Lair of the Geek

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Martian War


Oct 29, 2012

Author: Kevin J Anderson
Publisher: Titan Books
Price: £6.39
Review by Martyn Elwell

I was quite excited to receive this book, I loved reading The War of Worlds as a child and even now I find myself fondly picking up the book to reread it. The exploits of the journalist and his resolute and perilous journey around a war torn Victorian Age Great Britain fills me with awe and wonder now as much as it did when I read it as an innocent ten year old. The Fighting Machines and their terrifying heat ray, the dread of the black smoke and the hopelessness as the Thunder Child was defeated still gives me goosebumps now. I fondly remember begging my mother to buy me Jeff Wayne’s eponymous album too (for the atmospherics of course!). It just felt so right to have Richard Burton as the journalist, so fitting and as it should be! Perhaps it was this surge of nostalgia that bought me to eagerly agree to review this book by Kevin J Anderson.

Before I read the pages I was hoping I would get to see a different slant on the Martian advance and perhaps get to understand the assault on a different level. As always, I did my research on the author first to get to know how the book may (I use that word strongly dear reader), may pan out. Having written plenty of novels in the genre I was comforted that I would be reading something quite good.

My very first surprise however arrived swiftly. The characters were not the beloved journalist or his wife. Ogilvy was nowhere to be seen. Instead we had such luminaries as H.G. Wells, Percival Lowell, Thomas Huxley and Dr Moreau (yes you read that correctly, as in the dweller of a certain island..). Sadly this is where my brain started to itch. I was sensing that in a time of great need, of which an invasion of vastly superior intelligence and firepower is a strong contender, there may be a chance that this would indeed occur but it seemed so very… convenient! The characters seemed to be thrown haphazardly together and everyone, more or less, was happy to go with the general flow of things. I must say that the Victorians were a dramatic people in this book. Several times I half expected someone to exclaim a “Gadzooks!” or “jolly hockey sticks!” or such sort. It made me smile and provided, perhaps inappropriately, high points to the story for me.The plot was my second minor issue. It didn’t seem to flow as smoothly as I would have wished it too. I felt that the prose could quite easily have had a few more chapters to just give me a moment to catch up, take a breath and take in the scenery. But no, there was always a sense of urgency and hurry as though the author wanted to get us to the climactic confrontation sooner rather than later. This was a shame, however at some point in the early part of the novel, I started to feel for the mismatched cast and how they worked together. The brain itch that had settled in at the start had gone, replaced with a childish eagerness to see just how a particular plot would work, or how the characters would extricate themselves from a difficult situation. It didn’t bother me that we zoomed around the world like some pulp action team; a red line indicating our passage across the globe as seen in some well-known action films set in the 30s, or that we travelled to some extremely exotic locations. No, it somehow, worked.

Throughout the book my imagination was stretched entirely, but I forged on wanted to believe that this book would do H.G. Wells proud. It took several chapters but I did indeed. However as much as I wanted a different slant on the classic tome I read when I was ten, I got a different story altogether. Not quite steampunk, not quite historical Jules Vern-esque science fiction, but something a little pulpy, a little actiony and truly its own creature. I had issues with this story but I wasn’t completely disappointed. I know what my next read is and it’ll take me back to when I was ten years old.

By Mart

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