some of my favorite things #5: the war of the worlds

waroftheworlds

Below is one of my favorite first paragraphs.  Reading it again sends a chill through me and makes me want to spend the rest of the afternoon in the book’s clutches.  Can’t think of a better way to celebrate the birthday of H.G. Wells, can you?

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.

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4 comments on “some of my favorite things #5: the war of the worlds

  1. Steven Harris says:

    Simply brilliant. Have mislaid my copy and Tono Bungay just does not compare (The Invisible Man is okay though). Must get to a second hand store and buy myself this book again very soon.

  2. Ryan Ange says:

    You know, I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read the book…although I’ve seen EVERY film adaptation…that’s got to redeem me a little, right?

  3. derek says:

    Ryan: it counts. I love the old George Pal version (perfect 50s SF), as well as the Spielberg version. The latter one is wonky at times, but there’s a real strange power to it and that whole sequence down in the cellar with Tim Robbins is disturbing stuff, I think. I might have to revisit that tonight actually.

    Steven: I’m trying to imagine the collision of Martians and Edwardian satire. It might just work actually.

  4. Steven Harris says:

    There are great swathes of Tono Bungay that could certainly do with spicing up by the arrival of Martians. Or better jokes.

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