Friday, October 12, 2012

Review: The Martian War by Kevin J. Anderson

I was originally introduced to the writings of Kevin J. Anderson through his Jedi Academy trilogy, which I read when I was just a wee lad. Okay, when I say "wee lad" I mean high school teenager. Yeah, that's right. When all the other guys were partying, watching sports and chasing after girls, I was neck-deep in the Star Wars expanded universe. Who won high school now?

They did, obviously.

Hmm? O yes, my review, where was I...the story of the The Martian War rests on the assumption that all of the characters and settings created by H.G. Wells actually existed and inspired his writings. The story follows Wells,  just beginning his career as an author and living with his his fiance Jane, as he is recruited by his mentor Thomas Huxley to join the Imperial Institute. The best scientific minds of Britain, including Dr. Cavor and Hawley Griffin, are preparing the Empire for a predicted war with Germany. Plans are derailed, however, when the disgraced scientist Dr. Moreau crashes a symposium at the Institute with startling news: we are not alone. Moreau describes how, with the help of astronomer Percival Lowell, they were able to make contact with an alien civilization on Mars, which is planning to invade Earth at the opposition of the two planets. Wells becomes caught up in a race against time to save humanity and will travel farther than any human being to prevent a war between the worlds. See what I did there? Heh.

This is another fictional mash-up, focusing entirely on the works of H.G. Wells. Not every story of his is represented. For example, The Time Machine is referenced and themes from the novel are apparent, but Wells' famous and nameless time traveler remains absent. Unlike some of the other examples of fictional mash-ups that have been reviewed on this blog, this novel does not involve zombies or vampires. So instead of gory horror, you get a good piece of fiction written in the style of an era when it looked like science would lead humanity to new heights. While many of their predictions failed to come true, you can't help but be delighted by their naive optimism, like how you can travel between planets and not have to worry about pesky things like radiation and lack of oxygen.

The novel also comes with some social commentary (visuals of a society that is desecrating their planet in an effort to maintain their civilization) and some OTL history references (apparently no one can walk on the moon without saying the word leap). If I had one major nitpick about the novel, it was the Martian technology (I can only suspend disbelief for so long). Everyone knows about the towering Martian battle tripods, armed with their unstoppable heat ray, but on Mars we get a glimpse of Martians using smaller walkers just to get around. Did I mention the walkers only have two legs? Why, after seeing the advantages of a two legged travel, would the Martians go with the more unwieldy tripod model for their primary war machine?

Of course who can fathom the mind of an alien anyway. Fans of adventures into the golden age of science will enjoy this episode into the secret life of one of the forefathers of science fiction. The sky is the limit...as long as you have some cavorite on hand!

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Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update, a volunteer editor for Alt Hist and a contributor to Just Below the Law. His fiction can be found at Echelon PressJake's Monthly and his own writing blog. When not writing he works as an attorney and enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana.

1 comment:

  1. I am reminded somewhat of "Sherlock Holmes's War of the Worlds", which involves the great detective and George Challenger in the battle against the Martians.

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