War of the Worlds: The Massacre of Mankind

“Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.” H. G. Wells (1898), The War of the Worlds.

The year is 1921. Britain has recovered from the Martian Attacks of 1907. Yet it is a Britain much changed.

Highly acclaimed hard Science Fiction novellist Stephen Baxter (The Long Earth, Manifold: Time, Voyage, The Time Ships) was head hunted by H.G. Wells’ estate to write The Massacre of Mankind : THE official sequel to War of the Worlds.

Cover of The Massacre of mankind

Immortalised in Wells’ narrative (1898), Orson Welles’ radio show (1938), Jeff Wayne’s stage show (1978) and several movies, these are big boots to fill with high expectations from purists of the genre. Easy when you’re the next Arthur C. Clarke?

I think Stephen Baxter does an incredible job. He switches things up using a several personal accounts; all minor characters from the original. His text reflects Wells’ Victorian idiom and his story of a second invasion connects seamlessly with the original narrative.

Baxter has fun messing with history in this story. He credibly suggests how the Martian incident could have changed Britain forever. In Baxter’s world Lloyd George and Churchill play second fiddle to a Martian War hero named Marvin. England has discomfortingly aligned itself with Germany and adapted Martian technology to protect itself from the possibility of a second attack.

Has Britain learned enough to repel a second invasion? Or have the Martians learned enough to succeed this time?

This is so good that at times I could hear the voice of the narrator from the Jeff Wayne version while reading it.

Weeooo weeooo wee ooooh….

“We seem to be young, in a very old Galaxy. We’re like kids tiptoeing through a ruined mansion.”   Stephen Baxter

The Massacre of Mankind
by Stephen Baxter
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9781473629158

Further reading

Prequel, Sequel, Hopes Dashed

So much anticipation, so much excitement. You’ve read a new book and loved it, and then you discover  there’s a sequel or even a prequel or five other books in the series, and you almost salivate over the keyboard as you search the catalogue and place your hold. You receive the long awaited email or letter telling you the wondrous tome is waiting on the holds shelf at your favourite library. You take it home, you crack open the spine and start reading, but a few pages or even one or two chapters in and your heart is broken, it’s just not that good, in fact it may even stink.Cover of Shift

This kind of literary trauma has just happened to me. I had read Wool by Hugh Howey, I even blogged about it. I loved the concept of a community living in a silo underground, the characters and the suspense and slow revealing of the deceptions and lies behind it. But so much was not revealed about how the silos came to be, and when I learned of a prequel, I got a tad excited. But alas Shift was not what I’d hoped. So about 50 pages in, I decided life was too short, I cared not for the characters populating this book, it was wordy and boggy and I decided to perform the ultimate betrayal…I Googled a synopsis and found out the basic reasons behind the silos and deposited the book into the returns slot.

So I gave up, I wimped out, maybe it was the coward’s way out. Should I have stuck with it, read all 569 pages?

The latest and final instalment, Dust is due out in October, but sadly it will not be waiting for me on a holds shelf.

How do you decide when enough is enough? Do you always read to the end once you’ve committed to a book, or do you, like me, give it a certain amount of time then say ‘Hasta La Vista Baby’ and move on?

Are there series, prequels or sequels you have been disappointed by?

Pick ‘n’ mix: the sequel(s)

Sometimes I come home from the library with armloads of new titles, new authors, debuts, ‘first’ books. This week, it seems, is Week of the Sequels. And it’s been a bit of a mixed bag, really.

A while ago I read the first in the Dog-faced Gods series, A Matter of Blood, and LOVED it. Book 2 was also a really good read. Book 3, sadly, has gripped me so little and annoyed me so much that I can’t even be bothered finishing it. It’s somewhere in the house, half-read and likely to remain that way until I find it and take it back to the library, destined to remain ever only half-finished.

Louise Penny’s series set in the tiny Quebecois town of Three Pines and featuring Detective Inspector Gamache was recommended to me by a friend. It’s been a long time since I read a ‘normal’ detective series, and I was a bit hesitant, but there’s just something about these books that I really like. I devoured Book 1, Still Life, and number 2, Dead Cold. Yesterday the third title arrived for me, and I can’t wait to pick it up. Interesting – there’s no zombies, mysterious inexplicable events (apart from the obvious murders), odd twisty interdimensional portals or much of anything really, apart from just damn good mystery writing.

I’ve only recently discovered Sarah Rayne, and I think I wrote about her somewhere here too … yup, here.  To my surprise and delight, she’s picked up and kept some of the characters from Property of a Lady, and they feature in recent release The Sin Eater. This was just as good a read as Property, and I’ll be a happy girl if this turns out to be an ongoing series.

I love FG Cottam’s books, and have just finished The Magdalena Curse.  While not a series in the strict sense, the more I read of these books, the more I see character and story patterns – impetuous but well-meaning intelligent man of action gets into sticky (often supernatural) situation, where only the interest (and then love) of a beautiful and super-sensible woman can save the day.  This sounds a bit naff, but truly isn’t – I really do like these books, and will continue to find and read them, but maybe I should take a bit of a break for a while, so the ‘pattern’ fades a bit.

Waiting on the shelf and still to be read is the second in writing team Preston and Child’s latest series featuring Gideon Crew.  The Agent Pendergast series by these guys is one of my most favouritest EVER series, and I had high hopes for Gideon, but I found book 1 to be pretty much bog-standard adventure.  I have been putting off picking up Gideon’s Corpse (!), because I am frightened it will confirm how I felt about book 1.

I’m also still on the waiting list for the next-in-series from Jim Butcher, Simon Green (two different series), Cassandra Clare, Ben Aaronovitch, and a heap of others including The Twelve  – the highly anticipated follow-up to Justin Cronin’s The Passage, a huge success with lots of readers from a couple of years ago.

What sequels are you waiting for? And what have you been thrilled or disappointed by recently?

Sequels: fleshing out the ghosts…

Daphne Du Maurier‘s epic 1930s Cornwallian mystery Rebecca was excellent – do not care to remember how many years ago I read the original, but the subsequent movie versions and TV dramatisations have made it a classic story that transcends the media forms.Cover: Rebecca's Tale

So it was with some initial trepidation that I curled up on my squashy sofa to read the sequel Rebecca’s Tale by Sally Beauman.

Aside from occasional forays into the kitchen in search of snacks and drinks, and my usual attack of the ‘fidgets’ when I’d spent too long in my ‘Do Not Disturb: Serious Reading Going On’ position, I couldn’t put the book down.

This got me thinking of other books that have had that effect on me and only one other novel sprang instantly to mind: Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, the story of Antoinette Cosway’s formative years spent in 1830s Jamaica which culminates in a disastrous marriage with a Mr Rochester, a character we all recognise from that literary masterpiece, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

Cover: "Wide Sargasso Sea"n both cases I needed to know how Rebecca De Winter and Antoinette Cosway came to be the women they were. Both women dominate the original stories, but at best they are shadowy albeit powerful ladies whose husbands desire them out of their lives.  Now, I love a good mystery as much as others, but these ladies urgently needed family backgrounds and humanising in a major way!

In Sally Beauman’s book, Rebecca’s personality is analysed and debated by, amongst others, a Colonel Julyan and his daughter Ellie – both of whom knew Rebecca before her death – and Tom Gray, a mysterious stranger on a mission to discover Rebecca’s past.  Each character’s perspective of Rebecca (including access to Rebecca’s own thoughts via a recently discovered diary) gives up a complex and compelling portrayal of the woman who had been such an enigma in her life.

Can you think of any other literary character that has been successfully ‘fleshed’ out or needs an instant treatment in that area?  My contribution: yet another character from Rebecca –  Mrs Danvers.

Not from the author who brought you

The House at Pooh Corner
The House at Pooh Corner

Someone is writing a sequel to The House at Pooh Corner. AA Milne is not writing it, if he were, it would probably be more lucrative for him to write a book called “How I Lived to be 127”.

Why, oh why, oh why, oh why do people think it is a good idea to write new additions to books and series that are loved, read and re-read by millions? It’s not just Winnie the Pooh: Peter Pan, Anne of Green Gables, Gone with the Wind and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy have all suffered the ignomy of some lesser author deciding that they are the ones to take up the mantle and create new books that (I suppose) they fondly imagine will take pride of place next to titles in the original canon, but I can’t think of a time that has been the case. Maybe…maybe, it is OK when the true author had died before completing a series (Robert Jordan, I’m looking at you!)But really – is this ever a good idea?!?