War of the Worlds: Aftermath…

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‘War of the Worlds: Aftermath’ is Tony Wright’s direct sequel to H.G. Wells’ alien invasion novel. I love ‘War of the Worlds’ and I’m still waiting for a faithful movie adaptation set in the Victorian period–so a direct sequel?! I downloaded it on my Kindle as soon as I spotted it.

In ‘War of the Worlds: Aftermath’, Wright returns us to the narrator from the original novel, in a world rebuilding itself after the war. The narrator, John Smith, due to his public viewpoint of the war, is called upon by the government to bear witness and document the progress in Britain’s work with the Martian’s abandoned technology–in what is a race to be ready for another invasion attempt. But while our eyes are on Mars, a threat is building on Earth…

The novel did a nice job of building the menace of the threat, all the while an underlying paranoia lurked around just what shape the threat would take–Martian, or human? English, or foreign? Invasion, or resistance? Even when the menace becomes known, Wright keeps his cards close to his chest and it’s only in the last third it becomes clear just what the protagonists are up against and what’s at stake. In ‘War of the Worlds’ the Martians are a dominating stalking terror, where encounters are brief, but devastating, in ‘Aftermath’ the threat is subtle to begin with, but quickly builds to frequent skirmishes, and then to an all out bloody climactic battle on the British coast. As such, it felt like ‘Aftermath’ provided a suitable build upon it’s prequel inspiration.

Did it live up to the original? Could anything? To approach any story as well loved as ‘War of the Worlds’ takes guts and skill to back it up. Wright clearly has both. I hope that I can pull off something like this with ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ when I get around to it. I already have my own contrivance for Darkwood and Hobbs to be thrust into some classic Victorian fictional settings, and I look forward to them facing Martian war machines, along with Dracula and a time machine. In my mind, Wright matches the feel of the original novel, with short chapters that are easy to read and rattle by, in a book that is relatively short and doesn’t outstay its welcome. It wisely doesn’t try and recreate the full-on invasion of the original, or to echo any of the set-piece moments. It is bold enough to go in its own direction and largely it swept me up with it.

The novel pitches ‘War of the Worlds’ into alternative universe territory. It does this with ‘War of the Worlds’ being referenced as an in-world novel written by H.G. Wells, the narrator’s friend, and the chronicler of Smith’s experiences. It also brings in Winston Churchill and plays with fictional crossovers by featuring Sherlock Holmes, his allies and some references to other fictional works, which either remain fiction in this world, or are real events that have been written of as fiction in the world of ‘Aftermath’. These are nice touches, but it did take me out of the fiction somewhat. As the plot revolves around Smith being approached by the government, and not Wells, it seemed that the contrivance of Wells as author of Smith’s experiences in ‘War of the Worlds’ could have been left out without consequence to the plot, or going with Wells as the author, he would have been more suited as narrator this time around.

The Holmes cameo and the featuring of Churchill didn’t work for me. Both were thinly sketched characters, with Holmes having little to actually do, with his brilliance not getting an opportunity to shine as I would have expected, while Churchill could really have just been replaced by an original character. If anything, both of them bring imagination baggage from visuals to character traits that the novel itself didn’t deliver. Also, there was a blue crystal featured in the book, which is apparently a reference to another Wells’ story, and may well be explained in a follow-up book, but it didn’t get explained in this, and it didn’t really add anything to the plot of this novel either. Perhaps it will be explained in the follow-up though. If anything, I would have preferred this to be a straight account set in fiction like ‘War of the Worlds’ itself. The book is well written, although some errors have crept in, but nothing that would spoil the experience.

These niggles aside, I really enjoyed this read. For me it was reminiscent of reading the Target Doctor Who books in the 80s, which got me into reading in the first place, and as this is my first book in my getting-back-into-reading drive that I’m on at the moment, so it’s fitting that this has reinvigorated my love of books and being swept up in other worlds. I’m looking forward to the next part in what will hopefully make this a fine trilogy and a rounded story. I would give it a solid four Martian war machines out of five. If you like ‘War of the Worlds’ I think you will enjoy this.

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