“The Martin War” By Kevin Anderson
Reviewed by Eric Renderking Fisk | September 2015
One of the most iconic works of science fiction of all time is H.G. Wells’ “War Of The Worlds.” In the slight chance that it’s not the first book about invaders from Mars, it’s the first best known since the visual images the words inspire have been seared into our collective conscience. When we think of an “Invasion From Mars,” there are these specific points other writers have to hit to make their story complete.
… Or should I say “complete knock-offs” because H.G. thought of it all first and did it best. We were all convinced that it could happen and would happen because his prose are so convincing even to this day. The original book tells the story to us in the first person and spares no horrific detail. There are things that the Martians do to people once captured is right out of the nightmares of someone with a ghastly imagination which adds a “down to Earth” aspect to this book that adds to the reality of the horrors of a war with humans on the losing side.
Kevin J. Anderson wrote a version of “The War Of The Worlds” in a historical fiction novel fashion. What if H.G.’s characters in all of his other books were real historical figures that were able to interact together in this world together in one agency and deal with this specific crisis?
The book opens up that possibility and intertwines two narratives; the first is a younger version of H.G. Wells himself and his wife joining forces with a Victorian version of the British Secret Service, various scientists and characters from this other books working on specific projects related to their other literary ventures. Most notably is Doctor Moreau who was expelled from this secret scientific organization for grotesque experiments in creating hybrids of animals and humans via surgery.
Dr. Moreau crashes a meeting being held by the members of this imaginary supergroup of geniuses and throws down with a speech about how they’re all fools… there’s a far greater danger out there besides the looming war that will consume all of Europe. The next war won’t be a “World War,” but a “War between Worlds…” then presents one of the corpses from a Martian probe that he and his friend Dr. Lowell (a real-world pioneer of early 20th Century astronomy) discovered in the desert of Africa.
It’s from there when the character of H.G., his former professor and his wife head out into the solar system via another contraption from another inventor from another book by the author H.G. Wells. We discover life on “The Moon…” not our moon, of course but the fictional world of H.G. Wells, the author. We also find that life is being exploited by the higher life forms from the fictional Mars that our society thought existed thanks to the real Percival Lowell and expanded upon by other writers of the time.
Getting to Mars and becoming enslaved by the Martians begins a series of adventures in the realm of escaping and setting in motion an open rebellion by the other beings captured against the Martian overlords. Here’s the action we actually wanted, with the various three legged walking machines, heat ray guns, and mechanical tentacles doing the brunt of the wicked action.
For me, I went into this book thinking it was one thing but turned out to be the other. For some reason I thought this book was the tie-in with the BBC/History Channel special “The Great Martian War,” a “what-if” documentary that replaced the conflict we know as World War I with Earthlings warding off a Martian invasion. There was some disappointment when it turned out this wasn’t what I anticipated.
Instead, there’s a great morality lesson about technology and living creatures being too reliant on them; what happens when we forget what it means to be alive and become so reliant on our machines to sustain ourselves. There was also a brief commentary on whether or not we’re too much like the Martians the way we harvest others for our own needs… It’s not that the Martians are evil just because they’re evil, they’re evil because their overly reliant of machines and the beings they’ve enslaved.
Kevin J. Anderson succeeds in creating a space adventure that feels exactly like something that could have been written by H.G. Wells himself. It’s reminiscent of the classic science fiction from before the Second World War. It’s not highbrow SF of the past 50 or so years like “2001: A Space Odyssey” or “Soylent Green” with incredibly deep messages; rather it’s a traditional space adventure. Hero makes a discovery or wants to go somewhere, goes somewhere, makes a discovery, gets into trouble, finds a solution, fights out of trouble, then the hero saves the day.
For the “B-Story,” Scientist finds creature, scientist captures creature, creature befiends scientist, and the creature fools the scientist and escapes. What happens is as expected, leading towards a terrific, terrifying and almost sad conclusion when said creature underestimates the spauntanady
It’s exactly the kind of adventure story our fathers and grandfathers would enjoy while huddled around the radio on a cold, rainy night in the midst of autumn. It's the perfect pulp adventure for the Halloween season.