The Martian War

by Gabriel Mesta

Review by Kevin Geiselman

"What if H. G. Wells were actually involved in the events portrayed in his novels?" It's not an uncommon premise. In fact, the first time I saw it in the Welsian context was in the 1979 film Time After Time where the author chases Jack the Ripper using a time machine. In The Martian War, Wells is recruited by famed Darwinist Thomas Henry Huxley ("I would rather be the offspring of two apes than be a man and afraid to face the truth.") to join a secret government scientific research group developing high-technology weapons for the expected war against Germany. He sees presentations by Hawley Griffin on invisibility and biological warfare and by Selwyn Cavor on armor that "may even be opaque to gravity."

Interspersed with the narrative but actually having taken place months before, wealthy amateur astronomer Percival Lowell has fallen in with one Doctor Moreau in an effort to signal the inhabitants of Mars. Lowell's scheme succeeds and a Martian scout ship crashes in the Sahara Dessert.

I did say earlier that it's been done before. Specifically, Lowell's attempt to signal the Martians was first told by the author writing under his real name of Kevin J. Anderson in the WotW anthology Global Dispatches. (He also edited the book.) Anderson/Mesta does an acceptable job, but his characterization of Wells as an action hero involved with a secret government organization just doesn't sit well with what I know about the real H. G. Wells. Anderson also fails in creating what the novel's subtitle calls "a thrilling eyewitness account" by writing the scenes with Wells in the third person instead of writing, as Wells himself wrote much of the time, in first person.

To be honest, Alan Moore did the genre much better in his graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In fact, I have no doubt that Anderson took many of his queues from Moore's work. This is evidenced in the names. In Wells' original work, The Invisible Man is identified only as Griffin. Professor Cavor from The First Men in the Moon was also only identified by last name. Alan Moore invented the first names of Hawley Griffin and Selwyn Cavor for his graphic novel. That Anderson used the same names is a clear indication of the infringement. (Just for completeness, when Claude Rains played the Invisible Man in the 1933 film, the name was John Griffin.) While an easy read (I got through the whole thing between calls at work) and a reasonable depiction of Wellsian England, it feels too derivative and comes out too close to other WotW releases for me to think it's other than a quick publication designed to ride coattails.

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