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I had forgotten just how good this is. Its 200 pages far outshine all later (and mostly longer) invasion-of-Earth stories (or even just disaster stories like The Stand). It feels so very fresh, one of the basic plots of science fiction being written for the first time. Yes, of course it's strongly reliant on tales of human wars, both those set in the contemporary late nineteenth century and those set in the (then) near future; but this chilling sentence - of mildly dodgy grammar but impeccable pace - in the first paragraph makes it clear that this is not about the Germans:
Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

In the earlier chapters, there's a fixation with circumstantial detail - especially of the geography of Surrey - which gives the whole narrative an immediacy which is curiously intensified as the conflict goes on and fewer and fewer characters get names - "the artilleryman", "the curate", and rather oddly to today's reader, "my wife". (And "my brother", though his lady friends, the Elphinstones, do get names.)

So much here is reminiscent of later stories and indeed of history - the rescue of the English refugees by small boats from the rest of Europe is an odd inversion of Dunkirk; the tripods pop up in John Christopher; the gas warfare waged by the aliens against London was soon to happen in real life.

Anyway, a really excellent, short read.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 22nd, 2009 12:22 pm (UTC)
I think it is a wonderful book. There is always so much more going on in Wells' stories than is immediately apparent.
Mar. 22nd, 2009 02:27 pm (UTC)
Oh yes. The whole opening page I read from time to time, aloud (even if no one else is listening) for the sheer joy of the language and the word-picture it paints.

It's my special desire to hear some science fiction movie or show that has Earth in its background to have one of the characters just read aloud that little bit, within the context of a story, as an homage.

Crazy(yeah, it'll never happen, but a girl can dream...)Soph
Mar. 22nd, 2009 06:14 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't call that grammar dodgy, just a little stretched.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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