International Writers Magazine: Sci Fi
Invaders and invasion
are always themes that appeal to people. Obviously we now live in a more
knowledgeable age it could be said, where some of the original
ideas of Wells novel are outdated. For example, we have a much greater
understanding of Mars and the planets of the Solar System, and we know
that Mars is not home to Martians. And we also know the composition of
its atmosphere, soil, and so on. Likewise, some of the science of his
book regarding biology, chemistry, and engineering and materials also
can sometimes seem outdated in comparison to the furious pace of development
over the last century and the advances made.
War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (1898)
The War of the
Worlds is the forerunner of that science-fiction staple, the Alien
Invasion story. Independence Day and dozens of other
movies, books, and TV programmes pay homage to this original tale,
and The War of the Worlds has itself been adapted in one
way or another dozens of times. Most recently there was the 2006
film starring Tom Cruise that reinterpreted the story for a modern
audience, and more well known is the musical version by Jeff Wayne.
So if this original
story is over a hundred years old now, then what is the appeal that
always has people coming back read it?
Nonetheless, the most recent film adaptation, while skipping on some of
the more charming details of the book, such as the defiant warship Thunderchild
striking a blow for humanity and lifting our hearts, and the vast isolation
and loneliness the unnamed protagonist feels in the second half of the
book, still works as a telling of the same story.
This could be because of the sheer alien nature of the invaders (I will
not say Martians for references to this film, since they arent touted
as coming from Mars), and the lack of effort to see things from their
point of view, further isolating them from humanity. Something that is
presented in the original text as well a lack of understanding
and common ground with the implacable Martians, making them truly alien
and thus to be feared.
Perhaps this is the core of what makes The War of the Worlds so
appealing to any generation, whether it is the 1890s novel, the
1953 film, the 1978 musical or the 2005 Steven Spielberg film the
sense that something alien and unknown is attacking and destroying what
we (humanity) know, and sweeping it aside so easily.
This could also be another message of the book, that civilisation can
be destroyed and devastated, and that all of our human works and endeavours
can be reduced to nothing and are subject to forces beyond our control.
The Martians could be compared to an earthquake or natural disaster in
that regard perhaps, that they are unstoppable and uncaring. On the other
hand however, it is their greatly advanced technology that makes them
unable to be stopped in their destruction, no matter how great humanitys
technology is against them this is something that is shown in every
adaptation of the story, and is perhaps the real message that people
should not become complacent despite the advances it has made. Especially
when the simplest thing fells the Martians (in all versions of the story)
bacteria and microbes, that brings the Martians to their knees despite
all of their fantastic technology.
The War of the Worlds is then, like much science fiction now, a
cautionary tale and one that has, and will, stand the test of time, as
the message and warning it carries can always be applied.
© Stephen Doyle November 2007
Author: Brian Keaney
Stephen Doyle review
Gallowglass is the second in a trilogy of young adults fantasy and adventure
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