Monday, February 25, 2008

The War of the Worlds...random thoughts

Last week during my at-home mini-vacation, I did manage to finish up a few books. Not nearly as many as I should have, I suppose, but such is the life of an extremely slow reader. The one drawback to having finished these books is that I now have to review them. Well, I guess I don't actually "have" to...there's no gun to my head or anything...but as three of the four of them are for challenges, it does seem the right thing to do. They're quite a varied lot, and I thoroughly adored three of them. As for the fourth, well, I'll try to explain my feelings when I talk about it.

First up...The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells. Though I've wanted to read this book for a while, it was really Carl's Sci-Fi Experience that urged me to pick it up at this particular time. Oh, and am I glad it thank you, Carl! I can't tell you how much I loved this fact, it's my favorite read of the year so far. (O.K., O.K., I know I haven't really knocked that many out so far this year, but still.)

I honestly didn't know what to expect from this book. I, of course, did know the general idea...Martians invading Earth. But beyond that, no clue. And as I've never read anything by H.G. Wells, I didn't know what to expect from his writing. I'm willing to admit that I tend to be slightly "afraid" of classics sometimes, that I sometimes don't have the level of appreciation that I probably should. But I needn't have worried here. The War of the Worlds was exceedingly readable. And fun. And suspenseful. And quite simply a great story.

I'm certainly no science fiction aficionado (one of the reasons Carl's Sci-Fi Experience appealed to me so much was the opportunity to expand my horizons a bit), but this book definitely contains some of my stereotypical visions for the genre. Ah, but the way Wells wrote about them was just wonderful...

We've got Martians:

"I think everyone expected to see a man emerge--possibly something a little unlike us terrestrial men, but in all essentials a man. I know I did. But, looking, I presently saw something stirring within the shadow: greyish billowy movements, one above another, and then two luminous disks--like eyes. Then something resembling a little grey snake, about the thickness of a walking stick, coiled up out of the writhing middle, and wriggled in the air toward me--and then another."

We've got heat rays:

"However it is done, it is certain that a beam of heat is the essence of the matter. Heat, and invisible, instead of visible, light. Whatever is combustible flashes into flame at its touch, lead runs like water, it softens iron, cracks and melts glass, and when it falls upon water, incontinently that explodes into steam.

That night nearly forty people lay under the starlight about the pit, charred and distorted beyond recognition, and all night long the common from Horsell to Maybury was deserted and brightly ablaze."

We've got giant metal "monsters":

"And this Thing I saw! How can I describe it? A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder. A flash, and it came out vividly, heeling over one way with two feet in the air, to vanish and reappear almost instantly as it seemed, with the next flash, a hundred yards nearer."

As I said this book is quite suspenseful. Frightening. I can only imagine how much more so it must have been back when it was first published. I think one of the ways Wells managed to keep me so involved was through his first person narrative. Unless I missed something somewhere, we never even learn the man's name. And while the story takes place over just a few short weeks, we witness this man going through a life-time's worth of emotions.

I have enjoyed the Sci-Fi Experience so much that I'm going to attempt to squeeze in one last book before its official end. With all the wonderful things I've read about Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, how can I possibly resist any longer? I know Chris will be proud of me.

Anyway, in addition to the Sci-Fi Experience, this book will fill the "W title" slot in Joy's A-Z Challenge, the 1890s slot in 3M's Decades Challenge (though this wasn't one of my original choices), and fulfill another requirement in Ariel's Unread Authors Challenge. Four for the price of one...can't beat that, huh?

Hmmm...I'd originally planned to post all of my reviews in one post, but I think that might just be too long, huh? Guess I'll be back later with another.


Anonymous said...

i'm so glad you enjoyed it! i really enjoyed it too.

i also found it frightening - its really quite scary isn't it? in its matter-of-factness. it seems to document it as if it really happened.

i also liked how evocative it was of the time. it really gave me a feel of the period and what it would be like were those martians to invade THEN.

but then, of course, its timeless too. and theres a lot we can relate to and much that would be similar, were something like that to happen now...

Becky said...

I am so happy you enjoyed War of the Worlds. I read it last year for Carl's R.I.P II Challenge. I really fell in love (head over heels) with Wells. I read six Wells' novels last fall!

I'm also pleased to see you considering squeezing in Ender's Game. It is one of my favorite favorites, and I hope you enjoy. :)

Eva said...

Good to see you back! I missed your posts. :)

You know-I've never read any Wells, but it seems like he's quite a good author!

Chris said...

Yay for Ender's Game! And yay for Wells! My favorite H.G. Wells is The Time Machine and it's really if you liked War of the Worlds, I definitely recommend picking up The Time Machine one of these days too. He's definitely an amazing author and you can see why his stories are such classics. He really defined the genre in my eyes. Doesn't it feel great to fill in a weird letter like "W" in the A to Z reading challenge? Now if only I can find an "X" author...or a "U"

Carl V. said...

I haven't read any Wells either but it is something I'd like to remedy. I vaguely remember listening to a recording of the Orson Welles radio drama back when I was in elementary school. I also have a book of short stories of his that someone sent me that I need to crack into. I'm so glad you enjoyed this and that you've enjoyed the experience. I look forward to your thoughts on Ender's Game.

Nymeth said...

I really need to read some H.G. Wells. I just love those passages you shared! I wish I could fit in some Wells before the end of the Sci-Fi Experience, but alas, online ordering would have to be involved. Sigh, I miss the Nottingham library.

Kim L said...

glad you liked this book! I read it a while back so the details aren't fresh but I remember being engrossed by the story because it is so scary!

I can't remember where I read it, but a while back I read some analysis of the book, and it said that The War of the Worlds can be compared to the Europeans' colonization. Coming in with fearsome weapons, not speaking any language that the natives understand, killing indiscriminately... not sure if H.G. Wells meant it to be that way, but its an interesting way to look at the book.

Hope you like Ender's Game. I look forward to seeing what you think!

Jennifer said...

I don't usually comment on your review posts because either I've never heard of the book or most likely have never read it. Not that I read this one either, but your review almost makes me want to! I saw the movie and HATED it though, so I can't imagine the book being that much better. But you make it sound good! I know the book is often better than the movie though - I would hope so in this case!

Dawn said...

I think you have inspired me to put that book on my list! You review sounds good. I remember in high school I took a science fiction literacy class and enjoyed it very much.

take care,