Dangers of uninhibited technological advancement and social Darwinism


The Massacre of Mankind: Sequel to The War of the Worlds by Stephen Baxter, Crown Publishers, US $27.00, Pp 496, August 2017, ISBN 978-1524760120

G. Wells is the creator of two of the most revolutionary ideas in the science fiction; time travel and alien invasion of the Earth. These two ideas were presented in The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds respectively. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, first published in 1897, has been one of the most popular works of science fiction. Some of its adaptations such as the historic Orson Welles radio drama, the classic 1953 film adaption, the 2005 Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise blockbuster, became as popular as the original.

Stephen Baxter’s The Massacre of Mankind is the first authorized sequel to The War of the Worlds planned to coincide with its publication’s 120th anniversary. It captures the spirit of the original novel with a complete new saga and takes the idea to the next. The Massacre of Mankind takes up the story fourteen years after the first Martian invasion of England in early twentieth century. Although people still watch the sky, they are confident that they can now defeat the Martians. Humans have learned a lot from the abandoned capsules and war-machines and achieved huge technological successes. They also know that the Martians are vulnerable to earthly germs. The armies of the Earth are ready to face the next Marian attack.

However, there is one person who can foresee the coming catastrophe. He is Walter Jenkins, the narrator of The War of the Worlds. Only he knows that the Martians have learned from their past mistakes and will be coming well-prepared next time. Jenkins is the brother-in-law of journalist Julie Elphinstone. Julie Elphinstone receives a disturbing call from Jenkins who warns of grave news from the sky. She decides to travel to England to know the truth behind his mysterious message. Days later, Martians land in England with their devastating war machinery and unleash violence, which spills all over the world. Julie struggles to survive the war, report and plan to save humanity from total destruction.

Wells is thought to be the father of the Dystopian genre. Wells wanted us to look at the current human society through the prism of his science fiction. He wanted us to see the dangers of uninhibited technological advancement and social Darwinism and warned the world with the help of The War of the Worlds. The Martians wanted to conquer the people on Planet Earth because life on Mars was collapsing because of climate change. Wells wrote, “Before we judge of them too harshly, we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought.” Like Wells, Baxter has also embedded warnings in the subtexts of the book. The setting is the world in which Germany and the Central Powers were not totally defeated in World War I. Their slow rise is ignored. The Englishmen fighting the Martians are also fighting Germans. The first and second wars between the English people and Martians should remind us WWI and WWII.

Stephen Baxter is the true reincarnation of H. G. Wells as The Massacre of Mankind is that of The War of the Worlds. If H. G. Wells comes to life and wants to write a sequel, it wouldn’t be much different. It is provocative and thoughtful and disturbing at the same time. The Massacre of Mankind is the finest science fiction as it contains warnings of real dangers for us.

Stephen Baxter is one of the United Kingdom’s most acclaimed writers of science fiction. His many books include the Long Earth novels (written with Terry Pratchett), the Time’s Odyssey novels (written with Arthur C. Clarke), the epic, far-future novels Proxima and Ultima, and Time Ships, a sequel to H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine. He is a recipient of the Locus Award, the Philip K Dick Award, The British Science Fiction Award, and the John W. Campbell Award. He has been nominated numerous times for the Clarke and Hugo Awards. He lives in Northumberland, UK.