It is with more than a little joy that I get to write about War of the Worlds today, the classic and timeless H. G. Wells novel which he penned in 1898. The story centred on a young man trying to survive an alien invasion in London and his journey through a vastly changed landscape in search of his beloved Carrie, while encountering desperate and strange characters along the way.
The story was made more famous on October 30th, 1938 when Orson Welles read an adaptation of the story on American radio. His narration was so compelling that thousands of listeners panicked, thinking that invaders really had landed.
In the 1950’s the book was made into a film but the story was sadly changed for the American audience and the big screen version never captured the intimate essence of Well’s original tale.
I’m not even going to mention the 2006 Spielberg film which starred Tom Cruise, other than to say it was an absolute disgrace of a remake and had virtually nothing to do with the original.
For me the ultimate ‘remake’ or ‘retelling’ of War of the Worlds came in the 1970’s in the shape of Jeff Wayne’s musical version; a fantastic sounding odyssey that took the listener through the quiet and peaceful streets of a London evening and the strange events on Horsell Common in Woking, to the nightmarish, burning streets of a defenceless capital city undergoing the slow and painful transformation of an earthly to an alien place.
Richard Burton provided the voice of the protagonist and his distinctive voice and superb acting skills truly brought the story to life. For a seven year old boy, War of the Worlds was utterly captivating and certainly shaped my own creative writing for years to follow; much to the dismay and joy of many an English teacher.
The Martians were terrifying creatures, all brain and tentacles in their beautifully designed tripod vehicles which strode across the land belching out flaming death rays and levelling the entire world to suit their own needs; a world they turned red like the surface of Mars from which they’d travelled in cylinders propelled by green comets.
Here comes the spoiler for those who have never read, seen or listened to the story.
While the Martians seemed indestructible and completely invulnerable against man’s greatest weapons, they failed to consider the simplest things; tiny organisms which began attacking them the moment they set tentacle upon the earth. While humankind’s greatest achievements and technological advancements failed them, the humblest aspects of creation quietly saved the planet, and perhaps there is a valuable lesson in that message.
Humans believe they are top of the food chain and rulers of the planet, but too often our species is found wanting. We have our place in the world and it is arrogant to think that we can be anything more than the sum of our parts. Nature has a way of dealing with unwanted pests and has historically proven to do so.
As the message on the Georgia Guidestones states: “Be not a cancer upon the earth.”
H. G. Wells was an incredible anthropologist and it is clear that there are warnings in his stories. The simplest message we can draw from this is that we should not tamper with the natural order of things. Nature has developed an intricate system in which everything can live in balanced harmony; it is arrogant of man to think he can mess with that as is being done by companies such as Monsanto.
Let nature be.
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Images: manchester.diarystar.co.uk; escapistmagazine.com