The War of the Worlds

By H.G. Wells,

Book cover of The War of the Worlds

Book description

But planet Earth was not only being watched - soon it would be invaded by monstrous creatures from Mars who strode about the land in great mechanical tripods, bringing death and destruction with them. What can possibly stop an invading army equipped with heat-rays and poisonous black gas, intent on…


Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. (learn more)

Why read it?

8 authors picked The War of the Worlds as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This steam-age portrayal of an alien invasion grabbed my attention when I was in grade school. The author’s description of burning cities and forests painted a picture of ecological horror in my imagination. The impact of that has stayed with me, so much so that I have included the ecological consequences of war in much of what I have written.

From Justin's list on the environmental impacts of war.

That great theme running through so much of sci-fi, alien invasion of the Earth, successful or otherwise, can trace its origins back to this Victorian classic, in which envious, highly advanced Martians launch an invasion of Earth from their dying planet. The novel draws on the cutting-edge science of the day. The American astronomer, Percival Lowell, had popularised the idea that there were canals on Mars, moving water from the poles to irrigate a desert planet. Less well known, perhaps, is that the novel’s denouement also displays a sophisticated understanding of germ theory.

I like this classic as an allegory of colonisation, imperialism, and exploitation, as seen from the viewpoint of the oppressed. War of the Worlds is a commentary on the excesses of empire. Ordinary people are tyrannised by ‘superior beings’; the only response is to flee, hide or covertly resist the superior strength of the invaders.

When all hope appears lost, the solution and relief from the problem occur through an unforeseen accident. Behind the apparent invincibility of an oppressor, a weakness will sometimes emerge, unexpected but beneficial, restoring order to a troubled world.

Many of the problems described in books…

From Owen's list on accessible first contact sci-fi.

When most people think about Orwell’s War of the Worlds, they rightfully think about invasion fiction. But what stands out to me as a food writer is how Orwell uses food—or the lack of access to it— to show us how quickly society would deteriorate in the event of an invasion—an alien invasion, in this case. One of the book’s most telling lines for a foodie like me was the last line of chapter 7. After having raced home to save himself from the invasion and to have dinner with his wife, the Narrator (who isn’t named in the…

What is more terrifying than an alien menace bent on eradicating humanity? One that won’t even say why they are doing it. To me, that’s the most striking thing about this book. In other alien invasion stories, an antagonist often has a particular bone to pick; there’s some failed diplomacy or other motives to make it clear why they are attacking. In War of the Worlds, they just show up and take over without a word. Then, it falls to ordinary people to fight back against or simply survive in the face of a technologically superior foe who won’t…

If you've only seen the movies, you may think you know this classic story. A few iconic scenes make it into every adaptation, but I recommend you read the book. I'm glad I did. This is immortal science fiction from the Victorian era, and remains surprisingly relevant today. Wells’ actual theme is fascinating: complacency is foolish and trusting the government to save you may be fatal.

The ending (which I bet you know, but just in case, I won't spoil it) is so basic to Earth, I've got to shake my head in awe. 

I first experienced The War of the Worlds on screen, with the movie from 1953 and then the incredibly obscure TV series in the late 1980s. I didn’t read the book until I was well into my 30s, but when I did, I was captivated. Wells told a story that was so difficult to accept that no one has even tried to accurately represent it on screen. But it’s brilliant: a tale about the horrors of war, written before any of the wars of the 20th century that would make people realize he was right.

From Kevin's list on for the end of the world.

This novel inspired my first imagining of the world ending. Of unfolding catastrophe. Of the terrible anxiety that fills each moment when life is reduced to a faltering hour-by-hour existence. When time becomes suspended in a permanent sense of a dreadful present. When the end of everything I took for granted has already begun.

I was introduced to the story by the Jeff Wayne album initially, as a child in the late 70s, and I remember being transfixed by terror as Richard Burton narrated passages from the text. After I'd read the novel, my fear of the world ending by…

From Adam's list on Armageddon.

Want books like The War of the Worlds?

Our community of 7,000+ authors has personally recommended 10 books like The War of the Worlds.

Browse books like The War of the Worlds

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Mars, space warfare, and war?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Mars, space warfare, and war.

Mars Explore 55 books about Mars
Space Warfare Explore 31 books about space warfare
War Explore 256 books about war