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What if the Martians came back?

July 24, 2017

Author Stephen Baxter was selected by H. G. Wells estate to write the highly anticipated sequel to ‘The War of the Worlds’ – namely, ‘The Massacre of Mankind“.

Narrated by reporter Julie Elphinstone, the story begins in a slightly alternative history 1920, years after the First Martian War was won. Mankind has used the technology left behind by the Martians to develop metals, vehicles and weapons they wouldn’t have normally invented by this stage. In 1907, the Martians only invaded England – consequently, as the next perihelic opposition approaches (when Mars is closest to Earth), only the English are really concerned about another invasion. And they are right. This time, ten times the number of vessels are observed to have launched from Mars, and again, they aim for England. The English believe they are much better prepared this time, however, of course the Martians are also and so the human opposition is swiftly defeated and the Martians establish a base near London. Over the next two years, those not evacuated are left to hide, fight, or be farmed by the Martians for food. The rest of the world is mildly concerned, but only the Germans offer much assistance.

Eventually, a plan is developed. Julie is infected with a virulent dose of the bacteria that wiped out the Martians last time (but doesn’t affect humans). She will infiltrate the Martian base with the help of some collaborators, and then try to spread the disease. After a harrowing adventure, Julie is almost ready to achieve her goal when she realises that defeating the Martians in England will be useless. More Martians will continue to come. There is only one way to save mankind, and that is with the help of the inhabitants of Jupiter, a race the Martians seem to fear. But can they contact them?  Will they help?

Fifteen years later, the Martians have retreated but not abandoned Earth. Instead, they seem to have secretly turned their efforts towards colonisation. It appears that they have been spending that time terra-forming – adjusting the atmosphere of Earth by removing Oxygen, to suit their own needs. Once again, mankind is at risk of total destruction. But can Jupiter help this time?

I’m sure it would be a better experience having first read The War of the Worlds, but even if you haven’t read the original tale, this novel still makes sense as a standalone. If you have read it, probably the first 2 or 3 chapters may drag a little as the scene is set, but you can always skim read!





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