War of the Worlds is my current book club selection. It is only the third selection I’ve seriously considered giving up on (the other two being Don Quixote and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court). In fact, I did give up on it, before being struck with an inspiration: listening to it on audiobook. Librivox to the rescue!! I listened to the majority of this one, and read the last 50 pages or so today just to get it over with. Seriously, it took me several weeks to read a book that’s less than 200 pages long.
I wanted to like this book. It is, of course, one of the bedrocks of classic science fiction. I enjoyed the movie that came out a couple years ago. The plot and premise were interesting. But I just couldn’t get into the book. The characters weren’t real people (I’m not sure the narrator even had a name, and I know his wife didn’t). They had no personalities, with the exception of a few minor characters who acted like caricatures. The writing was horrific (how could he have missed using the word “tumultuous” about 15 times in one paragraph, several times even in the same sentence!!??!? If I never hear that word again, I will be a happy woman). I don’t mind that the “science” was completely lame. I know the book is old and they didn’t know as much then, so that didn’t bother me. Unfortunately, everything else did bother me.
The book was far superior in audio format, though I still can’t say I liked it. I at least managed to read it, which is more than I thought I’d be able to do by the time I hit the fourth or fifth chapter. I managed to pay a little bit of attention, and there was one spot with a joke that actually made me smile. But even in audio format, I barely got through it.
It would be interesting to listen to the Orson Wells adaptation, to see if that would be more palatable for me, and to really understand the frenzy of panic that took place back when it was first read over the radio. I find the public reaction far more interesting than the original book itself.
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