My first experience with H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds was not the Victorian novel itself but the Jeff Wayne concept album, which my parents have on vinyl, and must have had on tape as well because I have a distinct and deeply-lodged memory of listening to it on a long car trip and lying in bed that night gripped by the terror that tentacley aliens were going to ooze through the ceiling vent and eat me. It was… with some trepidation and assurances to my eight-year-old self that it couldn’t be that bad, we’ve moved past this by now, come on, that I picked up the original book to read for a class on genre fiction.
I was wrong. To both the credit of Wells’ story and my eight-year-old self, this crap is terrifying.
The War of the Worlds is the grandfather of the modern alien invasion story as we know it today, or at least, carries all the hallmarks that the alien invasion story as we know it today loves. Being more familiar with the Men From Mars!! plotline as it appears in (parodies of) pulp 50s and 60s sci-fi and its later, grittier incarnations like Independence Day, it was a little odd to see it transplanted so naturally into 19th century England. There are still horses and carts trundling around, steam power is in its heyday, and the lush, quaint landscape of a country town and its quiet heath forms the stage for the beginning of a terrifying alien conquest that will make mankind question everything it knows about itself. Continue reading