A pioneering work of alien invasion fiction
The night after a shooting star is seen streaking through the sky from Mars, a cylinder is discovered on Horsell Common in London. At first, naive locals approach the cylinder armed just with a white flag only to be quickly killed by an all-destroying heat-ray, as terrifying tentacled invaders emerge. Soon the whole of human civilisation is under threat, as powerful Martians build gigantic killing machines, destroy all in their path with black gas and burning rays, and feast on the warm blood of trapped, still-living human prey. The forces of the Earth, however, may prove harder to beat than they at first appear.
H. G. Wells, the third son of a small shopkeeper, was born in Bromley in 1866. After two years' apprenticeship in a draper's shop, he became a pupil-teacher at Midhurst Grammar School and won a scholarship to study under T. H. Huxley at the Normal School of Science, South Kensington. He taught biology before becoming a professional writer and journalist. He wrote more than a hundred books, including novels, essays, histories and programmes for world regeneration.
Wells, who rose from obscurity to world fame, had an emotionally and intellectually turbulent life. His prophetic imagination was first displayed in pioneering works of science fiction such as The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man(1897) and The War of the Worlds (1898). Later he became an apostle of socialism, science and progress, whose anticipations of a future world state include The Shape of Things to Come (1933). His controversial views on sexual equality and women's rights were expressed in the novels Ann Veronica (1909) and The New Machiavelli (1911). He was, in Bertrand Russell's words, 'an important liberator of thought and action'.
Wells drew on his own early struggles in many of his best novels, including Love and Mr Lewisham (1900), Kipps (1905), Tono-Bungay (1909) and The History of Mr Polly (1910). His educational works, some written in collaboration, include The Outline of History (1920) and The Science of Life (1930). His Experiment in Autobiography (2 vols., 1934) reviews his world. He died in London in 1946.