Thanks to NetGalley and Crown for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: Available Now
Synopsis: It has been 14 years since the Martians invaded England. The world has moved on, always watching the skies but content that we know how to defeat the Martian menace. Machinery looted from the abandoned capsules and war-machines has led to technological leaps forward. The Martians are vulnerable to earth germs. The Army is prepared.
So when the signs of launches on Mars are seen, there seems to be little reason to worry. Unless you listen to one man, Walter Jenkins, the narrator of Wells’ book. He is sure the Martians have learned, adapted, understood their defeat.
He is right.
Thrust into the chaos of a new invasion, a journalist–sister-in-law to Walter Jenkins–must survive, escape and report on the war.
The Massacre of Mankind has begun.
I read The War of the Worlds when I was ten with my father, and I remember the first question I asked was: “But Dad! What if the Martians come back?” What can I say, I had an overactive imagination. Seriously though, the story completely captivated me, and I always wondered what would happen if someone wrote a sequel to the 1898 H.G. Wells classic, and finally someone has. There is no doubt that Stephen Baxter put a lot of time and research into The Massacre of Mankind, but at almost 500 pages, it buckles under its own weight.
Picking up in 1920, 14 years after the first Martian War ended, narrating this time around is journalist Julie Elphinstone. She’s the sister-in-law of the anonymous narrator of the original, identified here as Walter Jenkins. I really liked her as the main protagonist, despite being somewhat annoyed at the constant name dropping of famous historical figures. Seeing events unfold through Julie’s eyes kept me thoroughly engaged for the first 1/2 of the story, but as time went on, the pace slowed down, and not even clever alt-historical events like WWII, and figures like Winston Churchill could make up for it.
I think this story would have been much more successful if it had been edited and cut by about 100-150 pages. The alternative history takes time to set up, which was fine, but then there’s a lot of new characters introduced in addition to the originals and when you factor in the historical figures, it gets to be a little much.
The action scenes start out exciting, but become repetitive. The overarching theme is, we attack, they kill us, we attack again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Well before I reached the anticlimactic end, I was skimming sections of the story.
There are moments in The Massacre of Mankind that make it a worthy sequel to the Wells classic, but in the end I’m sad to say it doesn’t completely measure up. I do give kudos to Stephen Baxter however for masterfully replicating the narrative style of the original and showing a meticulous attention to detail that’s truly admirable. If you’re a fan of The War of the Worlds, you may still want to try this. I would recommend re-reading the original in order to maintain a sense of continuity.