Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

War of the Worlds Tor The War of the Worlds (1898)
A classic science fiction novel

Tor Books 1993 paperback
cover art by Alan Gutierrez
204 pages (left)

Signet Classics edition
cover art by Richard Clifton-Dey (right)
War of the Worlds Signet

From the back cover of the Del Rey paperback (not shown):
Martians invade Great Britain, laying waste to turn-of-the-century London.  This tale of conquest by superior beings with superadvanced technology is so nightmarishly real that an adaptation by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre on the Air sent hundreds of impressionable radio listeners into panicked flight forty years after the story's original publication.

Read for group discussion on June 23, 2004

War of the Worlds Famous Fantastic Mysteries

The War of the Worlds

Famous Fantastic Mysteries magazine
(25˘ cover price)
July 1951 issue (left)

Amazing Stories magazine
cover art by Frank R. Paul
August 1927 issue (right)

War of the Worlds Amazing Stories

How we each rated this book
Dan - Amy 7 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 6 Barb -
Aaron 7 Cynthia -
Jackie 7 Ron 7
Christine 8.5 Deb 5
Mike - Stephanie 7.5
Gary 4.5    

Aaron's Commentary  H. G. Wells - The War of the Worlds

H.G. Wells' vision of a Martian invasion grabs the reader's attention to this day; it must have been compelling in 1898.  Often overlooked when people now discuss The War of the Worlds are the effective elements of horror, such the huge scale of death, the eerie desolation of the depopulated British countryside, and the Martians' vampirism.  Many today think of Frankenstein as a horror story and The War of the Worlds as science fiction, but the two novels are each equal parts both.

There is little characterization in The War of the Worlds, and some of the storytelling devices are rather weak, for instance the way the story jumps without warning to the narrator's brother so that Wells can tell us what is happening in another location.  On the other hand, I much prefer the way the battle with the Martians develops - with a few Martian tripods destroyed, giving false hope that humans may defeat them - to the George Pal film version where the Martians are entirely invincible.

As always with Wells, the metaphoric overlay of the story is interesting, although I am not sure I agree with the standard anti-colonialism interpretation of the book.  I think Wells is more concerned with showing the humble state of mankind's development, the tenuousness of our civilization, and how poorly people would react to its crumbling.  His examination of this subject is fascinating, although his depiction of the public's initial blasé attitude toward the Martians seems incorrect in light of Orson Welles' very different experience only a generation later.  Perhaps people are less advanced than even H.G. Wells supposed.

What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to

War of the Worlds movie The War of the Worlds - US radio (October 30, 1938)
The broadcast, part of the Mercury Theatre on the Air series of plays, was produced by and starred Orson Welles. Adaptation of the novel by Howard Koch. A number of radio listeners panicked because they believed that the radio play represented a live newscast of an actual invasion from Mars.

The War of the Words - movie (1953)
Paramount. Starring Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, and Les Tremayne. Screenplay by Barré Lyndon. Produced by George Pal. 85 minutes.

Our book group has also read the following books by H.G. Wells:
-- The Time Machine   in April 2001

H. G. Wells (1866-1946) (Herbert George Wells) was a UK writer, a founder of science fiction. He was a proponent of Darwin's theory of Evolution, and was a social crusader.

Science fiction novels, and scientific romances
The Time Machine: An Invention (1895)
The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896)
The Invisible Man (1897)
The War of the Worlds (1898), Martians invade Earth
When the Sleeper Awakes (1899), features suspended animation
The First Men in the Moon (1901)
The Food of the Gods (1904)
In the Days of the Comet (1906)
The War in the Air (1908)
The World Set Free (1914)
Mr. Britling Sees it Through (1916)
The Shape of Things to Come (1933)

Utopian Novels
A Modern Utopia (1905)
Men Like Gods (1923)

Fantasy novels
The Wonderful Visit (1895)
The Sea Lady (1902)

Realistic Novels - light comedy
The Wheels of Chance (1896)
Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul (1905)
The History of Mr. Polly (1910)
Bealby: A Holiday (1915)

Realistic Novels - more serious works
Love and Mr. Lewisham (1900)
Tono-Bungay (1909)
Ann Veronica (1909)
The New Machiavelli (1910)
The Dream (1924)
The World of William Clissold (3 volumes, 1926)

Other books
God the Invisible King (1917)
The Soul of a Bishop (1917)
The Undying Fire (1919)
Christina Alberta's Father (1925)
Mr. Blettsworthy on Rampole Island (1928)
The Autocracy of Mr. Parham (1930)
The Bulpington of Blup (1932)
Star Begotten: A Biological Fantasia (1937)
The Holy Terror (1939)
All Aboard for Ararat (1940)

Our book club's page for The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
H. G. Wells - Wikipedia
The War of the Worlds cover art
Herbert George Wells (1866-1946) - biography and works

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This page was last updated October 18, 2008