Every sci-fi fan will be in awe of H.G. Wells’ 19th Century classic, The War Of The Worlds, which is why there’s the weight of star systems and a billion-billion alternate dimensions on the shoulders of Stephen Baxter as he attempts to take on the challenge of delivering its sequel, The Massacre Of Mankind. Having already written the authorised sequel to another H.G. Wells behemoth, The Time Machine, he’s got the creds to give the book a chance of success, but the big question is whether or not it can live up to the quality of its predecessor.
First published in 1898, seventy-one years before Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, The War Of The Worlds was way ahead of its time, telling the story of an alien invasion that went on to be thwarted by earthly infections. It has gone on to inspire a raft of sci-fi work, as well as spawning the the infamous Orson Welles radio broadcast of the story in 1938, and a number of movie adaptations, including Steven Spielberg’s 2005 modern-day reboot. It’s essentially one of the great granddaddies of the sci-fi world, which is why there’s so much pressure on Stephen Baxter’s sequel.
The Massacre Of Mankind release date has been confirmed for the 26th January 2017, so it’ll miss out on the Christmas book buying rush, which is a bit of a shame, because it would have been a pretty good contender for yuletide reading. It’ll be out on hardback and ebook initially, but there’s no word as of yet in terms of audiobook, which could work well for the style of the book. The cover art, which you can see above, looks very cool, in a 1950s pulp fiction kind of way and with 544 pages to make it through there’s definitely the volume potential behind the book.
About The Massacre Of Mankind
Set fourteen years after the Martians were defeated at the end of The War Of The Worlds, the sequel sees the alien force returning to Earth with a renewed sense of purpose. However, the people of the earth have no idea what awaits them as they rest on the strength of the germs that saved them the last time around.
As the British army keeps tabs on Mars, it believes it is ready when it picks up on signs of a new launch attack, safe in the knowledge that their microbial counter-strike will win the day once again. It has also benefited from the technology left behind by the aliens in the first wave attack years earlier, using the scavenged relics to inspire its own new technological breakthroughs.
Walter Jenkins, the narrator of Wells’ book, isn’t so convinced of our supremacy. He’s more concerned with the adaptation of the Martian force in the intervening years. When his fears appear to be true, and the massacre of mankind begins in earnest, it’s up to his sister-in-law, a journalist in 1920s Britain, to find a way of surviving the onslaught and reporting on the onslaught of the new war to the rest of the world.
About Stephen Baxter
Stephen Baxter has a long history of sci-fi literature with both his own original work, his developing canon of H.G. Wells sequels, and collaborations with the likes of Terry Pratchett on The Long Earth series and Arthur C. Clarke. In addition to getting to write The Massacre Of Mankind, he’s also recently completed his five book series with the late, great Terry Pratchett. The Long Cosmos was published in June 2016.
While we’re desperately hopeful Stephen Baxter is the right man to do The War Of The Worlds sequel justice, we can’t get away from the sense that maybe you shouldn’t mess with the legacy of perfection. Even if it does go on to be a worthy follow-up, it’s bound to divide sci-fi literature fans with the purists being entrenched and the more progressive seeing the possibilities that an extension of the work could bring.
For Stephen Baxter, this is undoubtedly a dream come true. If getting to write alongside Terry Pratchett and penning the sequel to The Time Machine isn’t enough professional headressary, then getting to write the return of the Martian fleet should move him up to native American proportions. Surely it was too good an opportunity to turn down, and hopefully that will mean that there’s room for a positive addition to the legacy of H.G. Wells’ work.
However, there are a fair few examples of similar efforts falling flat with sequels like Trigger Mortis failing to live up to the markers set down by Ian Fleming. If Baxter ends up doing the same for such a well regarded original then it good be career suicide, but then what better way to go than in an attempt to continue a great story.