The Martian Diaries Vol. 1: THE DAY OF THE MARTIANS Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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The Martian Diaries Vol. 1: THE DAY OF THE MARTIANS Review

Alexander Wallace prepares for a second Martian invasion.
Of all the great early twentieth century science fiction novels, few have been directly riffed on more than The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, the great sage of his time who predicted the atomic bomb and the strategic bombing campaign. This is a man who saw his nightmares, so vividly described in his novels, come to life in equally vivid detail. I have done my duty in reading Wells’ novels (including a series here on Warped Factor) and derivatives thereof, particularly The War of the Worlds; I have discussed a number of them on the Sea Lion Press blog.

The Day of the Martians by H. E. Wilburson is another such work, in which Wilburson adds his own name to the list which includes Stephen Baxter, Christopher Priest, Kevin J. Anderson, and Scott Washburn, among others. Wilburson takes the approach of setting his novel after the events of the original book and positing another Martian attack on Britain. The ultimate question is, therefore, how does Wilburson stack up to such eminent names?
First off, the prose. Wilburson has made the interesting choice, rare in such expansions, to deliberately emulate the particular stylings of H. G. Wells. His prose can come off as long-winded and stodgy nowadays, but that was the practice of the day; in my opinion, at least, I think he can be rather elegant. Wilburson recreates this prose in a way that feels fairly authentic, and captures the electricity of the original novel.

I will not spoil much, but I will say that The Day of the Martians is heavy on the pyrotechnics after a certain point. Wilburson, in a manner reminiscent of Scott Washburn’s The Great Martian War series, focuses heavily on the military aspect of the scenario. Much of what is depicted is either science or military bureaucracy preparing for something that they know is coming, lending it a whiff of Cixin Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy with an Edwardian sheen. It’s an interesting take on the concept, albeit on a shorter timescale than Liu.

This sequel is a very direct one in relation to the original novel; Wilburson chooses to use a number of characters you will recognize from Wells. It’s an approach that sacrifices breadth for intimacy, and fortunately it works. You get a sense of the familiarity when you run into all these people, and in some ways it feels naturally part of a series beginning with Wells.

If there is any major weakness in this book, it is that the narrator doesn’t have much to do. He goes back and forth to different parts of Britain, but he is a civilian, and this is a story where the military calls the shots. He’s an interesting observer, certainly, given his background, but one who remains more or less passive.

Wilburson breaks from the somewhat common practice of writing long, epic sequels to Wells (as Baxter and Washburn are wont to do). The Day of the Martians is only seventy-five pages, which has one big plus and one big minus. The plus is that it’s a very concise work without much fluff, and in this genre that’s a big virtue. The minus is that it’s clearly the first in a series, and I most certainly want to read more.

The Day of the Martians promises to be a bold new addition to the genre of sequels to The War of the Worlds, and one I most certainly want to read more of. The reservoir that Wells has opened has not gone dry, and Wilburson promises to do something very interesting to its contents. For fans of Wells and his successors, I strongly recommend Wilburson’s effort.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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