The Martian War (book, Paul Anderson, 2012)

From SFX #228.


Author: Kevin J Anderson

Publisher: Titan Books

345 pages

HG Wells goes to Mars.

The prolific Anderson turns his hand to reimagining HG Wells’ life in this tale, which has the thinker and novelist living out the “real” events that “inspired” his books.

It’s the late 19th Century, and Wells is invited by his mentor TH Huxley (one of several historical figures present) to a secret science symposium. The event is gate-crashed by Dr Moreau, who sensationally reveals a Martian invasion plan. Wells, his girlfriend Jane and Huxley are subsequently sent on an odyssey around the Solar system in Dr Cavor’s sphere, ultimately coming face to face with the terrible Martians themselves.

Wells fans will recognise Moreau and Cavor from the great man’s works. There are plenty more nods to his books and short stories throughout. Anderson obviously loves Wells’ work, and sends him on a rollicking adventure, but in some respects The Martian War is simply a pale imitation of Alan Moore’s far more intelligent The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Anderson’s writing is energetic, but full of adjectival clutter and anachronism, while the book’s depiction of Victorian England is paper-thin, sub-steampunk silliness peppered with clunkily delivered shots of biographical and historical data.

On the Moon and Mars, where he’s riffing off Wells’ own imagery, Anderson does a far better job, and the segments of the story taken from Dr. Moreau’s journal are the story’s most convincing and entertaining elements. In fact, The Martian War is probably the best Anderson novel we’ve yet read.

Did you know?

Wells’ failed marriage and love for Jane are given lots of airtime, in reality Wells was a libidinous man and an early proponent of free love.


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