The War of the Worlds
Publication Date: June 30, 2005
Enter your zip code below to find indies closest to you.
When massive, intelligent aliens from Mars touch down in Victorian England and threaten to destroy the civilized world, humanity's vaunted knowledge proves to be of little use. First published in 1898, H.G. Wells's masterpiece of speculative fiction has thrilled and delighted generations of readers, spawned countless imitations, and inspired dramatizations by such masters as Orson Welles and Steven Spielberg. The War of the Worlds is a fantasy that is both startlingly up-to-date and in touch with the most ancient of human fears.
In 1960, Edward Gorey prepared a set of his inimitable pen-and-ink drawings to illustrate a new edition of Wells's The War of the Worlds for the legendary Looking Glass Library. Characteristically quirky, elegant, and entrancing, Gorey's visual take on Wells's seminal tour de force has been unavailable for close to fifty years. This special hardcover edition from NYRB Classics brings back for today's readers a richly rewarding collaboration between two modern masters of all that's wonderful and strange.
H.G. (Herbert George) Wells (1866–1946) was born at Bromley in Kent, England, the son of a professional cricketer turned failed shopkeeper. Wells was apprenticed to a draper and then to a pharmacist before winning a scholarship to the Normal School of Science, where he earned a first in Zoology. Beginning as a writer of textbooks, he was soon publishing articles and fiction in prominent journals, and his early work included such pioneering and influential works of science fiction as The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The Island of Doctor Moreau, and The War of the Worlds. Later books were devoted to realist and comic accounts of lower-middle-class life, among the best known of which are Tono-Bungay, Kipps, and Love and Mr Lewisham. Wells was also the author of many works of nonfiction and, throughout his career, a committed socialist and internationalist.
Edward Gorey (1925–2000) was born in Chicago. He studied briefly at the Art Institute of Chicago, spent three years in the army testing poison gas, and attended Harvard College, where he majored in French literature and roomed with the poet Frank O’Hara. In 1953 Gorey published The Unstrung Harp, the first of his many extraordinary books, which include The Curious Sofa, The Haunted Tea-Cosy, and The Epiplectic Bicycle.
In addition to illustrating his own books, Edward Gorey provided drawings to countless books for both children and adults. Of these, New York Review Books has published The Haunted Looking Glass, a collection of Gothic tales that he selected and illustrated; The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells; Men and Gods, a retelling of ancient Greek myths by Rex Warner; in collaboration with Rhoda Levine, Three Ladies Beside the Sea and He Was There from the Day We Moved In; and The Unrest-Cure and Other Stories, a collection of tales by Saki.
"Since H. G. Wells published War of the Worlds in 1898, artists have struggled to depict his alien invaders. Perhaps none succeeded so well as the illustrator Edward Gorey…His wonderfully creepy 1960 edition eschews the Robby the Robot designs of pulp fiction, and the slickness of the bad 1953 film, instead delivering an insectlike infestation of pen-and-ink tendrils."
— New York Magazine
"The most delightful of the many editions of The War of the Worlds includes illustrations by Edward Gorey (originally published in 1960 and long out of print until now), in which those creatures look like giant mushrooms on spindly legs, primitive ancestors of the Spielberg tripods."
— Caryn James, The New York Times
"These illustrations perfectly depict not only Wells’s half-sinister, half-ridiculous Martians, but also the destruction they leave in their wake: 'a patch of silent common, smouldering in places, and with a few dark, dimly seen objects lying in contorted attitudes here and there', for example. How Gorey-esque."
—Joshua Glenn, The Boston Globe
"This novel was tailor-made for Gorey. His black-and-white etching-like drawing style makes the aliens (dainty but oppressive-looking hydras), landscapes and figures suitably spooky and Victorian. Which, of course, they were."
— Karen Krangle, The Vancouver Sun
"It was creepy when he wrote it back in 1898, and it’s creepy now. Re-released in a handsome new edition, The War of the Worlds, illustrated by the remarkable Edward Gorey, preys on our fears."
— Marc Horton, Edmonton Journal
"[War of the Worlds is] a perfect showcase for Gorey’s stark, unsettling work with its ominous shadings and eerie peculiarities…[and] Gorey’s work is true to the essence of Wells’ novel."
— The Chicago Tribune
"Edward Gorey’s wonderful 1960 pen-and-ink illustrations can be seen again in the elegant…hardcover edition from New York Review Books."
— The Los Angeles Times