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A fantastic opening to a genuine classic of the sci-fi genre. Whether you read it in the original or listened to Richard Burton's spine-tingling narration in the Jeff Wayne version it's a line and a story that has probably stayed with you ever since. So you have to wonder quite what was going through the minds of Stephen Baxter and Nathalie Buscombe when they took on the challenge of writing and narrating an officially sanctioned follow-up to H G Wells' "War of the Worlds".
In the case of Baxter he clearly saw it as the serious challenge it really is and he has produced a story that is stylistically and structurally sympathetic to the original. That's not surprising as he previously wrote "The Time Ships" which was also officially endorsed by the Wells estate as the sequel to "The Time Machine". This one reads like a book of its time but it is a very different version of the 1920s to the one that we know of. The Martian War of course altered history meaning that Britain never fought Germany in World War One leaving France to fall alone. The Kaiser has been appeased and it's a very sombre and darker Britain that we are introduced to.
Baxter weaves his story using many of the previous characters into his new reality. I was a little surprised to see a female narrator chosen but it certainly makes perfect sense as Baxter employs Julie Elphinstone from the original book to be his lead. Nathalie Buscombe does a really fine job of relaying the story which has a big cast to breathe life into.
Between them they have produced something that fits organically with the original story and characters. Baxter takes good care of them. This isn't modern sci-fi with huge sophistication, rather this is classic sci-fi and charmingly you still pick up some of the relative naiveté of the period it is set in. I would say that if you would genuinely enjoy reading or re-reading the original you'll also love this. If you are looking for a contemporary version of War of the Worlds it might not quite meet your needs so well.
For me nothing will ever quite match up to that chilling moment in a darkened bedroom when I first heard Burton utter that immortal opening line but this is a genuinely fine attempt to carry this classic story forwards.
28 of 31 people found this review helpful
I'm a big fan of Stephen Baxter and he doesn't disappoint with this audacious project. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this sequel and particularly loved his clever tweaks in an alternate history; following with the scientific knowledge around the time of writing the original War of the Worlds, creates the perfect universe to follow Wells' style.
If you enjoyed the original you will, I'm sure, enjoy this book.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful