The War Of The Worlds by H. G. Wells
First published in 1898, H. G. Wells’ The War Of The Worlds is undoubtedly one of the first great sci-fi novels. Following the template of invasion literature that was common in the later third of the nineteenth century, it presents us with a hypothetical war waged by an intelligent Martian invader, and in doing so foreshadows much of the horror of the two world wars that were to follow its publication during the next fifty years.
I originally read an abridged version of this book when I was quite young, having first been introduced to the story through my dad’s love of Jeff Wayne’s musical version, and it’s been one of my favourite early sci-fi novels ever since. There’s no question that modern sci-fi wouldn’t be where it is now without the influence of Wells and his contemporaries.
To modern readers, the bulk of this novel could very easily come across as somewhat flawed. The assumptions made about Mars, and the technology employed by the Martians were later borne out to be incorrect, though at the time many of the ideas and concepts used by Wells were ground-breaking. Drawing on the popular scientific understanding of the times he was able to present his readers with a tale that could so very easily have been true, though many considered the idea of total war as practised by the Martians to be more far-fetched than the possibility of life on other planets.
Despite the flaws that we can so easily identify with hindsight, this is still one hell of a tale, and in my opinion should be essential reading for anyone who has even a passing interest in science fiction.