Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Gorey Martian War!

I've read so many pastiches and derived stories from the fount of the classic novel The War of the Worlds by H.G.Wells that it suddenly occurred to me that it's been many years since I sat down and carefully read the original.

I have corrected that with a reading of the famous story, this one decorated with the peculiar but atmospheric drawings of the famous illustrator a Edward Gorey.

The story has a resonance which lingers with the reader. The narrator (Wells himself perhaps) is a typical Victorian Englishman with the quiet equanimity that we expect. Consequently the story is told with a calm reserve which oddly magnifies the slowly developing horror. Moments of normalcy, especially at the beginning, counterpoint the oddity of the activity of the newly arrived Martians at the notorious pit.

The manner in which Wells describes the crowds and their rising and falling fascination with the meteor smacks realistically of how we find ourselves consumed with the petty details of daily life and often overlook the significance of the amazing when it literally lands in our midst.

The story of mankind's fall beneath the tread of the Martians is relentless as we shift from our narrator to his identical brother for a glimpse of how London descends into chaos. In this part we get a glimpse of how little Wells thought of his fellow men and how they might react to such bizarre circumstances. It's not a pretty picture as rivers of panicked people clot the roads creating arguably as much tragedy as the invaders themselves.

The demise of the Martians is all too well known so its not for this surprise that anyone would read the story. I was taken by how many times Wells foreshadows the eventual fall of the aliens to Earth bacteria as the story rumbles to its conclusion. Many of the small details had eluded me as I've substituted in my memory adaptations of the original tale for the source itself.

Reading this story again was a hearty return to one of the grand spectacles in modern fiction. And  Gorey's pictures capture the weird tone of the events perfectly without intruding on the text itself. Very nice stuff indeed.

More to come.

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