Coming to a book that you've not only heard so much about before hand, but pretty much know what happens due to countless adaptations in other mediums, I was worried it would disappoint. How could it possibly live up to expectations or offer me any surprises? However, an undisputed classic of the genre can only be ignored for so long.
The last Wells novel I read dampened my expectations somewhat but that was one of his more minor and less well remembered books ([b:When the Sleeper Wakes|80939|When the Sleeper Wakes|H.G. Wells|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320389128s/80939.jpg|3272171]). This is perhaps his most celebrated story and I have to say, after finishing it, I have to agree that it is magnificent, certainly the best of the three I have so far read.
I'm not sure if it was the first ever alien invasion story but if not, it must have been at least the first to present the idea in such a modern, stark way. An undeniable influence on [a:John Wyndham|36332|John Wyndham|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1343316104p2/36332.jpg] who explored similar themes around a half century later. Like Wyndham, Wells seeks here to upset our complacent and self-satisfied notions of being the masters of all we survey. Humans were top of the food chain, and Britain was (perhaps) the most powerful nation in the world (at the time). Where better then than for the aliens from Mars to arrive than in England to demonstrate their power and ease at which they might overthrow humanity. We were to become the livestock to a new master species, at best rats hiding in the shadows, our cities no more than ant hills to be kicked over.
As with Wyndam's apocalyptic novels, Wells explores how disaster might reshape society, and how it changes human behaviour as civilization goes out the window. The collapse into despair and reversion to animal instincts are seen in the Curate. The ready abandonment of the old order and keenness to establish a new way of living we see in the artilleryman. Acts of bravery, cowardice, callous opportunism and self-sacrifice are all seen among those fleeing the rapid advance of the aliens.
This is a great story in it's own right and one need not make allowances for it's age. Okay, a lot of the science we now know to be a bit hokey and it is most definitely a period story. But when one considers when it was written, how far ahead of it's time it was and how much it defined the genre that didn't even exist at the time, one cannot help but call this the masterpiece it is.