Glenn Yeffeth, editor,
The War of the Worlds:
Fresh Perspectives on
the H.G. Wells Classic

(BenBella, 2005)

The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells' story of a Martian invasion of Earth at the end of the 19th century, is a true sci-fi classic. Originally published in 1898, it has been adapted into other media many times -- most notably Orson Welles's 1938 radio play that caused widespread panic when the audience thought it was real, and, most recently, a big-budget, big-screen extravaganza starring Tom Cruise.

The current volume begins with an introduction by Robert Silverberg, which is followed by the entire text of Wells' novel. Thirteen essays by prominent SF authors then examine the text.

Some of the essays approach the topic with humor, some are more scholarly in approach. Mercedes Lackey's "In Woking's Image" is one of the latter, taking a look at the setting and going into detail about late Victorian middle-class life. In "Just Who Were Those Martians, Anyway?" Lawrence Watt-Evans theorizes that the Martians who came to Earth weren't the warrior-elite, or even a real invasion, but exiled criminals sent to have a little fun on Earth before they died. Not very nice of our Martian neighbors, if you ask me.

The most memorable of the essays is Connie Willis's lengthily-titled "'The Soul Selects Her Own Society,' Invasion & Repulsion: A Chronological Reinterpretation of Two of Emily Dickinson's Poems: A Wellsian Perspective," which asserts that some of Dickinson's poetry documents a Martian invasion. Don't forget to read the footnotes.

I have raved before about how much I enjoy the BenBella Smart Pop series of books. I found this entry in the series to be a little different though -- less amusing and more somber, undoubtedly due to the text under examination. After all, The War of the Worlds, chronicling the helplessness of mankind against the superior force of the Martians, is not the most uplifting of texts.

review by
Laurie Thayer

30 June 2007

what's new