One of the nice things about the Folio Society releasing classic books in shiny new formats is that we get to look at stuff created long before even Starburst Magazine came into being. H. G. Wells’ novel War of The Worlds first came out in 1897 and though we are the world’s oldest magazine of cult entertainment, we weren’t around back then.
In case you don’t know that story; War of The Worlds is about an invasion of Earth by alien beings from Mars. They have vastly superior technology, specifically their three legged walking war machines and a terrible heat ray. They arrive to bring devastation on humanity. Specifically, England. The book was written in Victorian times, and much of the charm for the modern reader is reading about Victorians getting beaten up by an implacable and merciless culture.
It’s a product of its time; fiction about Britain being invaded by other nations was popular back in later 19th century. However, the themes of cultural imperialism, evolution, human innovation and the vicious nature of life are still relevant today. Wells’ tight, rhythmic and breathless prose survives the test of time. It’s important to consider the context of the story; Victorian England was a different place and British Empire was well under way. Much of it will feel quaint to modern readers, but this book is where a great deal of modern sci-fi comes from, so quaint isn’t really fair; archetypal is perhaps more accurate.
The Folio Society edition is, of course, gorgeous. By now you probably know the drill. Bound in buckram with gorgeous blocked cover art, depicting (in four images) the highlights of the story. It’s solid with a nice slipcase, and inside it has a fairly solid introduction from author, critic and psycho-geographer Iain Sinclair, which is just chewy enough and gives fresh readers a good sense of context for the book. Illustrator Grahame Baker-Smith is better known for his charming and whimsical work, and the plates for this edition of War of Worlds are stark, striking and visually captivating. Turns out the same style that conveys the fantasy of Alice in Wonderland works just as well when applied to a terrifying Martian War Machine.
War of The Worlds is essential reading for science-fiction fans and if you’re going to have a copy of the book on your shelf you may as well get something that’s rather lovely. It is an excellent choice for word nerds, no matter what world they are on.
WAR OF THE WORLDS / AUTHOR: H.G. WELLS / PUBLISHER: THE FOLIO SOCIETY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW