The Martian War by Kevin J Anderson

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The Martian War by Kevin J Anderson

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Ed Prior
Reviewed by Ed Prior
Summary: What if science fiction pioneer H.G Wells had based his most famous works on events from his real life? This is the premise behind Kevin J Anderson’s latest novel The Martian War. Blending fact with fiction, the author’s obvious love of Wells' cannon shines though in this elegantly constructed pastiche even if the resulting story is, at times, a little too faithful to its source material leaving few surprises for Wells aficionados.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: September 2012
Publisher: Titan Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781781161722

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Suppose H G Wells was not simply a skilled writer with a spectacular imagination, but was in fact centrally involved in a fantastical adventure which formed the basis for several of his most successful novels. Kevin J Anderson has supposed exactly this in his latest novel The Martian War. Real historical figures such as Percival Lowell and T H Huxley share centre stage with famous Wellsian characters like Dr Moreau and Mr Cavor in a story that borrows elements from War of the Worlds, The First Men in the Moon, The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Invisible Man.

Standing as one of the first great popularisers of science fiction as a literary genre, H G Wells' influence on the field remains undiminished even now, nearly seventy years after his death. Kevin J Anderson is perhaps most famous for co-authoring a series of prequels to Frank Herbert's Dune and a number of books set in the Star Wars universe. Having now set his sights on Wells canon, does Anderson do justice to his sainted predecessor’s work?

The Martian War certainly succeeds in capturing the spirit of Wells writing, the prose is brisk and to the point, yet never feels workmanlike. The characters too, whether borrowed from Wells or history, are deployed well and the weaving together of many true events from Wells' own life, such as his relationships with women and studying under T H Huxley, adds interest. Though Anderson glosses over potentially more controversial aspects of Wells' character, such as his politics and polyamory, this does suit the style, keeping the novel light, with the story and science fiction elements as its focus.

A fun, unchallenging read, The Martian War oozes love and respect for its source material. Although lacking the originality of Wells' own writing, the ideas Anderson borrows are put together cleverly to form a neat whole. A couple of familiar characters do feel a little underused, but when attempting to cram this many ideas into one story this is, perhaps, only to be expected.

Ultimately the novel's main selling point, its skilful knitting together of Wells' most famous works, is also its biggest flaw. There is great fun to be had in seeing how the author stitches the different concepts together into one unified whole, a task Anderson achieves elegantly, but the finished work never escapes its source material, leaving the second half of the book unfortunately predictable to anyone with more than a passing familiarity with Wells' cannon. This is a significant problem considering this book is surely aimed at Wells-lovers, more so than casual readers.

Even so, Anderson has succeeded in creating an entertaining and highly readable story which will likely amuse most fans of H G Wells, even if it can’t match the invention of the master himself. If nothing else The Martian War is a brisk and breezy jaunt through comfortably familiar territory, homage rather than lazy pastiche, Anderson’s novel serves to reaffirm the brilliance and longevity of H G Wells' original stories.

If this book appeals then you might like to try The Edge of the World by Kevin J Anderson

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