My rating: 5 of 5 stars
War of the Worlds is notable and significant on many levels; not only in its introduction of intelligent and malevolent aliens, bent on conquest for unknowable ends (which Wells based on reports of English invasions of aboriginal regions for resource control); but in its point of view of the “regular Joe,” the man who is not part of the elite, not pressed into trying to attack a superior foe, but whose only concern is to get the heck out of harm’s way.
We are therefore presented with a story that forces us to guess what might be happening elsewhere, as the only thing we know for sure is what is happening to our helpless central character… and considering the horrors he witnesses, we can only assume the worst for humanity outside of his relatively small sphere of influence.
In this way, I admit to being one of those who preferred the 2006 movie adaptation of WotW, as it was much closer to the spirit of the original novel, and did not try to turn the central character into a Rambo that would somehow, single-handedly, save the world from invasion.
The story follows along with the main character as he relates his experiences under the relentless Martian onslaught, and the reader becomes a fellow refugee, left wondering how any of it could possibly end well. As a result, the final resolution has that much more power and significance… while at the same time, leaving the ultimate question open-ended: Could this all happen again? It makes the individual feel somewhat smaller in the universe, less sure of his dominance in nature.
In fact, this was one of the very first novels that made us look to the sky, and fear what we might meet up there. It has, therefore, been largely responsible for generations of alien invasion scenarios and more evil alien monsters than we can count. It is perhaps best-known for this, which is a shame; for the revelation of man’s place in the universe would’ve been a much better message to lodge in the world’s psyche. Perhaps, given time, Mankind will figure out what was really important about this story, and finally take that message to heart.