Sunday, November 11, 2007

For other versions of "The War of the Worlds", see The War of the Worlds (disambiguation).
The War of the Worlds (1898), by H.G. Wells, is an early science fiction novella which describes an invasion of England by aliens from Mars. It is one of the earliest and best-known depictions of an alien invasion of Earth, and has influenced many others, as well as spawning several films and a television series based on the story.

Plot summary
Ten Martian landings are mentioned in the novel commencing in June "early in the twentieth century":
The duration of the war is three weeks:

First Martian Landing (Day 1): Horsell Common.
Second Martian Landing (Day 2): Addlestone Golf links.
Third Martian Landing (Day 3): Pyrford.
Fourth Martian Landing (Day 4): Bushey Heath.
Fifth Martian Landing (Day 5): Sheen.
Sixth Martian Landing (Day 6): Wimbledon.
Seventh Martian Landing (Day 7): Primrose Hill, London.
8th, 9th, 10th Landings (Days 8, 9, 10): landing sites not mentioned in the book - presumably within London.
On Days 1 and 2, the Martians secure their initial bridgehead around Woking.
On Day 3, they begin first major offensives of the invasion (the Battle of Weybridge/Shepperton and begin the attack on London).
Day 4 sees the great panic and exodus from London. The Martians advance to the great city's center.
On Day 5, the narrator is imprisoned by the fifth Martian landing.
On Day 6, the city of London is entirely occupied by the Martians. This day also sees the Battle of Southend and the sacrifice of the Thunder Child.
During Days 5 to 18, the narrator watches the Martians while still trapped.
Day 10 is the approximate date on which Leatherhead (the town to which the narrator had sent his wife for safety) is destroyed by a Martian, killing everyone. Fortunately, his wife escapes before the attack and they are reunited after the Martians' destruction.
On days 19 and 20, the narrator makes his way to London.
During the night on day 21, the Martians are found dead. Scientific predictions and accuracy
H.G. Wells was a strong supporter of the theory of evolution, and saw every species as being engaged in a constant, and often brutal struggle for survival. In the book, the Martian/mankind conflict is portrayed as a similar struggle, but on a larger scale. The book explores the morality inherent in social Darwinism, an ideology of some prominence at the time.
The science fiction author Isaac Asimov argued that the book was intended as an indictment of European colonial actions in Africa, Asia, Australasia, and the Americas. In the mindset of the time, European technological superiority was seen as evidence of all-round superiority, and thus Europeans were more qualified to administer colonised regions than their native inhabitants. The novel challenges this perspective by conflating the justness of the Martian invasion with the colonial invasions made by European powers. Wells himself introduces this theme in the novel's first chapter:
"And before we judge them [the Martians] too harshly, we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished Bison and the Dodo, but upon its own inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?"—Chapter I, "The Eve of the War"
There is a small autobiographical element to the book: Wells seems to have taken great pleasure in the fictional devastation of locations where he had spent an unhappy childhood.
Animal rights activist David McKnight, writing in the November 2004 issue of Human and Animal Rights, noted that at least five vegetarians and animal rights activists known to him were substantially influenced to take their stance by reading Wells's book, which vividly conveys human beings' horror at becoming in effect the Martians' food animals.
The book could also be seen as a message that planet Earth was not as safe as it seemed. More broadly, this book illustrates the potential disaster that young civilisations can face in an outside context problem.


The narrator comments that on the fourth or fifth night of his imprisonment in the rubble of the fifth Martian landing, he heard two sets of six distinct reports - sounding like heavy guns firing. No explanation is ever given for this event, although one might assume that it is the British army or navy attacking the tripods with artillery.
There is no description of the aftermath of the Southend engagement (Martians vs HMS Thunder Child), so it was not explained if the three supporting ironclads did any damage to the third Martian fighting machine.
After the Thunder Child incident, no account of the narrator's brother is given, although it can be inferred that he survived to tell the narrator of the events he witnessed. (The original edition, published in Pearson's Magazine, indicates that he married one of his female companions from the London Exodus.)
No information on the landing sites of the eighth, ninth, and tenth Martian invasion ships were given. The only information given is that the site of the seventh landing was "the final and largest" base.
The narrator's name and his brother's name are never revealed. Some altered versions say he was H. G. Wells and that his brother is Wells's brother Frank. (This goes hand in hand with The Time Machine, in which the also nameless narrator is often equated with Wells.)
Although the narrator states that the Martians' "queer hooting invariably preceded feeding" and was "in no sense a signal", offering an alternative in the suggestion that the Martians communicate via telepathy, during the scenes of destroyed London, the narrator refers several times to a sound written as "Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla" which seems to be a cry of mourning uttered by a lone Martian tripod.
In the final scene of the London Exodus, an object appears in the sky, flying overhead, and "rained down darkness upon the land". No explanation is given for this; nor is the "darkness" defined, although the suggestion is made that it is the Black Smoke or possibly the metaphorical darkness of the Martians' power. The object is usually identified as the flying-machine. Unanswered questions
Researchers have noted the connection between Wells' book and the sub-genre known as "invasion literature" which was very common in the West - and particularly in Britain - in the decades before the First World War, and which reflected the increasing feeling of anxiety and insecurity as international tensions escalated towards the coming war.
Most such books had plots concerned with human armies invading each other's country, with British books mostly depicting German and/or French invading armies on British soil. Still, there were noted many plot similarities between Wells' book and The Battle of Dorking (1871) by George Tomkyns Chesney: in both books, a ruthless enemy makes a devastating surprise attack, with the British armed forces helpless to stop its relentless advance; and both works contain many passages written in the author's own voice which seem designed to try and shake Britons out of the complacent self-satisfaction of the Victorian age.
There are also similarities between Wells' book and the widely successful The Great War in England in 1897 published four years earlier (1894) by William Le Queux, where an invading French army penetrates to the heart of London - though Le Queux's book is written in a spirit of jingoistic nationalism opposite to Wells' tone.

War of the Worlds Relation to invasion literature
The War of the Worlds has been adapted numerous times for radio, film (see The War of the Worlds (film)), TV, and video games. Often the particular adaptation will change the setting to the current time and the place to where the adaptation is made

Orson Welles's 1938 radio adaptation
The 1953 film, produced by George Pál
1968 WKBW radio adaptation
Jeff Wayne's 1978 musical adaptation
The 1988 TV series
An arcade game
NPR 50th Anniversary radio adaptation
Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds, a 1998 computer game
Justice League (TV series) adapts the main events and visuals of the novel for the three part story Secret Origins. Martians attack earth via tripods and a team of superheroes, including Superman, attempt to stop them.
Volume 2 of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a comic book
The 2005 film directed by Steven Spielberg
The 2005 film directed by Timothy Hines
The 2005 film directed by David Michael Latt
The Art of H. G. Wells by Ricardo Garijo, the third in the series of trading cards, released in 2005, is The War of the Worlds [3]
2006 graphic novel Adaptations
The theme of alien invasion has remained popular ever since the story's initial publishing, some recent examples being Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, the "Worldwar" series by Harry Turtledove, and the film Independence Day. Tim Burton's farcical Mars Attacks! shares many themes with The War of the Worlds, particularly the unexpected and inglorious demise of the Martian invaders.
The idea of mecha also originated in The War of the Worlds. The AT-AT walkers in The Empire Strikes Back were roughly based on the idea of walking war machines. Tripod-like machines called Striders employed by the Combine from the computer game Half Life 2 along with other themes bear striking resemblance to those mentioned in the book. The Sentinels from the Matrix trilogy are also machines with many tentacles, and are seen grabbing humans (though only to throw them to their deaths) during the siege of Zion as shown in The Matrix Revolutions. Powered armour as popularised in Starship Troopers can also be traced back to The War of the Worlds; indeed, Heinlein's novel can be seen as a response to Wells'.
The War of the Worlds presents a hypothetical scenario of how humans may defeat the Martians in the speculations of a lone artilleryman encountered by the hero, who imagines a world where humanity, recognising that it cannot win through direct conflict, commences a guerrilla war. The Martians would rule Earth for generations to come; most humans (especially the "soft" middle classes towards whom complete contempt is shown) would soon get used to being domestic animals, whereas a nucleus of daring humans would hide out in tunnels and sewers, and would have about the same place in the Martian-dominated ecology as rats in the previous human ecology. After the passage of generations, these defiant humans would learn to duplicate the Martian weapons and destroy the invaders. The artilleryman's ambition is eventually exposed as nothing more than one man's delusion of grandeur (see megalomania) — he has no means to set about the project, and shows a complete lack of determination to complete even the simple and short-term goals that would set the rest of his plans in motion. A number of authors have, however, followed on from that theme.
The Tripods is a sci-fi trilogy for young adults written between 1967 and 1968 by John Christopher. It depicts the Earth after it has been overcome by aliens in three-legged machines. Humanity has been enslaved, and the books focus on the struggle by some teenagers to join the last free members of humanity in their cave refuges in the mountains. John Christopher admitted (in a BBC documentary called The Cult of the Tripods) that the alien war machines were inspired, at least subconsciously, by The War of the Worlds.
Robert A. Heinlein took up the same theme, in a slightly more humorous way, in his The Number of the Beast where the heroes visit several different versions of Mars. One of them is the home planet of Martians who managed to hold on to the conquered Earth. The heroes encounter tribes of humans living in the Martian wilds, descendants of captive humans who had been transported to Mars by the conquerors and there managed to escape. Also on Mars, the wild humans still speak cockney English — while the Martians' obedient slaves seem descended mainly from upper-class Englishmen.
Along with Christopher's Tripods, L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth and the 1980s television miniseries and series V are other notable examples where the story starts sometime after a successful alien invasion of Earth; instead focusing on the determination of a few humans using guerilla tactics to defeat the alien occupation and the obstacles they must face both from the aliens and fellow humans alike. In such stories, the aliens tend to get far more character development than the faceless monsters originally depicted in the Wells novel. This allows room for subplots told on both sides.

Sequels by other authors

In the comic version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the invasion by the Martians is told from the perspective of The League, who are instructed to contact Doctor Moreau so that they can unleash H-142, a biological weapon that is a hybrid of anthrax and streptococcus upon the Martians.
In The Space Machine by Christopher Priest the plot of The War of the Worlds is connected with the H. G. Wells novel The Time Machine.
In 1978, Toshihiro Nishikado working at Taito designed the aliens for the popular arcade video game Space Invaders based on the description of the octopus-like Martians from the original Wells novel, according to an October 2005 interview with the British gaming magazine Edge.
In the episode Germs of Invader Zim, Zim becomes germaphobic after watching the end of what appears a film adaptation of The War of the Worlds, with biological tripods that explode upon exposure to sneezing humans.
The Aparoid boss in the second level of the video game Star Fox: Assault seems to be a spoof on a tripod.
The Annihilator Tripod, of spring 2007's Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, resembles a Martian tripod,and even fights in a similar manner. However, the Mammoth Tank (GDI) and the Avatar Mech (Nod) (Mankind's most powerful combat machines) are at least comparable to the Tripod.
The Mars People from the Metal Slug series somewhat resemble the book's Martians, having tentacled limbs and a bulbous head.
In Robert Rankin's The Witches of Chiswick, the Martian invasion is about to be started with a signal by the Elephant Man.
Many aspects of Chicken Little are parodies of the War of the Worlds, but the weapons used were slightly toned down so the victims were not killed, but teleported to another spaceship, where the victims stayed until the baby alien was returned to its parents.
In Tad Williams's Otherland series Paul Jonas finds himself in the remains of London where the Martian invaders have survived.
In Philip Reeve's Larklight, the martians are rather surprised to be invaded by the British Empire, in a parody of the introduction to the War of the Worlds.
In Blizzard Entertainment's upcoming game StarCraft II, the Protoss Colossus-class walker vaugely resembles a Tripod, and has a similar attack.
In Roland Emmerich's film Independence Day, the events of the movie match the events in The War of the Worlds almost flawlessly. SETI (the observatory) declare that it cannot be aliens, as the signal came from the moon. The aliens arrive and life for many still goes on as normal (People are in the strip club and partying at night). Three helicopters (three people) move closer to the alien destroyer and are attacked "Turning each man to fire". The aliens attack and the first military response is "wiped out" except for one man (the artillery man) who tries to make it back to headquarters. The military then deploy their most powerful weapon; however, the aliens survive. (In the late 19th century, an ironclad battleship was the most powerful weapon in Britain's arsenal; in the 20th century United States, the most powerful weapon is a nuclear missile). When the alien kills the scientists and it is fully using its bio-mechanical suit, the design matches the description of the aliens in the original novel, a grayish bulk, taller than a bear, with tentacles. Finally, with humanity on the edge of extinction and all their weaponry failing them, the aliens are eventually destroyed by an infecting agent (but a human written computer virus rather than natural bacteria).
In M. Night Shymalan's film Signs, the character Meryl comments "It's like War of the Worlds . . ." after the family sees a news broadcast, saying the number of unidentified lights (presumed to be alien ships) are growing.

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