, I grew up listening to podcasts of science fiction novels such as ‘Day of the Triffids’, ‘The Kraken Awakes’, and ‘The Chrysalids’. My introduction to Wells came through George Orwell’s famous broadcast, played on a car journey to Scotland when I was 10. At a young age, the introduction of these concepts sparked my love of science fiction, making this somewhat of a nostalgic read for me.
I would, however, have liked to see the further development of the character of the narrator’s wife. She is given no name and remains merely an inconvenience throughout the narrative, as seems to be the case in many classic sci-fi novels. Yet, despite this, the character of the narrator, as well as his brother, are two I find very compelling. His reaction to the invasion as well as his interaction with other characters, in particular the solider and the curate, is remarkably realistic, creating a haunting air to the already eerie narrative. His reaction to the Martians is one of both fear and curiosity, a reaction I hope would be mirrored were we ever to face extra-terrestrial visitors ourselves.
My favourite quote has to be:
“The chances against anything manlike on Mars are a million to one”.
This reminds me so much of the Orwell edition I grew up listening to as well as the musical editions I have watched in later life, keeping this text as a well-loved classic in my mind. Over lockdown, I watched an amazing musical revival of Jeff Wayne’s score with a holographic Liam Neeson cast onto the stage as the narrator. This featured a live orchestra and the appearance of a 30-foot Martian on stage. Wayne’s musical score is one of my favourites; something I’ve kept on vinyl and played repeatedly over the years; the ultimate throwback for a nostalgic night stuck inside.