The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!
I felt trepidation before beginning this because I kept seeing unfavorable reviews, but fortunately, I thought it was pretty awesome after finishing. I might have a bit of an issue with the end, and I think that's where most people are complaining, but it wasn't as bad as all that.
I remembered that the original The War of the Worlds was written as an account, a narrative, and as such, there's generally no good wrap-ups unless forced... and that's true for reality, too.
That's the bad... but Now for the great!
The World-building is very, very neat, as is the sheer amount of research and history and tactics carefully laid out.
There's a comprehensive account of a much longer war that comes in several waves and with much greater numbers, and we get to see the horrible effects of the invasion and colonization of Earth from Martians across continents and over a good deal of time.
In a lot of ways, this reads as a pure and horrific tragedy where we know what's coming but we have no way to stop it. It keeps the blood pumping, that's for sure. The first invasion was just a scouting mission and they fixed the little issue with the pathogens, which is very reasonable considering just how much tech and implied tech these aliens have.
This is also set in an alternate timeline that takes into account exploited tech after the first war, and even though WWI happened again, the outcome was very different with a victorious Kaiser and an occupied England. It's little details like this that keep popping up that made this novel really delicious, but that's not to say the characters weren't fun as well. :)
This novel is a fully-authorized sequel from the Well's estate, and Baxter put a lot of time and research into making this one of the most thoughtful world-building exercises out there.
I'm a Baxter-phile. I remember the fantastic job he'd done on his direct-sequel to The Time Machine back in the nineties. I also remember enjoying his sequel more than the original, too, making things much bigger, broad-scale, and utterly fascinating. He does the same here, with this, turning it truly into a war of worlds, including the entire Earth and it's population, and this is what makes this novel fantastic. Horrifying, but also fantastic.
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