Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter

The Massacre of Mankind
by Stephen Baxter

This is the first-and-only authorized sequel to H.G. Wells’ classic 1897 SF novel, The War of the Worlds. Though numerous unofficials sequels and follow-up volumes have been published over the years, The Massacre of Mankind is the first approved by the Wells estates. Baxter has been writing acclaimed SF for decades, both on his own and partnered with such genre luminaries as Arthur C. Clarke and Terry Pratchett.

The Massacre of Mankind is set in the1920s, some 14 years after the events in Wells novel. In most ways, this novel is not only science fiction but also “alternate history”, as the events of 1897 have had a severe impact on England (and most of the rest of the world) — government has become more dystopian, and across the planet, preparations are underway to fight back, if a new wave of Martian invaders is detected. Many don’t believe it will happen again, but Walter Jenkins, the narrator of the Wells’ original novel, has been researching and studying, and he believes the earlier invasion was merely a scouting mission, and that the full-scale invasion is still to come. Though he is correct, he’s having difficulty getting anyone to believe his outlandish theories. Fortunately, he convinces Julie Elphinstone, his ex-sister-in-law, and an American investigative journalist…just before the little puffs of smoke on the surface of Mars indicate a new invasion fleet has launched — and this time there will be hundreds of them coming to our world.

This is a fast-paced adventure, with fascinating explorations of the scientific concepts that the characters could have debated at the time, based on what was known to them — sure, from our time period nearly a century later, some of the science looks a little shaky, but for the 1920s, it was fairly cutting edge. Baxter does an incredible job of matching the style of storytelling that Wells employed in the original novel — this really does feel like a classic genre novel from 100 years ago! And yet, unlike the majority of fiction from that era, The Massacre of Mankind features a number of very strong female characters, who are shown to be just as, if not more, capable then their male counterparts. This novel is huge — a bit of a doorstop of a book — but in the end, I enjoyed it very much, and I do highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of Wells’ original novel.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Time Ships, an officially authorized sequel to H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, also by Baxter.]

[ publisher’s official The Massacre of Mankind web page ] | [ official Stephen Baxter web site ]

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

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