Is ‘The War of the Worlds’ Still Relevant to Discussions of Our Place in the World?

A 2014 cover for H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.

H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds has arguably been one of the most influential works in the science-fiction genre to date. Considered to be the first popular alien-invasion novel, The War of The Worlds was a piece ahead of its time. Not only inspiring many adaptions of the original piece, Wells’ work served to be a core text from which many sci-fi authors have since drawn.

Personally, I was surprised by how contemporary the writing felt when I first read War of the Worlds, especially considering it was published in 1898 – over 120 years ago. Bar the Victorian setting, it almost felt like the novel could have been written today. The image on the above cover looks like it could be set in any time period. Not only does the writing feel fresh, but the lessons one can take from the piece remain valuable. We need to be aware that our place in the universe is no more stable or important than any other creature’s. In today’s world, the value of one life over another is still something which needs to be called into question. What can this message tell you, for example, about the climate crisis we’re currently experiencing? As humans, we may see ourselves as the dominant race on earth, but that doesn’t mean we are right in assuming any power over nature. Our current position in the world is not something to be taken for granted; we are as likely to be taken over by extra-terrestrials as we are to be taken down by the natural world we assume to be ruling over.

I invite you, reader, to comment on these thoughts. Do you think period texts still have value today? Do Victorian novels still have things to teach us about the world in which we live, or should we merely examine them as relics of a time passed?