The War of the Worlds (Broadview Literary Texts Series)

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H. G. Wells's The War of the Worlds, the first story to speculate about the consequences of aliens (from Mars) with superior technology landing on earth, is one of the most influential science fiction books ever written. The novel is both a thrilling narrative and an elaboration of Wells's socio-political thought on the subjects of imperialism, humankind's treatment of other animals, and unquestioning faith in military technology and the continuation of the human species.
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The War of the Worlds

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Overview

H. G. Wells's The War of the Worlds, the first story to speculate about the consequences of aliens (from Mars) with superior technology landing on earth, is one of the most influential science fiction books ever written. The novel is both a thrilling narrative and an elaboration of Wells's socio-political thought on the subjects of imperialism, humankind's treatment of other animals, and unquestioning faith in military technology and the continuation of the human species.
This edition's appendices include other related writings by Wells; selected correspondence; contemporary reviews; excerpts from works that influenced the novel and from contemporary invasion narratives; and photographs of examples of Victorian military technology.

As life on Mars becomes impossible, Martians and their terrifying machines invade the earth.

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Editorial Reviews

Patrick Parrinder University of Reading
"Martin Danahay's edition shows the extent to which The War of the Worlds draws on the biological and astronomical theories, political ideologies, and military technology of its time. Readers who want to appreciate this greatest of all alien narratives in its original Victorian context cannot do better than to consult this edition."
John Huntington University of Illinois
"One reads this edition with great pleasure. The novel is lightly and intelligently annotated, making concise sense of all the local allusions that make this remarkable fantasy so realistic. The appendices, which reprint portions of articles from the 1890s, suggest an intellectual context for the work and are often interesting in themselves, especially Percival Lowell's meditation on how some form of life might develop on Mars. The pictures of the various guns, cannons, ships, and other machinery mentioned in the novel give a wonderful sense of the scale of the war."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781551113531
  • Publisher: Broadview Press
  • Publication date: 3/17/2003
  • Series: Broadview Literary Texts Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 268
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

H. G. Wells

Martin A. Danahay is a Professor of English at Brock University. He is the author of A Community of One: Masculine Autobiography and Autonomy in Nineteenth-Century Britain (SUNY Press, 1994), and the editor of the Broadview Edition of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1999).

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    1. Also Known As:
      Herbert George Wells (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 21, 1866
    2. Place of Birth:
      Bromley, Kent, England
    1. Date of Death:
      August 13, 1946
    2. Place of Death:
      London, England

Read an Excerpt

Book One:
The Coming of the Martians

Chapter 1
The Eve of the War No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. 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. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.

The planet Mars, I scarcely need remind the reader, revolves about the sun at a mean distance of 140,000,000 miles, and the light and heat it receives from the sun is barely half of that received by this world. It must be, if the nebular hypothesis has any truth, older than ourworld; and long before this earth ceased to be molten, life upon its surface must have begun its course. The fact that it is scarcely one seventh of the volume of the earth must have accelerated its cooling to the temperature at which life could begin. It has air and water and all that is necessary for the support of animated existence.

Yet so vain is man and so blinded by his vanity, that no writer up to the very end of the nineteenth century expressed any idea that intelligent life might have developed there far, or indeed at all, beyond its earthly level. Nor was it generally understood that since Mars is older than our earth, with scarcely a quarter of the superficial area and remoter from the sun, it necessarily follows that Mars is not only more distant from life’s beginning but also nearer its end.

The secular cooling that must someday overtake our planet has already gone far indeed with our neighbor. Its physical condition is still largely a mystery, but we know now that even in its equatorial region the midday temperature barely approaches that of our coldest winter. Its air is much more attenuated than ours, its oceans have shrunk until they cover but a third of its surface, and as its slow seasons change huge snowcaps gather and melt about either pole and periodically inundate its temperate zones. That last stage of exhaustion, which to us is still incredibly remote, has become a present-day problem for the inhabitants of Mars. The immediate pressure of necessity has brightened their intellects, enlarged their powers, and hardened their hearts. And looking across space with instruments, and with intelligences such as we have scarcely dreamed of they see, at its nearest distance only 35,000,000 of miles sunward of them, a morning star of hope—our own warmer planet, green with vegetation and gray with water, with a cloudy atmosphere eloquent of fertility, with glimpses through drifting cloud-wisps of broad stretches of populous country and narrow navy-crowded seas.

And we men, the creatures who inhabit this earth, must be to them at least as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us. The intellectual side of man already admits that life is an incessant struggle for existence, and it would seem that this too is the belief of the minds upon Mars. Their world is far gone in its cooling and this world is still crowded with life, but crowded only with what they regard as inferior animals. To carry warfare sunward is indeed their only escape from the destruction that generation after generation creeps upon them.

And before we judge of them too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its own inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?

The Martians seem to have calculated their descent with amazing subtlety—their mathematical learning is evidently far in excess of ours—and to have carried out their preparations with a well-nigh perfect unanimity. Had our instruments permitted it, we might have seen the gathering trouble far back in the nineteenth century. Men like Schiaparelli watched the red planet—it is odd, by the way, that for countless centuries Mars has been the star of war—but failed to interpret the fluctuating appearances of the markings they mapped so well. All that time the Martians must have been getting ready.

During the opposition of 1894 a great light was seen on the illuminated part of the disk, first at the Lick Observatory, then by Perrotin of Nice, and then by other observers. English readers heard of it first in the issue of Nature dated August 2nd. I am inclined to think that this blaze may have been the casting of the huge gun, in the vast pit sunk into their planet, from which their shots were fired at us. Peculiar markings as yet unexplained were seen near the site of that outbreak during the next two oppositions.

The storm burst upon us six years ago now. As Mars approached opposition Lavelle of Java set the wires of the astronomical exchange palpitating with the amazing intelligence of a huge outbreak of incandescent gas upon the planet. It had occurred toward midnight of the 12th; and the spectroscope to which he had at once resorted indicated a mass of flaming gas, chiefly hydrogen, moving with an enormous velocity toward this earth. This jet of fire had become invisible about a quarter past twelve. He compared it to a colossal puff of flame suddenly and violently squirted out of the planet, “as flaming gases rushed out of a gun.”

A singularly appropriate phrase it proved. Yet the next day there was nothing of this in the papers except a little note in the Daily Telegraph, and the world went in ignorance of one of the gravest dangers that ever threatened the human race. I might not have heard of the eruption at all had I not met Ogilvy, the well-known astronomer, at Ottershaw. He was immensely excited at the news, and in the excess of his feelings invited me up to take a turn with him that night in a scrutiny of the red planet.

In spite of all that has happened since I still remember that vigil very distinctly: the black and silent observatory, the shadowed lantern throwing a feeble glow upon the floor in the corner, the steady ticking of the clockwork of the telescope, the little slit in the roof—an oblong profundity with the star dust streaked across it. Ogilvy moved about, invisible but audible. Looking through the telescope one saw a circle of deep blue and the little round planet swimming in the field. It seemed such a little thing, so bright and small and still, faintly marked with transverse stripes and slightly flattened from the perfect round. But so little it was, so silvery warm—a pin’s head of light! It was as if it quivered, but really this was the telescope vibrating with the activity of the clockwork that kept the planet in view.

As I watched, the planet seemed to grow larger and smaller and to advance and recede, but that was simply that my eye was tired. Forty millions of miles it was from us—more than forty million miles of void. Few people realize the immensity of vacancy in which the dust of the material universe swims.

Near it in the field, I remember, were three faint points of light, three telescopic stars infinitely remote, and all around it was the unfathomable darkness of empty space. You know how that blackness looks on a frosty starlight night. In a telescope it seems far profounder. And invisible to me because it was so remote and small, flying swiftly and steadily toward me across that incredible distance, drawing nearer every minute by so many thousands of miles, came the Thing they were sending us, the Thing that was to bring so much struggle and calamity and death to the earth. I never dreamed of it then as I watched; no one on earth dreamed of that unerring missile.

That night, too, there was another jetting out of gas from the distant planet. I saw it. A reddish flash at the edge, the slightest projection of the outline just as the chronometer struck midnight; and at that I told Ogilvy and he took my place. The night was warm and I was thirsty, and I went, stretching my legs clumsily and feeling my way in the darkness, to the little table where the siphon stood, while Ogilvy exclaimed at the streamer of gas that came out toward us.

That night another invisible missile started on its way to the earth from Mars just a second or so under twenty-four hours after the first one. I remember how I sat on the table there in the blackness with patches of green and crimson swimming before my eyes. I wished I had a light to smoke by, little suspecting the meaning of the minute gleam I had seen and all that it would presently bring me. Ogilvy watched till one, and then gave it up, and we lit the lantern and walked over to his house. Down below in the darkness were Ottershaw and Chertsey and all their hundreds of people, sleeping in peace.

He was full of speculation that night about the condition of Mars, and scoffed at the vulgar idea of its having inhabitants who were signaling us. His idea was that meteorites might be falling in a heavy shower upon the planet, or that a huge volcanic explosion was in progress. He pointed out to me how unlikely it was that organic evolution had taken the same direction in the two adjacent planets.

“The chances against anything manlike on Mars are a million to one,” he said.

Hundreds of observers saw the flame that night and the night after about midnight, and again the night after; and so for ten nights, a flame each night. Why the shots ceased after the tenth no one on earth has attempted to explain. It may be the gases of the firing caused the Martians inconvenience. Dense clouds of smoke or dust, visible through a powerful telescope on earth as little gray fluctuating patches, spread through the clearness of the planet’s atmosphere and obscured its more familiar features.

Even the daily papers woke up to the disturbances at last, and popular notes appeared here, there and everywhere concerning the volcanoes upon Mars. The seriocomic periodical Punch, I remember, made a happy use of it in the political cartoon. And all unsuspected, those missiles the Martians had fired at us drew earthward, rushing now at a pace of many miles a second through the empty gulf of space, hour by hour and day by day, nearer and nearer. It seems to me now almost incredibly wonderful that, with that swift fate hanging over us, men could go about their petty concerns as they did. I remember how jubilant Markham was at securing a new photograph of the planet for the illustrated paper he edited in those days. People in these latter times scarcely realize the abundance and enterprise of our nineteenth-century papers. For my own part, I was much occupied in learning to ride a bicycle, and busy upon a series of papers discussing the probable developments of moral ideas as civilization progressed.

One night (the first missile then could scarcely have been 10,000,000 miles away) I went for a walk with my wife. It was starlight, and I explained the signs of the zodiac to her and pointed out Mars, a bright dot of light creeping zenithward, toward which so many telescopes were pointed. It was a warm night. Coming home, a party of excursionists from Chertsey or Isleworth passed us singing and playing music. There were lights in the upper windows of the houses as the people went to bed. From the railway station in the distance came the sound of shunting trains, ringing and rumbling, softened almost into melody by the distance. My wife pointed out to me the brightness of the red, green, and yellow signal lights hanging in a framework against the sky. It seemed so safe and tranquil.


From the Paperback edition.

Copyright 2002 by H. G. Wells Introduction by Sir Arthur C. Clarke
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
H. G. Wells: Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text
The War of the Worlds
Appendix A: H. G. Wells on The War of the Worlds
1. From Strand Magazine [London] 109 (1920)
2. From Preface to Volume III of The Works of H. G. Wells (1925)
Appendix B: Wells's Publications Related to The War of the Worlds
1. "Zoological Retrogression" (1891)
2. "On Extinction" (1893)
3. "The Advent of the Flying Man: An Inevitable Occurrence." (1893)
4. "The Man of the Year Million" (1893)
5. "Another Basis for Life" (1894)
6. "The Extinction of Man: Some Speculative Suggestions." (1894)
7. "The Stolen Bacillus" (1895)
8. "Intelligence on Mars" (1896)
9. "Through a Microscope" (1897)
Appendix C: Extracts from Wells's Correspondence
Appendix D: Reviews of The War of the Worlds
1. John St. Loe Strachey, from Spectator (29 January 1898)
2. Academy (29 January 1898)
3. R.A. Gregory, from Nature (10 February 1898)
4. Basil Williams, from Athenaeum (5 February 1898)
Appendix E: Influences on Wells
1. Winwoode Reade, The Martyrdom of Man (1872)
2. T. H. Huxley, Evolution and Ethics (1894)
3. H. G. Wells, "Huxley" (1901)
Appendix F: Invasion Narratives
1. William LeQueux, The Great War in England in 1897 (1894)
2. "Grip" How John Bull Lost London (1882)
Appendix G: Mars
1. Anonymous "Strange Light on Mars" from Nature (1894)
2. Percival Lowell Mars (1895)
Appendix H: Woking and Surrey
1. A. R. Hope, Moncrieff Black's Guide to Surrey (1898)
2. Eric Parker, Highways and Byways of Surrey (1908)
Appendix I: The Victorian Military
1. Figure 1. Limbered Artillery
2. Figure 2. Deployed Artillery
3. Figure 3. Wire Gun
4. Figure 4. Maxim Machine Gun
5. Figure 5. Heliograph Operators
6. Figure 6. Cavalry
7. Figure 7. H.M.S. Thunderer
8. Figure 8. Ram Prow
Select Bibliography

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1210 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Remember

    What many of these reviewers are forgetting is that this book is a science fiction piece. To say that this novel lacked facts or reality is exactly what fiction is about. If this book were in fact based on actual events, I highly doubt we would be able to even speak of it at this point. When reviewing this novel, people should keep in mind that this book is supposed to get that part of the brain going that excites us and makes us want more. Sci-fi writers such as Wells and Bradbury want two things out of reading their stories: they want you to be astounded and most importantly they want you to think. As an avid reader of this genre, I have to say that there is always a deeper meaning than what the story is about. There is a lesson and there is also a meaning. Take these points into consideration before reviewing this novel and trying to slander the well put together writings of H.G. Wells.

    78 out of 86 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2010

    The War of the Worlds- A Great Read

    This book is a work of art. The descriptions of the Martians and the battle for survival of the human created by H.G. Wells is exciting and worth reading. The narrator's journey to reeunite with his wife in the mist of the Martians arrival on Earth is extremely interesting to read. Also, the Martians themselves are new and different than anything that most have heard, or read, of before. The only downside of this wonderful novel is the author of the endnotes. He gives away the ending of the book in the first few endnotes, and I would've rather found out for myself the ending at the end of the book. Other than that, it is a must-read for any sci-fi fan.

    30 out of 36 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2009

    Aliens Invade Britain

    I thought this book was fantastic! It really engaged me and was suspenseful. It takes place in England, where an alien invasion from Mars begins. It is seen through the eyes of a man who is escaping from the invasion's spread. I liked this book a lot and highly recommend it to anyone who likes science fiction.

    18 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    war of the worlds

    i loved this book! it was one of the best books i have ever read in my entire life. its vocabulary was astounding it used big long words i have never heard of before it was a challenge but i love challenges. the descriptive sentences was amazing they painted a mental image in your head.this book was very upbeat it kept you on your toes the whole time. the one bad thing about this book was that it was sometimes to descriptive which made it annoying and boring. i would deffinatley reccomend this book for any sci-fi lovers. or anyone who is in for a good thrill. it was a very thrilling book.

    15 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2012

    Awesome book, terrible copy.

    Wow, this book is amazing! I like how it reads like a modern day action novel, but written in 1898. The copy is terrible or else it would be five stars. Random letters and sentences. Disjointed paragraphs and one page that is illegibal. Conclusion, great book, but pay for the better publishings.

    10 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2012

    A book for everyone

    This book is so amazing! I think everybody should read this at least once in their lifetime!

    9 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Good Read if You Know the English Countryside

    War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells is a classic. Any book that has been interpreted in different mediums throughout the decades should be read. Being familiar with the story it was intriguing to see what elements of the book have never been dramatized in any of the other medium versions (i.e. the black smoke). It's also interesting to see what elements remain. There were some parts of Speilberg's movie that I didn't understand that were clarified in the book. So from that standpoint it was enjoyable.

    The problems I had with the book is the geopgraphy and the words. I've never been much of a geography student, but it's good to knwo the English towns and hamlets since our hero travels far and wide to find his wife after the Martians attack. There are so many names thrown out that it was hard for me to follow. Likewise there were lots of words I had to take time to look up. I learned soem new words (some specific to the English culture) but the flipside is that many times the flow of the book was interupted with these new words.

    No matter I think this is required reading especially if you are a sci-fi fan. Even today the story has relevance and the science in the science fiction isn't dated. Even if you have an idea of the story this is one quick read that you shouldn't ignore.

    7 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2012

    Il44's review

    I have read other ones but this one was horrible.

    6 out of 41 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 18, 2010

    War of the Wolds - A must read!!

    The classical novel by H. G Wells written in 1898 War of the Worlds is more then just a science fiction story. Besides being a highly creative novel about enormous machines that come from an outside planet to earth, it is an allegory of England's colonization that was taking place at the time.

    During the 20th century the United Kingdom was spreading widely throughout Europe, Asia, and even Africa, threatening the entire world. The novel War of the Worlds is set in England with the purpose of making the British people feel and imagine how their ravishing island would look if other countries joined forces and did what they were doing to other.

    The novel is written from the unnamed main characters point of view. This thrilling story begins on what seemed to be an ordinary day for the scientific article writer. He was on his way to meet Ogilvy, a well known astronomer who had invited him to an observatory in Ottershaw, there he witness an explosion in Mars. Ironically, not long after what was believed to be a meteor, landed very near to were he lived. The protagonist was one of the first to find out that this huge 'meteor' was actually an artificial cylinder send from Mars. While enduring the Martians' violence towards Southern English counties, he struggles to meet again with his wife. Wells created his own style of Martian space invaders, ones that had an advanced intelligence power which gave them the ability to create powerful weapons like heat ray guns, tripods and even flying machines which in 1898, when this classical novel was first written, were beyond human technology.

    Once the first attacks had passed, he was fortuitously reunited with his wife. They both traveled to Leatherhead seeking for safety, their plan didn't last for long however when they discovered that three more cylinders have been send. As they eye-witness the stunning power of this massive machine they become astonished. There cities had been destroyed, millions of people had dead, and their military forces were of no noticeable use. This doesn't stop them however and through spine-chilling adventure they fought for survival.

    This is a truly fascinating novel I would recommend to anyone interested in sub natural sciences. Even though this novel was written in the last century it still retains some of the wildest ideas ever. The book is filled with edgy and stimulated character beyond the remarkable.

    6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2011

    Transcription quality

    The story was great. The text is messed up from the transcription process (misspellings, characters in place of letters, and other distracting mistakes), which makes it a little difficult to read at times.

    5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2011

    Amazing

    This is a true sci-fi classic. I read this in English class, and thoroughly loved it. It is about how aliens come to Earth because their planet of Mars is dying, and how the narrator experiences it, being a scientist himself. The main theme is that humanity considers itself the most intellectual creatures in the universe, but it may not be. There is symbolism throughout the book, but it is not nessessary to understand the symbols to enjoy the novel. Read carefully, though, because some parts can become rather confusing if you merely skim over it. It served as an inspiration to many future novels, plays, and movies. There is the originial radio broadcast (which served a lot of panic, you can look it up on wiki), a play, and two movies (one of which has Tom Cruise in it =>)

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 24, 2013

    Fantastic classic

    The descriptions depicted in H.G Wells War of the Worlds are phenominal, and frightening for its time, very far sighted and rich imagination!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2013

    ti To H G Wells

    Amazing book

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2012

    Didnt realize it was free

    :(

    2 out of 35 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2012

    Very good book.

    Best book ever

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011

    To anyone

    Do you belive?

    2 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2011

    a classic..

    well written, love the characters (not too involved) and i love the story. no time wasted here. and concerning the actual copy of the book, after a few pages you get used to the differences. its obviously the title and page number jumbled in with the story, but for free its truly look-overable :)

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    To anyone

    I do belive in the jersey devil and stuff do u i just think thre real

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2011

    Love

    One of my favorite stories

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 2, 2011

    No TIME MACHINE

    The ad for this book says it is 2 in one, containing both War of the Worlds and The Time Machine. Not true. It is only 143 pages long and does NOT contain The Time Machine. The War of the Worlds text is clear and relatively free of formatting errors.

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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