Free Classic E-Book 'The War of the Worlds'
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The War of the Worlds is a science fiction novel by English author H. G. Wells. It first appeared in serialized form in 1897, published simultaneously in Pearson's Magazine in the UK and Cosmopolitan magazine in the US. The first appearance in book form was published by William Heinemann of London in 1898. It is the first-person narrative of the adventures of an unnamed protagonist and his brother in Surrey and London as Earth is invaded by Martians. Written between 1895 and 1897, it is one of the earliest stories that detail a conflict between mankind and an extraterrestrial race. The novel is one of the most commented-on works in the science fiction canon.
[The Coming of the Martians]
The narrative opens in an astronomical observatory at Ottershaw where explosions are seen on the surface of the planet Mars, creating much interest in the scientific community. Later a "meteor" lands on Horsell Common, near the narrator's home in Woking, Surrey. He is among the first to discover that the object is an artificial cylinder that opens, disgorging Martians who are "big" and "greyish" with "oily brown skin," "the size, perhaps, of a bear," with "two large dark-coloured eyes," and a lipless "V-shaped mouth" surrounded by "Gorgon groups of tentacles." The narrator finds them "at once vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous." They briefly emerge, have difficulty in coping with the Earth's atmosphere, and rapidly retreat into the cylinder. A human deputation (which includes the astronomer Ogilvy) approaches the cylinder with a white flag, but the Martians incinerate them and others nearby with a heat-ray before beginning to assemble their machinery. Military forces arrive that night to surround the common, including Maxim guns. The population of Woking and the surrounding villages are reassured by the presence of the military. A tense day begins, with much anticipation of military action by the narrator.
After heavy firing from the common and damage to the town from the heat-ray which suddenly erupts in the late afternoon, the narrator takes his wife to safety in nearby Leatherhead, where his cousin lives, and then returns to Woking during a violent thunderstorm in the early hours of the morning. On the road during the height of the storm he has his first sight of a Martian War Machine. In panic, he crashes his borrowed carriage and barely escapes detection. He discovers the Martians have assembled towering three-legged "fighting-machines" (Tripods), each armed with a heat-ray and a chemical weapon: the so-called "black smoke". These Tripods have wiped out the army units positioned around the cylinder and attacked and destroyed most of Woking. Sheltering in his house, the narrator sees a fleeing artilleryman moving through the garden, who tells him his experiences and mentions that another cylinder has landed between Woking and Leatherhead, cutting the narrator off from his wife. The two try to escape via Byfleet just after dawn, but are separated at the Shepperton to Weybridge Ferry during a Martian attack on Shepperton in the afternoon. One of the Martian fighting machines is brought down in the River Thames by Artillery as the narrator and countless others try to cross the river into Middlesex, while the Martians retreat back to their original crater. This gives the authorities precious hours to form a defence-line covering London. After the Martian's temporary repulse, the narrator is able to float down the Thames toward London in a boat, stopping at Walton, where he first encounters the Curate, his companion for the next weeks.