Saturday, June 25, 2005

Science Fiction - "The War of the Worlds"

This book was the June book for our local SF Book Discussion Group. The book was written by H.G. Wells and is one of the first SF books that describes aliens from another world. "The War of the Worlds" was first published at the very end of the 19th century in 1898.

One interesting aspect of this book is how quaint and old fashioned the human culture and technology appears from today's point of view. For example, when the first martian "cylinder" lands in Horsell Common, after three days of it being there the narrator says that only people within 5 miles have heard of it. Imagine this happening today - in the era of instant communications.

There were several devices that were mentioned in use by the army trying to fight the Martians. One was a heliograph. I never heard of such a device and had to look it up.

Somewhat eerie were the descriptions of the Martians using chemical weapons. They launched carnisters that released a "black gas" that killed people. This was written more than fifteen years before World War I.

Although it did not occur to me, my book discussion group members pointed out that the Martians were sort of a metaphor for the British Empire and the book was meant to show a bit what it is like to be underfoot of invaders with much superior technology.

Since I knew what would happen in the end, there was no suspense in reading the book. This time around the fun in reading the book again was in seeing how different the world was only 100 years ago, and the technological inventions of H.G. Wells - which are suprisingly modern. In fact the Martian fighting machines are very similar to the imperial walkers from "Star Wars".


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