Tuesday, July 12

Wells' Extra-Terrestrial Idea

I think since I am reading The War of the Worlds, it's about time that I gave you a taste of Wells' interpretation of the alien.  There must be hundreds upon thousands of depictions of the martian or alien or extra terrestrial immigrant etcetera etcetera, but they are all unique in flavour, with subtle similarities.  I believe, however, that Wells' Martian is one of the most individual that I've met.  Chapter Two: What We Saw From the Ruined House of Part Two: The Earth Under the Martians, gives the clearest, most detailed and uninterrupted account of the Martians so far, and from pages of fascinating and disturbing description of these grotesque creations, I harvested three excerpts that give a basic idea of Wells' Martian as well as offering a sense of repulsive and yet alluring intrigue.  Chapter Two of Part Two is definitely worth reading, just for the experience alone, if for nothing more 

"It's motion was so swift,complex, and perfect that at first I did not see it as a machine, in spite of its metallic glitter.  The fighting machines were coordinated and animated to an extraordinary pitch, but nothing to compare with this.  People who have never seen these structures, and have only the ill-imagined efforts of artists of the imperfect descriptions of such eyewitnesses as myself to go upon, scarcely  realize the living quality." 

"They were, I now saw, the most unearthly creatures it is possible to conceive.  They were huge round bodies - or, rather, heads - about four feet in diameter, each body having in front of it a face.  This face had no nostrils - indeed, the Martians so not seem to have had any sense of smell, but it had a pair of very large dark-coloured eyes, and just beneath this a kind of fleshy beak. ...  In a group round the mouth were sixteen slender, almost whiplike tentacles, arranged in two bunches of eight each.  These bunches have since been named rather aptly, by that distinguished anatomist, Professor Howes, the hands." 

"They have become practically mere brains, wearing different bodies according to their needs just as men wear suits of clothes and take a bicycle in a hurry or an umbrella in the wet." 
Chapter Two, Part Two, The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, published 1898. 

What do you think?  The idea of the Martian acting only as a brain within its vehicles is very vividly disturbing, isn't it?  Because mankind is not inconceivably far from achieving this same end.  Chapter Two of Part Two goes into this idea, and plays on how concepts like this have been presented numerous times in satire and parody etcetera, when reality is not dissimilar from what we take as a ridiculous joke.  It also handles the concepts of the Martians' reproduction, feeding and inventions, or more accurately, the race's failure to invent the wheel.  It's very fascinating and thought-provoking.  Read it. 


  1. It sounds like an artifical life form, actually. Not biological, emotional...

  2. This is an interesting point. I have read the book, but never thought about how close we are actually getting to that stage too!!

    Oh and I read the book for fun ages ago, I'm not even sure why I picked it! But it was good :) It's cool that your school chose that one, you can definitely do some interesting assignments around it!

  3. I've only seen the movie, I need to start reading the books first. Perhaps then my perspectives can advance a little without just assumptions, but more of observations. This sounds quite interesting...



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