Book Review: ‘The Martian War’

The Martian WarAuthor: Kevin J. Anderson

Publisher: Titan Books

Plot: Astronomer Percival Lowell and disgraced biologist Doctor Moreau have tracked an envoy from Mars to the Sahara Desert and come face to face with a Martian who brings severe warnings about what’s to come. Meanwhile, former teacher H.G. Wells is summoned by his former mentor T.H. Huxley to assist in creating amazing new technologies. When news of an imminent invasion from the red planet reaches their ears they are set on a journey that will take them to the very source of the threat.

Review: Proficient science fiction writer Anderson takes a fresh angle of the frequently retold War of the Worlds, originally by H.G. Wells, by proposing a story that suggests Wells’ work of fiction may have been a warning to mankind. This tell turns Wells into a rather geeky hero who takes off on a fantastical adventure through space in an effort to subvert the Martian invasion of Earth.

What’s fun about the story is that the heroes are far removed from the swashbuckling adventurers who occupied the world of science fiction in the days of Wells and Verne (who is also name checked), instead that are heroes of knowledge and science, something that will no doubt appeal to those of a geek mindset. Wells is a contemplative sort who is consistently fascinated with what the world can offer him and is embellished with an over-active romantic instinct, which is centered around his girlfriend and companion Jane. Huxley rounds out the trio with a curmudgeonly charm that adds some flavour to proceedings. Lowell and Moreau’s story is told in tandem with Wells et al, with Lowell being a bright-eyed optimist to Moreau’s rather stern and aggressive outlook on the world.

Each of the two plot threads have their own source of intrigue. Lowell and Moreau try and engage with their Martian refugee while transporting it back to America, with the clash in goals forming much of the interaction between the two scientists. This part of the novel has some of the more exciting moments whenever the Martian goes on the attack, often ending in rather grisly outcomes. Wells, Huxley and Jane are on a more traditional exploration as they visit the inhabitants of the moon and Mars, eventually leading an uprising against the Martians. This is more in tune with old-school science fiction, before we learned that the moon was barren rock, and the fauna and flora on both hold some nice surprises. Being a rather slim volume there isn’t much room for detail when describing the worlds they discover as they tend to grab what they need and move on.

The inclusion of Dr. Moreau seems quite an odd one, as he’s the only literary character to play a major role in the story. Hawley Griffin, the invisible man, also features much in a much smaller part during the first act. When the principle cast is comprised of notable historical writers and scientists such as Wells, Huxley and Lowell the addition of a fictional human character seems quite out of place. It also doesn’t gel with the idea that Wells is telling War of the Worlds based on his experiences.

Anyone who likes a hearty dollop of fantasy mixed in with