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The War of the Worlds

WELLS, H. G. The War of the Worlds

London: Heinemann, 1898

Original gray cloth. Some spotting. Fine. Half morocco case.

FIRST EDITION IN BOOK FORM, FIRST ISSUE, with the 16 page publisher’s catalogue dated Autumn 187 headed by New Letters of Napoleon I (later issues usually contain a 32pp undated catalogue with Illumination or a 32pp catalogue led by Conrad’s Nigger of the Narcissus).

The War of the Worlds, “the great classic of interplanetary invasion” (Bleiler), ensured the author’s place as a “father of science fiction.” Wells’s “scientific romances (as they came to be called) remain unsurpassed for their imagination and visionary power” (ODNB).

This immensely popular Victorian novel presented a dark view of natural selection, showing the benefits the ancient Martian civilization had reaped through millennia of evolution. At the same time, it offered a critique of colonialism and imperialism. In the first chapter Wells warns, “And before we judge them [the Martians] too harshly, we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished Bison and Dodo, but upon its own inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?”

The War of the Worlds has spawned countless imitations and parodies as well as adaptations for stage, screen, and radio, most famously Orson Welles’s radio broadcast of 1938, taken by credulous listeners to present real events as they happened.