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The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

This was my first H.G. Wells. After The Caine Mutiny I was looking for something entirely different to read and science fiction was the obvious choice. Flitting through Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, I came across this. And I think it was OK. 

The premise of the story was far too mundane for today; in fact it even surpasses today's thought-processes - it is, after all, about Martians attacking the earth. Nevertheless, there is something attractive about the way the book starts. It is a first person narrative, and hence is a slightly rambling, personal account, with plenty of digressions and explanations. There are negligible dialogues and a few flitting characters besides the narrator himself.

What holds the story together, is however, the timelessness of the concept of chaos. I have always scoffed at what a good friend calls 'apocalyptic doomsday scenario' plotlines, but The War of the Worlds brings out very accurately, the repercussions of mass panic in the face of the said scenario. It is disconcerting to read, all the while, fully realising that all this is true to a great degree. We have read of true accounts which are not very different from what H.G. Wells has described in this book, except in the fact that the former involved calamities like the war or flood or famine and the likes.  

The descriptions are beautifully vivid. I was especially caught by one nightime scene, when the narrator was sneaking out of reach of the Martians, and he comes across an upturned cart, whose wheels were turning idly against the backdrop of the moon. The death and destruction were put in a way which made it complete, without robbing them of the stunning factor. 

The story is punctuated with scientific discussions, which come as quite a delight. It is all mostly basic, but necessary and would certainly appeal to someone with the background information the topic. All the intricacies have been however put forth in as colloquial terms as possible, which does not make them very difficult to grasp. However, in view of all the effort that went in making the book scientifically accurate, I was not convinced about the imagination of the physical appearance of  the Martians. In all honesty, they reminded me of a bit of the aliens in the movie Independence Day

All considered, it was a light, enjoyable read, though it would gain better responses if it were read out aloud to a younger audience. 


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