Thursday, May 14, 2009

Welcome to Earth.

Current book: War of the Worlds
Pages read: 99-223 (end)

Ok, now that I actually have time to post properly, I'll do so. I wouldn't want to shaft H.G. Wells or deprive you, the readers, of a post that is actually laudatory.

So, in the second half of the novel we follow the narrator's brother around for a while while (Don't you love it when proper grammar allows you to put the same word twice in a row? Probably not. In fact, you've probably never thought about it. I, however, find it amusing and delightful. But I'm quirky like that.) he tries to escape the Martian destruction of London. He comes to the aid of a couple of ladies, securing their carriage for them and using it go cross-country and away from the path of the panicked metropolitan horde. This section largely consists of commentary on human behavior in survival situations, but the verdict isn't too damning: logic is the main casualty, rather than decency.

Anyway, eventually we get back to the narrator, who's still hanging out with the curate (who I called a priest last time, but that was incorrect), and ends up buried in a cellar with the man and trapped by Martians who are roaming around outside. They watch the Martians' movements for several days, and come to the conclusion that the Martians are capturing humans in order to breed them for food. Lovely. After a while, the curate gets snatched out of the cellar by a Martian tentacle (because he won't stop gibbering like an idiot) and devoured alive. (We're sad. Really.) Our hero hangs out in the cellar as long as he can without food, but is eventually forced to leave. When he does, he finds the area deserted, though covered in a dying alien weed the Martians planted. He wanders around the countryside, scavenging, and finds no signs of living Martians, nor anyone else.

In the end, he comes upon the artilleryman he'd initially traveled with and stays with him for a couple of days. The artilleryman speaks at length about how the Martians are going to farm humanity for food, and though most people will probably go along with it simply to avoid death, he's going to start a resistance and infiltrate London's sewers in order to try to destroy as many Martians as possible. At first, our narrator's all for it, but eventually he realizes that the artilleryman has no actual intentions of carrying out his plan; he's just a grand schemer. Our hero leaves him at this point and makes his way to the city, where he finally discovers that the Martians are all dead, destroyed by Earth's bacteria, to which they have no resistance. (I know people scoff sometimes at the convenience of this ending, but it's actually pretty clever and plausible. In addition to that, it makes it clear that humanity escaped its horrible fate not because of any merit on our part, but rather by simple luck (or perhaps the grace of God, though Wells remains skeptical of that point)).

Those are the major events of the story, but there's also an epilogue in which the narrator is reunited with his wife. It's nice and touching and makes me like him a little more. He goes on, afterward, to discuss the scientific advancements that the Martian invasion provided, but then caution that we're still not prepared, in the event of another attack. He also mentions having flashbacks and moments of terror during his everyday life; I was impressed by the fact that H.G. Wells managed to acknowledge Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder before anyone else really knew about it.

It was quite a good novel, especially considering the fact that it was the first alien invasion novel ever written. The number of science fiction books and films that are clearly indebted to Wells is pretty astonishing. (It made me go check out the Tripods series by John Christopher. Yes, they're children's books, but they pretty much rock.) I liked his clear, logical prose, his balance of plot and scientific information, and his messages about human nature and the possibilities that may lay in our future. So, hey, positive review!

I finally got a copy of Tropic of Cancer. There's a photograph of a woman baring her right breast on the cover. Maybe that's why it sells so well. Anyway, next up, sex, I guess.

1 comment:

  1. Is the woman on the cover "bearing" her breast or "baring" it? Also, the chances of Earthlings being non-resistant to alien bacteria has to be about equal to the opposite, although, since the whole Earth would be "contaminated" it probably wouldn't be as potentially catastrophic to the humans since the alien bugs wouldn't be as prevalent. Glad you liked the book though. Hope Henry holds up to his racy reputation.



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