The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells is an innovative and imaginative book written at the end of the nineteenth century, in which humanity is left scarred by a devastating attack from the Martians. Wells uses diverse language and intriguing metaphors to engage with his audience not only with the themes of his books, but to the world as a whole. In his popular novel, War of the Worlds, Wells uses an extraterrestrial invasion to exhibit and provoke the concepts of life, free will, fate and dominant forces that we cannot control.
The story is written in the style of a journalistic report by a scientist who witnesses the Martian invasion, from the time that the first mysterious cylinders crash into the ground in the south of London, until the time that the Martian’s offence against humanity is quashed. He describes in vivid detail the ghastly emergence of the Martian creatures from the cylinder and the way they destroy curious onlookers along with the emergence of Martian machines of destruction. As the locals and people from nearby villages flee in disoriented terror, the narrator manages to stay hidden in an abandoned building and watches in dismay as the Martians begin to take over.
The War of The Worlds was significantly influenced by the scientific discoveries that were made during the time it was written in, which is unsurprising given the tendency of Wells’s work to make scientific concepts accessible to the British populace. In 1894, an astronomer was convinced that he had seen lights on the surface of Mars that indicated there was life on the planet, with this discovery inspiring Wells to write the book. The novel was published after Wells submitted an essay regarding the potential of life to be found on Mars in 1896. A less prevalent inspiration for the novel was the unification of Germany, which created significant anxiety and caused numerous novels to be published describing the invasion of Britain by a foreign power. These novels were also written in a factual format, which inspired Wells in his writing of this novel describing the invasion of Britain by an alien power.
A prevalent theme within The War of the Worlds includes Darwin’s theories on natural selection, which were contemplated by some commentators to human societies prior to the publishing of Wells’ novel. Social Darwinism was denounced by Darwin himself and many other prominent scientists, which was the idea of “Survival of the Fittest”, in which those with “superior genes” and stronger mentalities resulted in social success and triumph over those who were considered to have “ailing genes” and weaker mentalities, while also having a better chance of survival within their given environment. Despite Darwin’s rejection of this theory, it still was a controversial and eminent idea during the time that the War of the Worlds was published. In the novel, Wells illustrates what could occur if an invasive species from another planet that had shown extensive acceleration within the evolutionary timeline came to earth. A conspicuous theme that is presented throughout War of the Worlds is the fear of how a seemingly inferior species could possibly triumph against a genetically advanced invader. However, despite the Martian’s advancements in weaponry and warfare, they prove to be fickle in relation to the issue of biological adaptability being a direct challenge to this anxiety.
The story was meticulous in its descriptions of the indiscriminate destruction of civilization and the feeling that humanity will no longer be the master species. It is incredible to think that HG Wells imagined all of this in the time before space travel and modern telescopes, proving that his writings were far more advanced than his particular time period, causing him to be a visionary of his time. Overall, I would rate this book 4.5 out of 5, for even though the plot itself was fast paced and articulate, the range of language used was profound and made the descriptions notably more powerful. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in extraterrestrial affairs, or scientific discoveries regarding space travel and other technological advances made within society that prove to advance our current position within the evolutionary timeline.
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