Book Review: The Martian War
Anderson’s mashup of historical and science fiction operates under the premise that the famous H.G. Wells tale of interplanetary conflict, didn’t just spring from the author’s imagination; it was inspired by his actual contact with a hostile Martian race. Using a combination of real individuals like Wells, T.H. Huxley, and Percival Lowell, as well as fictional ones like Wells character Dr. Moreau, Anderson crafts a thrilling old-fashioned science fiction adventure.
To convince you of the alternate reality that he has crafted, Anderson heavily borrows biographical details from the lives of Wells, Huxley, and Lowell to flesh out their characters. Wells especially, tends to be very introspective, often reflecting on his low income upbringing, his failed first marriage to his cousin, and reasons for the success of his relationship with former student Jane. Huxley is characterized by Wells for his firm support of Darwin, his intense passion for science, and his youthful curiosity. Lowell’s obsession with astronomy, wealthy background, and intense drive are viewed through the lens of vivisectionist Dr. Moreau, who describes his adventures with the Boston industrialist.
The Martian War is successfully split into two alternating narratives. The first is the diary of Dr. Moreau, which recounts how the doctor partnered with Percival Lowell to attract Martian visitors to Earth and to study them once they arrived. This journal describes the trials and tribulations that the pair experience once they get their wish and encounter extraterrestrial life. The second story follows Wells, Jane, and Huxley on a wild ride that carries them from Earth to the Moon and then to Mars itself, where they must stop with the Martians from invading our planet.
Both narratives are weaved together quite effectively, but Anderson really hits his stride toward the middle of the book, after Wells, Jane, and Huxley acquire Moreau’s diary. They take breaks to read the book, transporting you back in time and placing you in Moreau’s shoes. For them and for us as the readers, the journal helps provide valuable information on the physical properties, as well as the motives of these alien life forms. Wells, Jane, and Huxley are able to use this intelligence to their advantage when dealing with their foes.
The pacing and the flow of Anderson’s novel are spot on, although where the author truly excels in this piece, is his recreation of the late 1890s historical era in his style of writing. Anderson effortlessly mimics the colorful imagination of science fiction novelists like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne through his descriptions of alien species. He also forms vivid depictions of turn-of-the-century technology that sound believable for the time. As a result, his tale comes off as very convincing.
If you’re a big fan of Anderson as a writer, or if you just like old school sci-fi books in the vein of Wells and Verne, then you should definitely read The Martian War.
The Martian War is currently available in stores and online at www.titanbooks.com.