Thursday, 26 January 2017

A chilling sequel to H.G. Wells' groundbreaking Sci Fi Epic "The War of the Worlds". Here's Stephen Baxter's "The Massacre of Mankind" (Gollancz)

One of the books that I remember reading as a kid that really put me on the path to a lifelong appreciation of Science Fiction was "The War of the Worlds" by H.G. Wells...
When I was growing up, Jeff Wayne's "War of the Worlds" soundtrack and stage production was pretty much everywhere, the chilling site of martian death machines sweeping through the water still sticks in the mind - as does Sir Richard Burton's amazingly effective readings to compliment the whizzy synth musical extravaganza.

But harking back to Wells' original novel, I remember thinking that this was probably a book that an 8 year old really shouldn't be reading.

Written just before the turn of the 20th Century, it still feels like a book that was way ahead of its time. A brutal depiction of what would happen if the Earth was invaded by aliens who did not come in peace, but came to eradicate our species and make the earth their own.

It's a brave, brave thing to take on the task of writing a sequel to a book that - for all intents and purposes - did actually end fairly abruptly and neatly but in Stephen Baxter's "The Massacre of Mankind" - the officially authorised sequel endorsed by the H.G. Wells Estate, you'll find out what happened when the martians returned.

Set 14 years after the original book, "The Massacre of Mankind" finds the world has moved on.

People still cast a wary eye skywards but have become complacent in the belief that the Martian menace can be easily defeated.

What's more, the world is utilising alien technology salvaged from the downed war machines to usher in a new era of prosperity.

The world is ready, the army is ready, so when new launches are detected on the Martian surface, the world holds its breath. Only one man, Walter Jenkins, the narrator of Wells' book, believes that the Martians have learned, adapted, understood their defeat and will retaliate with deadly unstoppable force.

He is right.

Thrust into the chaos of a new invasion, a journalist - sister-in-law to Walter Jenkins - must survive, escape and report on the war.

This is a fantastic sequel that feels as tightly written and just as brutal and tense as the original - quite a chilling modern parable on how indestructible we think we are until a truly earth-shattering event shows us the error of our ways.

Stephen Baxter's novels are brilliant and I'm usually really sceptical about 'sequels' to classic books, but this is a really solid read and definitely worthy of your attention.

"The Massacre of Mankind" was released on January 19th, published by Gollancz (kindly supplied for review)