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Book Review: The Massacre Of Mankind: Sequel To The War Of The Worlds
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The Massacre of Mankind
Sequel to The War of the Worlds
Authorized by the H.G. Wells Estate
Hardcover | Kindle | Audiobook
By Stephen Baxter
Publisher: Crown Publishing | Penguin Random House
Release date: August 22, 2017

Though H.G. Wells‘s The War of the Worlds might not have been the first story to feature Martians coming to Earth, it certainly is the most popular one and has been held up over the years as the ultimate Martian invasion tale. The story, first serialized in magazines in 1897 and then published as a novel in 1898, went on to yield various TV, radio, and film adaptations. Now, with the authorization of the H.G. Wells Estate, Crown Publishing brings us the official sequel with The Massacre of Mankind.

In The Massacre of Mankind: Sequel to The War of the Worlds, author Stephen Baxter picks up 14 years after the infamous Martian invasion on England that introduced the world to the aggressive aliens and their massive three-legged “tripod” fighting-machines. After learning the biological weaknesses of their invaders and studying their technologies, humans are confident now that they can combat any future extraterrestrial onslaught, however unlikely they believe that may be.

The deadly and destructive events of the classic science fiction story were recalled by an unnamed narrator who lived through the late 19th century alien attack, which only ceased because the Martians were not immune to the germs of Earth. In this sequel, what happened next is recounted by journalist Julie Elphinstone, the sister-in-law of the original book’s narrator, named here as Walter Jenkins. She was also a character in The War of the Worlds, a survivor of the First Martian War, where she was depicted as a brave unmarried young woman, in contrast to her fearful, dependent married sister. Julie’s brother-in-law is convinced that the Martians are about to wage another war and that this time they’re better equipped.

Of course, he’s right. The Martians have returned and they know better now, too. It takes a while, but they eventually move their assault beyond England, taking it global. And as the attack goes worldwide, so is the narrator’s journey. And as a storyteller, Julie makes an interesting one. At over 450 pages, Baxter, who holds degrees in mathematics and engineering (including a doctorate in engineering), has a lot of story to tell in this sequel.

As a writer, Baxter has collaborated with Arthur C. Clarke on their A Time Odyssey series (and wrote a sequel to Clarke’s A Meeting with Medusa called The Medusa Chronicles) and with Terry Pratchett on their The Long Earth series, as well as penned many of his own original hard science fiction works. But The Massacre of Mankind is not Baxter’s first romp into a Wellsian universe: In 1995, he did an authorized sequel to another Wells classic, The Time Machine, called The Time Ships, which won several awards. For Massacre, Baxter pens a sequel very much in the vain of the original: a narrative account of the details, some of which are quite minute, of the events leading up to and mostly during the subsequent alien invasion, plus an epilogue. The author even continues with the source material’s science, which we now know to be faulty, and keeps the same tone, but with a slight update for modern audiences. Basically, it doesn’t read like a serialized, paid-by-the-word story, and it doesn’t have to rely heavily on set-up, since The War Of The Worlds is so ingrained into our pop culture, that even people who’ve never read the book or seen the movies know what it’s about.

The Massacre of Mankind is an entertaining dive back into The Wars Of The Worlds universe that, through slightly quicker pacing and a style and tone that’s faithful to the original, describes an alternate early twentieth century Earth and provides a better understanding of the planet’s repeat alien invaders and other off-world dangers.

A sequel to the H.G. Wells classic THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, brilliantly realized by award-winning SF author and Wells expert Stephen Baxter

It has been 14 years since the Martians invaded England. The world has moved on, always watching the skies but content that we know how to defeat the Martian menace. Machinery looted from the abandoned capsules and war-machines has led to technological leaps forward. The Martians are vulnerable to earth germs. The Army is prepared.

So when the signs of launches on Mars are seen, there seems little reason to worry. Unless you listen to one man, Walter Jenkins, the narrator of Wells’ book. He is sure that the Martians have learned, adapted, understood their defeat.

He is right.

Thrust into the chaos of a new invasion, a journalist – sister-in-law to Walter Jenkins – must survive, escape and report on the war.

The Massacre of Mankind has begun.

The Massacre of Mankind: Sequel to The War of the Worlds book cover

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