The War of the Worlds

I read the copy with the introduction by Ray Bradbury and people’s real reactions to the radio broadcast, which were so wild it’s incredible how prone to hysteria and panic people can be if not susceptible to becoming more informed. Most of those who did listen, missed the preface of it being a dramatization and were too panicked by the play to check with other news stations, also the police weren’t much help because they didn’t have the information necessary and advice to stay indoors and to listen for news broadcasts panicked people more than helped. Although some who heard the broadcast didn’t take it as an alien invasion, they thought “Martian” meant the Japanese or Germans were the threats, something more plausible for their fear. Reporters were angered by the broadcast and  made it seem many had died and committed suicide from the panic; complete bollocks, no one was more injured than those who sustained bruises, to egos as well as physical ones. Welles wasn’t the first to use this broadcasting technique either, but Welles did have a reason for making the broadcast believable, trying to show the public not to take everything they hear as fact; Something which is still a struggle, eh?

One columnist even praised Welles for shining “…a brilliant and cruel light upon the failure of popular education”. I agree, even today, with the rest of her statement being it showed “…the incredible stupidity, lack of nerve, and ignorance of…” in this case, a little over a million people. Those who took the joke hard, obviously don’t get scared often and didn’t like being shown, either to themselves or those who know them, as being weak and ignorant; The saps. Also, H.G. Wells wasn’t happy about being made to believe they weren’t only going to read his book on air, but lost steam when sales for his book increased; Ha! On the sides of the pages for the script of the radio broadcast we have quotes from those who were fooled completely, temporarily and those who didn’t know what to make of it. Some from poor neighborhoods were quoted to panicking at first, but were still able to comprehend it being a play by the end, seemingly because they had nowhere to flee to or being unable to do so in other ways. It seems the lower middle class had a perfect amount of hysteria to make them have more foolish reactions. Welles also suspected some panic from his show, but not to the extent it had; He was 23 when he did this, so no shit, Sherlock; Young and naive, much? Besides, there’s also mini-biographies of both Orson Welles and H.G. Wells, making me want a longer one of Orson, and looking forward to H.G.’s autobiography.

It reads like a science text about outer space and specifically of Mars. Then there’s a first person account of presumably the author being the narrator, unnamed with a well known astronomer. They are looking at and discussing the probability of life on the planet. Then, for 10 nights, flames are seen, believed to be from volcanoes. After the stop of which, life continues to be normal. Then a falling star, “the first” of the events to be seen. Ogilvy, the astronomer, goes to search for it and once discovering the large crash site, awaits for the object to cool. When the surface covering the object began falling off with a severe sound, Ogilvy had a great bout of adrenaline, making him move closer (seemingly a dope). The cylinder began rotating off, Ogilvy not comprehending until seeing, perhaps the dark indentation ridges to indicate movement. Although, most everyone today would know this could mean death or slave-dom, Ogilvy had good ole fashion symptoms of “rescuer” syndrome and began trying to help unscrew the top from the outside; It certainly doesn’t take long to get entertaining. Once he realizes the heat made it impossible for him to get any closer, let alone touch it, he retreats to town.

After bringing his story to a couple unbelieving passersby, he recognizes someone and divulges to the man what he saw, they returning to the site to discover the cylinder open enough for air to enter, but when tapping on the outside with a stick with no response, they conclude death or disorientation of the occupant(s). The men return to town hoping to get more help for the “spacemen”, being unable to do anything more themselves. The news gets the story soon enough with the narrator soon catching wind of it and going to see for himself the area in question. Once arriving, the narrator sees the crowd has gathered and the two men, Ogilvy and Henderson, had gone off to sup at Henderson’s. Later on Ogilvy returns and shares the plan of putting up a fence to deter rubbernecking. Henderson as well as another astronomer had come along and they noticed noises from inside the capsule could still be heard and whether the Narrator would like to see about getting a hold of Lord Hilton who lived in the vicinity. He was told he was in London and expected back at a specific hour later, and so he goes home, relaxing and awaiting Lord Hilton’s arrival at the station to meet up with him there.

We return to the site and more people have come and are being pushed closer to the edge of the crater, one man is pushed in and tries to climb back up again. People are excitedly agitated because the pod has unscrewed at a quicker rate. The lid comes off and we expect to see a creature human-esque, but it isn’t anything close. People aren’t as curious after what they see and begin to run off. When seeing one emerge and the start of another coming out, the Narrator also bolts stumbling towards the first stand of trees, due to being unable to look away from the terror-striking sight. We see the same man whom fell in, still struggling to escape the pit and he almost goes back to help, but fear overrules his fancy as a shriek is heard; Now I understand why this book is a classic. It’s much like a movie in it’s depiction, which I wouldn’t even dare compare to the latest movie, but I may have to look into the first adaptation, praised as being the closest to the original. Anyways, the Narrator is unable to compel himself to flee further, but tries to locate a better vantage point to observe the creatures better.

Soon authorities along with Ogilvy and Henderson wave a white flag, treating the Martians in a way which hopefully shows they respect their intelligence and to prove their own. After, a flame/light bursts forth, after which something comes out of the pit. Meanwhile, we soon learn what the flashes of flame are all about when some of the “white flag” supporters make a hasty retreat. The Narrator sees the fiery destruction of forest and buildings close-by, after which, the silence brings proper fear, a child’s fear and he runs away. We get a death count at the pit and then the spread of how fast the news of what happened could get out to certain surrounding towns. The people in Woking didn’t seem to know the cylinder had even opened, but those who did, made the trek in small groups to have their own look-see, which also brought out some police officers trying to keep the larger growing group, back, inciting the thoughtless group mentality to take over some in the usual noise-rowdy way. Those others who escaped to be able to mention the tale of those first at the pit, had similar descriptions to the Narrator’s in it was dealt and accompanied by bright light.

The second group of onlookers fared no better. The policeman on horse-back returned screaming, meanwhile the Narrator flees, clumsily in his own opinion, through trees until making it to the Horsell crossroads and continues along the path, until collapsing from physical and mental exhaustion. Upon regaining his sense, he didn’t know whether what he had lived through had happened and was confused by waking in his current whereabouts. He walked on in a drunkenly manner across the bridge and introspectively thought of his own dissociation at certain moments, this being one of them. When he arrives at the train-station, he asks some people if they’ve heard any “news from the common”, to which they had none, taking the news of “men from Mars” lightly. He tries to explain his traumatizing experience brokenly and not making it understood, getting laughed at for his trouble, so he makes his way home and shares the tale with his wife. She takes his story more seriously to the point of his comforting her by describing the aliens as barely able to move from the pit. After which, to comfort himself and his wife he speaks of the differing gravitational and oxygen levels which would affect the Martians unfavorably; he also realizes his error of this later. He concludes the chapter with his informing us of this meal with his wife being the last normal one for many days.

They reach their destination and if not having to return the horse, he knew his wife would have rather he stayed, and he regrets not doing so, but he was also excited to go back and see the Martians overthrown. He makes his way back, late and by a different route. Upon reaching Addlestone, a third falling star is seen, followed by a quick succession of lightning flashes, scaring the horse. He soon sees a giant machine walking in his general direction, and then a second one coming out from the trees in front of him, its path going straight at him. Trying to make a quick get away which only ends with the horse being pushed over by the cart and the Narrator falling out. The horse seriously injured, the Narrator watches the machine walk past and to another area, leaving him there to join other machines, he looks on and believes they were gathered around one of the many cylinders shot from Mars. He continues to Maybury, trying to take shelter in a hut and failing to get inside for no one answering the door. He speaks on as if he would have chosen differently in regards to his movements if he hadn’t run into these strange happenings, but he ended up with the idea of staying at his home once reaching it, but before getting there, runs into another man, who hurried away upon running into him and then noticing someone he knew lying in a ditch, dead.

He reaches his home not long after and tries to recover emotionally and due to the hail and rain, physically. After taking a moment to clean himself up, he goes to the window in his study and spies the damage from the fires and Martian shapes busily moving around. He thought of the possibilities of what the machines held inside of them or if they worked autonomously, when he sees a soldier going over the fence to his yard and he welcomes him in for a safe-haven. He tries to withdraw information from him, getting repeated vague-ry in reply, only learning the Martians had overcome the troops. The young soldier soon regains enough of his wits to confess what happened to him, also learning how the large machines started up and began delivering damage; quite entertainingly. Soon dawn has almost arrived and the Narrator and soldier survey the surroundings from his study window. The Martians seemed to have widened the pit, making it the main “working” space. When dawn does come, the two men agree their current quarters isn’t safe and whilst the soldier planned on heading London-ward, the Narrator planned to rejoin his wife, but agreed to accompany the soldier in a safer route until parting to go to their collective destinations. They run into a Lieutenant on a horse and the soldier informs him, when asked, what the Martians looked like. After giving the Lieutenant directions to get a look at them himself, they go on to Weybridge. They get there and move to the point of where the Wey and the Thames converge and this is where the Martians show their force again. The Narrator came up with the idea of detecting safety underwater.

This is where the real action begins as the Narrator and citizens take cover from Martian violence. When he surfaces, he sees one machine-clad Martian ignore the running people around it and make its way to the opposite shore to Shepperton. We are told other action with the Martians could have been occurring simultaneously, but the Narrator chose to focus on the nearest, understandably. As the Martian gets back on land, it is fired upon and we soon perceive although the Martians control these machines, however temporarily, the machines are capable of independent piloting, continuing to bring damage upon a church nearby before finally falling. Whilst the Narrator tries to get a better view of the collapsing one, he is warned of the other Martians coming across to Shepperton where the volley continues this time with assurance at the new targets. Since the Narrator thought it safer being submerged, ducking again for cover. When he rises once more, he observes two Martians inspecting the felled one. One’s heat-ray goes off bringing a tidal wave of destruction to the surrounding area as well as an actual tidal wave, leaving the Narrator to stagger away, burned but able to escape and see the Martians take the remains of the fallen back with them; this would definitely be one of the more action-event-filled chapters. The Martians learned how to deal with the British military after this and so the Narrator goes on by boat toward London. He gets extremely dehydrated on his journey and is met by a curate whom he had repeatedly asked for water. The curate kept bemoaning the rubble which used to be his church and what had they done to have this destruction befall them. Soon the Narrator realizes the curate is in a state of fear which won’t allow him to answer to their whereabouts and only to the state of their well-being, to which the Narrator tries to make reasonable theory and losing the curate to his fear halfway through.

We distinguish at this moment in time the Narrator has a brother in London at medical school and when his class hears the news about the Martians and his brother realizes how close the Narrator was, he telegraphed him, which doesn’t reach him, with news he’d be visiting him and stayed over night in a music hall. From there his brother made it as far as the Waterloo station, unable to get a train the rest of the way and trying to get news of the Martians as it came, which wasn’t much. After some time, the station was being cleared out and his brother was able to buy a paper with the information of how dangerous the Martians actually were. After, his brother returns to London and not long after going to bed hears a commotion and a policeman shouting the Martians have come. He sees through his window people leaving quickly by carriage and such. He dresses and goes down to the street getting a paper and describing the poison gas the Martians have and having the situation looking dire-lessly serious. He gathers some light possessions of import and leaves with the rest.

Whilst the Narrator’s brother is watching people run across Westminster Bridge, the curate is still talking crazy and the Martians are still working in the pit until fairly early in the night. Three ventured out by 8 and were heard by the Narrator and curate, one of the Martians took out those in Painshill Park, but soldiers in another area fared better; I’m starting to understand due to the close geography written, one would be better off with a map of Britain or know the area well due to Wells being quite specific. The second bunch we see, takes down the Martian and the fallen one lets another, by a “howling” communication, know of his need for backup. When the Martian’s call was answered, the table’s turned yet again in favor of the Martians. Three had gathered and the one which fell began repairing the machine the Martian operated. When rockets fired, two Martian “fighting machines” passed close enough to be seen by the curate and himself. As the curate ran off, the Narrator knew better and found a hiding spot close by, which the curate, after seeing him, followed suit.

The Martians quietly set up their attack. They both heard gunshots from varying distances and then the Martian near them fired which made the Narrator forget his safety in preference of a better view, which brought no excitement or events, keeping everyone in suspense. The Martian by them moves on and the Narrator and curate do the same, seeing a protrusion of a hill which wasn’t there before, meanwhile they hear the “hooting” of the Martians communicating to each other. Soon the Martians start firing poisonous gas again as well as another element unidentified for the moment. In some cases the Martians would dissipate the gas once the effects served its purpose and they became increasingly careful whenever they were leery of return gunfire, bringing out their Heat-Ray, which they used sparingly for reasons only theorized. The “battle” continued and the Martians stayed strong, delivering consistent blows to the soldiers, leaving many wounded and civilian spectators still accounted for during it all. The gas is more prevalent, taking out the soldiers which by dawn the government is on its last leg and advising those still holding out for victory the reality of needing to flee.

By Monday, due to people frantically trying to get out, the police became over-worked and frustrated ending up inflicting some brutality of their own. A Martian appeared halfway through the day and with it poisonous gas blocked escape over the bridges of the Thames and Lambeth. We then learn how the Narrator’s brother’s escape was going; turning out to be going better than most, making it to Edgware. Upon resting up, he moves on presumably getting to a town he knew some friends lived in, which seems a long shot they’d still even be there what with everything, but oh well. Anyways, on his travels he joins up with two ladies in time for an impromptu rescue. A few men, thinking they could overpower the women stopped their horse and buggy and whilst one was terror-stricken, the other tried to defend herself. His brother, a trained fighter, gets the troublemakers attention well enough and as the women make a get away and his brother, after laying out one man, tries to follow them as one of the other bullies had defended himself against his brother better than the first, chased after him, the ladies realized their rescuer was in need of their assistance and the dark-haired lady brings out a concealed fire-arm she hadn’t been able to get to during their attack.

After properly scaring off one, making them both retreat to where the knocked out one lay. The three continue on toward Barnet and getting closer, come upon more people, his brother gathering as much broken information as he could. Soon they get rushed by a crowd of people trying to go past them seemingly caused by a fire burning a villa making a smoke which brought confusion to the people trying to leave. We get more closer descriptions of the people trying to escape as the cry of the Martians coming continue. The violence of escape gets worse as the fear grows, the Narrator’s brother trying to help anyone close to him. After realizing the futile-ness of his actions, he decides to retreat with his main group back the way they came, but soon realizes the road ahead is their only option and drives them back into the frenzied crowd. They reach somewhere near East Barnet and rest for the night, but unable to truly be at ease for hunger and anxiety. They also periodically see people rushing past them in the direction they’d come.

The Narrator reiterates the terror-ed mass of people seen by his brother and how nothing could have rivaled its suffered stampede. There was news of the Martians controlling London at this point and how governor officials planned on using a high volume of explosives in mines; I don’t know how mines were supposed to deter the Martians but, only just. The Narrator also is sure to mention each falling star which is seen by his brother and Miss Elphinstone, alternately. We continue to follow them as they try to reach the coast, foregoing food to close the distance instead. Near Tillingham, they are able to view the coast and are greeted with a sight of many freighters and ships letting off and bringing on people from the shore. Miss Elphinstone is now becoming anxious and panic-stricken with the idea of leaving England, especially without her husband, hoping to turn around and spot him “at Stanmore”. The two convince her to board with them upon noticing a steamer which would have them and even shared a meal, once settled. The captain stayed at shore as long as he could to gather as many passengers until well beyond capacity when gunfire was heard. Soon after, they see a Martian in the distance seemingly to mosey along. The one seemed to be heading for the steamer and then another is seen doing the same. By the end, there are three Martians in the water, releasing black smoke and another using the Heat-Ray underwater, damaging a ship. Then a Martian was taken out and not long after another goes with it and although this seemed like a score for humanity, since the third Martian was also missing, the ship it had aimed for was now nowhere to be seen. The captain of their vessel is the first to point out a grey object swiftly rising into the sky and when it reached its height of flight, moved away from them, bringing darkness to the earth.

Upon the start of Book II, we switch back to the Narrator and curate’s whereabouts, which was an abandoned house in Halliford to escape Black Smoke. The Narrator had begun to tire of the curate’s repetitious “woe-is-me” moaning and began retreating to room’s out of the curate’s reach, ending in a box-room. The Narrator was planning on continuing alone since the curate seemed keen on staying, but changed his addled mind when he realized the Narrator was going to leave regardless. They didn’t run in to anything consequential, other than people in Twickenham and didn’t run into Martians until closer to Barnes. He and the curate hid for a few moments and Narrator ditched him again when he didn’t seem ready to move on, the curate comes after him once he begins to make his way to a road towards Kew, which wasn’t the best decision, seeing another or possibly the same Martian collecting Humans running away. Narrator and curate hide in a ditch, well into the night, resuming their hike more stealthily. When the curate starts feeling faint they break into a couple homes, staying in the latter one for some time in Mortlake. This time the curate is the one whom wants to make a hasty continuation of journey, but Narrator decides the opposite and we are then told why they get stranded there. A large impact hit the house, knocking out the Narrator and the curate sustaining a cut head. He updates the Narrator on their situation, believing Martians to be within radius and so keeping themselves still and quiet until light, the Narrator wondering if a Martian had knocked into the house, realizing upon the dawn it was one of the cylinders, after which they rest until the Narrator wakes again and is moved to hunt for food, once doing so, being followed by the curate.

After, they go back to the scullery and the Narrator loses the curate’s whereabouts for probably nodding off, but notices him against the hole which looked out upon the Martians, causing the curate to jump and causing some noise which they anxiously await to learn whether it was noticed. Instead it goes on to describe what the Martians were doing inside the cylinder. We then get a more detailed description of the Martians appearance which leads into the start of how they took blood from living creatures, which they had brought with them on their trip to Earth, the species obviously not surviving the trip. We also are given three other differences between the anatomy of their species to ours. The Narrator mentions, despite a pamphlet written by someone who may not have ever even seen a Martian, supposed they communicated by sound and tentacle movements, but the Narrator alludes to not being the case. Also covering what their hooting sound signified. He does finally give his opinion of how they communicate, which at first he had trouble believing and by the end of the chapter, describes what the methodical rhythmic noise had been coming from.

The Narrator and the curate stayed hidden and fought for purchase to seeing the activities of the Martians. The Narrator soon locates the curate a weak individual who is selfish and ignorant, the sort which would drive anyone mad in a crisis situation; eating too much of their small supply of food and sleeping little, leaving him as scatter-brained as how some discriminative comments about females are described. The Narrator notes they had decided to stay as long as the Martians would go about their work, for it was unsafe to try and escape without notice any sooner. What the Narrator spied was not as interesting as what the curate would see, the former being of more Martians going about their tasks whilst the latter saw the first men brought to the pit. The man was middle-aged and only seen for a moment by the Narrator, but it brought curiosity with his presence. The Narrator was then contemplating escape by digging, but it failed and after seeing a horrible sight, he begins to feel despair yet again. The Narrator found many of the Martians had deserted the site, but for a few and also heard what sounded like gunshot report which ended an apparently beautiful-looking evening.

The next chapter begins with how the Narrator and the curate had been accustoming themselves to the companionship between them, which wasn’t an idyllic one. The Narrator had to keep fighting with the curate to not eat all their rations all at once, he complaining and trying to sneak food or drink. They had been there for six days now and the Narrator now confirmed he was stuck with a man whom had lost his marbles. The curate soon didn’t abide keeping his voice at a whisper, speaking in normal tones and repeating the same ramblings to himself or the Narrator and would digress into how the Narrator was treating him by withholding food, soon becoming a threat to their safety. So the Narrator, due to the curate’s resolve in shouting and planning to give away their hiding place by walking straight into the lion’s den, as it were, hits the curate with the butt of a blade he’d found, the curate lying still. It was still enough to bring a handling-machine to investigate. The Narrator flees in terror and wonders whether the machine had noticed him, only fascinated by how it had made its way into the room, but still trying to detect a place to hide. The Martian comes to his hiding place and the Narrator stays hidden and undiscovered, but apparently quite close to being uncovered, at the end of his rope from paranoia. He stayed in his hiding place until day eleven, ending the chapter.

Later, when the Narrator checked the pantry after the Martian had been through it the day before, it had cleaned out all the food and so he didn’t eat for the next two days, starting to despair. A few days after, being able to discover rain water to drink at least, he also noticing a dog in the kitchen, hoping for the pup to get closer so he could kill and eat him, but also so the dog wouldn’t make any unwanted noise to draw attention. The dog didn’t come any nearer though and nothing was attracted by it’s minimal noise. After gathering courage to look out and see if he could spot any Martians and observing the place was deserted, he resolves only after a short time of hesitation to get the hell out of there. When he begins his walking about, he’s dazzled by the light and seems refreshed and heartened at the still beautiful and quiet nature about him.

He begins to feel how the human race dominated the planet which turned into feeling more like the animals which live on our planet now, the fear of being found and attacked, but soon the knowledge Humans were no longer top dog waned and he focused on detecting food, which he does in a garden, uncovering an assortment of veggies. He also continually notices the new red plants which have sprouted everywhere and how they consumed all the large bodies of water where they were. Meanwhile he makes his way farther from the pit, but he also reports how the red weeds eventually die out. He eventually begins seeing more skeletons as he got to Roehampton which made him believe the Martians take-over must be pretty much complete, thinking they may have gone elsewhere to explore for more “food”. Upon reaching Putney Hill, he breaks into an Inn and scrounges enough food to take with him when he decided to leave, but stays the night and tries to sleep in a bed, which he hadn’t done for some time now. Instead of being able to finally sleep though, he thinks over what had been done to the curate, where the Martians were and what had become of his wife, praying properly for the first time in awhile, until finally setting out again at morning.

When he reaches Wimbledon Common, he runs into a solitary man, whom at first he doesn’t realize he knows, but soon they both recognize each other and the Narrator is able to get information on where the Martians have gone, which is across London where it seems they’re learning to fly. Soon the artilleryman confides to the Narrator his plan of survival and his view of what the Martians had in mind for their species. The artilleryman goes into great detail of his idea on how to keep the Human race going and it seems reasonable enough, once he explains it to the Narrator, but upon starting to help upon the work the artilleryman had started from the home he had chosen to connect to the drains underground in London, he began to realize they might have started in an easier way, but was also glad to be doing something useful after his sojourn in the house with the curate. Soon after staying with the artilleryman long enough though, he begins to realize the artilleryman might not know and has built some beliefs upon theories rather than facts of what was actually going on around them and where the Martians actually were, leaving the Narrator ready to travel to London to learn what was truly going on.

When he reaches London, it’s pretty well eradicated with dead everywhere and some being disturbed by dogs. Soon he begins hearing a repetitive cry of, “Ulla, Ulla…” and not worrying about it at first, looked for food and slept somewhere indoors, being awoken by the same sound. He eventually realizes it’s a lone Martian making the cry, but isn’t afraid and continues on his trek toward the howling alien. He sees more Martians, but they are still and eventually the howling abruptly stops. We then see what realization the Narrator had figured out, whilst men couldn’t overthrow the Martians, because they were more powerful, our planet had. We then see the Narrator had gone properly nuts for a few days after the overthrow was known to the world and taken in by a kindly family who watched after him until he’d regained some sense. The family lets him know what happened to Leatherhead after he’d left it and after four more days of recovery leaves the family with promises of returning after he eased his mind of seeing what had become of his old life and home. On his way back he had bought a paper claiming it was found out how the Martians had learned to fly. He continues on his journey back, going by train and then recognizing his home was as he and the artilleryman had left it, but then once he believed he was alone, he saw his wife and cousin outside.

He concludes by mentioning his belief the Martians not necessarily planning a second attack being out of the question and should be prepared. It was one of the oddest and scientifically intellectual representations of alien invasion I’ve read so far. As for the Orson Welles version, it’s definitely in a league of it’s own, taking the best bits of the story and changing little for American sensibilities. I can imagine people being totally fooled by this if they hadn’t read the story, which seems likely with those who listened to their radios at this time, but I would doubt it’s realism if I was made to believe this was happening on the radio, of course there are now ways of verifying this sort of information, but for arguments sake, it is far-fetched, regardless of the amount of times they let people know of it’s fictional representation due to being too caught up with the dread of its possibility to wait and hear the intermission and mention of it being a story. The second representation taking place this time in Buffalo, New York seemed as far-fetched, but scared the bejesus out of everyone again, ha-ha. I’ll be interested in seeing how Wells’ writing developed due to next beginning The Time Machine.

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One thought on “The War of the Worlds

  1. Pingback: The World of Jeeves | Book Fiend

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