The War of the Worlds (1898), a science fiction novel by H. G. Wells, is the first-person narrative of an unnamed protagonist's and his brother's adventures in Surrey and London as Earth is invaded by Martians. Written in 1895–97, it is one of the earliest stories that detail a conflict between mankind and an extraterrestrial race. The novel is one of the most commented-on works in the science fiction canon.
The War of the Worlds has two parts, Book One: The Coming of the Martians and Book Two: The Earth under the Martians. The narrator, a philosophically inclined author, struggles to return to his wife while seeing the Martians lay waste to southern England. Book One imparts the experience of his brother, also unnamed, who describes events in the capital and escapes the Martians by boarding a ship near Tillingham on the coast sixty-five miles northeast of London and is not mentioned again.
The plot has been related to invasion literature of the time. The novel has been variously interpreted as a commentary on evolutionary theory, British imperialism, and generally Victorian superstitions, fears and prejudices. At the time of publication it was classified as a scientific romance, like his earlier novel The Time Machine. The War of the Worlds has been both popular,having never gone out of print and influential, spawning half a dozen feature films, radio dramas, a record album, various comic book adaptations, a television series, and sequels or parallel stories by other authors. It has even influenced the work of scientists, notably Robert Hutchings Goddard.
In 1895, Wells was an established writer and he married his second wife, Catherine Robbins, moving with her to the town of Woking in Surrey. Here he spent his mornings walking or cycling in the surrounding countryside, and his afternoons writing. The original idea for The War of the Worlds came from his brother, during one of these walks, pondering on what it might be like if alien beings were suddenly to descend on the scene and start attacking its inhabitants.
Much of The War of the Worlds takes place around Woking and nearby suburbs. The initial landing site of the Martian invasion force, Horsell Common, was an open area close to Wells's home. In the preface to the Atlantic edition of the novel, he wrote of his pleasure in riding a bicycle around the area, and imagining the destruction of cottages and houses he saw, by the Martian heat-ray or the red weed. While writing the novel, Wells enjoyed shocking his friends by revealing details of the story, and how it was bringing total destruction to parts of the South London landscape that were familiar to them. The characters of the artilleryman, the curate and the medical student were also based on acquaintances in Woking and Surrey.
In the present day, a 23 feet high sculpture of a tripod fighting machine, entitled 'The Martian', based on the description in The War of the Worlds, stands in Crown Passage, close to the local railway station, in Woking, designed and constructed by artist Michael Condron.