The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

Wells, Herbert George. (1898, 2013).The War of the Worlds. Wilder Publications; United States. 

This tale, one of the most commented-on works in the world of science fiction, takes place in what readers typically imagine to be a safe, relaxed setting – Surrey, Essex, and London – with an unnamed protagonist and his brother (Wikipedia article). It’s all rather non-threatening until the Martians start to invade Earth.

The War of the Worlds was one of the earliest stories to describe a conflict between mankind and an extraterrestrial life form; since its publication, the story has generated not only countless other tales about human-Martian interaction, but also feature films, radio dramas, various comic books, and more (Wikipedia article). Most notably, an interpretation of the novel was performed to listeners over the Columbia Broadcasting System on October 23rd, 1938, in a series of short, simulated news bulletins suggesting that there was an actual Martian attack occurring on Earth (Wikipedia article). This broadcast caused wide-spread panic in the general public, followed by anger when they realized it was all a hoax (Wikipedia article).

H. G. Wells was originally trained in biology, but turned to writing works of fiction to encapsulate his socialist views (e.g. his concept of the ‘New Republicans’ – political elites with the power to subdue the underclass) (Herbert George Wells Biography, 2012). His focus on teaching didactic (i.e. moral) lessons through his writing translated into a commentary on British imperialism and colonialism in The War of the Worlds. The Martians of the story emerge as killing machines set to wipe out the human population; the parallels to the British superpowers beating less technologically advanced cultures into submission is apparent here (Herbert also sympathized with pacifist viewpoints when it came to war) (Wikipedia article).

Another moral embedded in The War of the Worlds is the idea that humans can all too easily become like the Martians – ugly, stupid, blood-sucking creatures that they are – if humanity continues along its path of forced colonization. This underlying threat (or warning?) of watching out for our own bad habits is what keeps the book relevant into the modern day.

Read the full text of The War of the Worlds here

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