By Maggie Tan
The War of the Worlds. H. G. Wells. London: Cox and Wyman Ltd, 1898. 192 pp. ISBN: 9780375759239
H. G. Wells’ science fiction novel, The War of the Worlds, is one of the first stories to depict an extraterrestrial invasion of planet Earth. Despite being overlooked by its more well-known radio and movie adaptations, H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds proves to be a beautiful piece of writing, that has helped to lay the foundation for countless other works.
The novel is made up of two parts, Book One: The Coming of the Martians and Book Two: Earth under the Martians. Book One deals with the arrival of the Martians on Earth, or more specifically, in England. As it becomes increasingly clear to the anonymous narrator that the Martians have set out to destroy mankind and take over planet Earth, the protagonist tries to survive the apocalypse, all the while struggling to reunite with his wife. Book One also discusses the experience of the narrator’s unnamed younger brother in London, who manages to escape the Martians by the skin of his teeth. Book Two continues with the adventures of the narrator.
The novel feels disturbingly realistic, because the protagonist presents the story as a factual account, describing events he witnessed in retrospect. As a result, however, his matter-of-fact tone makes some of his situations unintentionally humorous. For example, when the narrator came across a body, he felt repulsed as he had never touched a corpse before, but he turned it over anyway to feel his heart, and reported that the body was in fact “quite dead”. However, this does not take away the overall sense of realism in this novel.
Although The War of the Worlds was written well over a century ago, the novel feels far from outdated. The concept of the Martians, their advanced weaponry, and the way in which they wipe out humanity is well thought out. The story is not only ahead of its time, but also convincing due to how the facts are put together. Moreover, the novel touches upon many ideas and questions one still has about extraterrestrial life. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise why this novel continues to exert great influence on movies, (comic) books, video games and such.
The War of the Worlds is a classic science-fiction novel that is worth picking up. Original, highly imaginative and endlessly imitated. The War of the Worlds is a novel that still manages to hold its own today.
By Rhea Holleman
Lord of the flies. William Golding. London: Faber and Faber LTD, 1968. 223 pp.
Lord of the flies is written by Sir William Gerald Golding in 1968, and regarded a must-read by many. It’s an allegorical novel and represents ideas about human nature and society. A gripping story, brilliantly written, full of adventure, yet still hard to get through.
A group of boys survive a plane crash and is stranded on a deserted island. No adults, no rules, just fun and games. Ralph is chosen as a leader, he stands for democracy, reason and gentleness. Take a 180° turn, and there you find Jack, a hunter, a killer, who seems to have been restrained only by the rules of society. While chasing ‘monsters’ and hunting for meat, civilization starts to take a back seat. While keeping a bonfire going, so as to attract bypassing ships, the situation slowly descends into chaos; with disastrous consequences.
Lord of the flies is a story about what happens when society falls apart and animal instincts take over. It is beautifully written; the conversations between the boys especially are very lifelike, childlike, and suitable to their age. The group of boys is wonderfully diverse, it includes leaders and followers, cruel and reasonable characters, even an easy bullying target called ‘Piggy’. All these different characters and their matching behaviour have been developed to such a degree that the reader can feel sympathy for all, even Jack. The boys immediately plunge into one adventure after the next, hunting pigs and chasing monsters, but the story is not exciting; it doesn’t keep me hanging at the edge of my seat. Maybe it’s the absence of a proper description of the area that makes the adventures of the boys hard to imagine. In any case, it isn’t one of those gripping books you only put down once you have finished it.
Do not read this book if you are looking for excitement and suspense. Read this book for the ideas behind it, and think about what the characters represent.
By Frans Snackers
Gaunt’s Ghosts: The Founding. Dan Abnett. Games Workshop, 2006. 768 pp.
Gaunt’s Ghosts: The Founding is a thrilling Science-fiction omnibus, which from the get go carries the reader off to the dystopian future of Warhammer 40.000, where there is nothing but war. Dan Abnett, whose Warhammer novels had already sold over a million copies in 2008, is a seasoned writer of novels and comics, and he certainly puts his talent on display in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series. In the series we follow Colonel-Commissar Ibrahim Gaunt, as he leads his men, the Ghosts of Tanith, on a campaign against all that stands against the Imperium of man they are protecting, and the politics involved in doing so.
The Founding is an omnibus, containing the first three novels of the Gaunt’s Ghosts series: First and Only, Ghostmaker, and Necropolis. The first two novels comprise of several short stories, which were put together in a non-chronological order, and serve as an introduction to the regiment and its characters, and the doom their home planet has befallen. Necropolis is the first book with an encompassing story arc, which takes the regiment and the reader to the planet of Verghast, where the Hive City of Vervunhive lies under siege of the evil forces of Chaos.
The quick pace that is used throughout the stories is perhaps what makes these books so good. Never does Abnett linger too long, nor does he rush certain parts to get to the good stuff. Abnett sketches a great scene which leaves little to the imagination, but does so using relatively few words. He also paints a convincing picture of the dystopian setting by reminding the reader numerous times how little a human life is worth, and in what horrid circumstances they are happy to live in, not to mention the atrocities that are being executed by not only the evil enemy, but also the good guys. For example in the first book, a conflict between Gaunt and a commanding officer of another regiment leads to the death of an entire platoon of the Tanith regiment.
However, readers that are not initiated into the universe of Warhammer 40.000 might find the lack of explanation of the background, setting and technology of the universe quite frustrating. Abnett has clearly written the books for readers that are well endowed with knowledge of the complex setting, and that presumption works against readers that will have to look up every term they do not know. However, on the flipside, this approach does work splendidly for readers that are part of his target audience, who would only get bored by being explained terms that they are familiar with.
If a war-epic set in a dystopian future where the worth human life is next to nothing is something you might be interested in, then look no further. Dan Abnett writes an intelligently thrilling series which only gets better the more you let yourself be immerged into them.