On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles terrified American radio listeners by describing a Martian invasion of Earth in a broadcast that became legendary. Forty years earlier, H. G. Wells had first penned the story: The War of the Worlds, a science-fiction classic that endures in our collective subconscious.
Deeply concerned with the welfare of contemporary society, Wells wrote his novel of interplanetary conflict in anticipation of war in Europe, and in it he predicted the technological savagery of twentieth century warfare. Playing expertly on worldwide security fears, The War of the Worlds grips readers with its conviction that invasion can happen anytime, anywhere—even in our own backyard.
Alfred Mac Adam teaches literature at Barnard College-Columbia University. He is a translator and art critic. He also wrote the notes and introduction to the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of Wells’s The Time Machine and The Invisible Man.
Things then progress from a series of seemingly mundane reports about odd atmospheric disturbances taking place on Mars to the arrival of Martians just outside of London. At first the Martians seem laughable, hardly able to move in Earth's comparatively heavy gravity even enough to raise themselves out of the pit created when their spaceship landed. But soon the Martians reveal their true nature as death machines 100-feet tall rise up from the pit and begin laying waste to the surrounding land. Wells quickly moves the story from the countryside to the evacuation of London itself and the loss of all hope as England's military suffers defeat after defeat. With horror his narrator describes how the Martians suck the blood from living humans for sustenance, and how it's clear that man is not being conquered so much a corralled. --Craig E. Engler