cover image The Massacre of Mankind

The Massacre of Mankind

Stephen Baxter. Crown, $27 (496p) ISBN 978-1-5247-6012-0

This estate-authorized sequel to H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds is set in the early 1920s, but it has the feel of one of Baxter’s modern SF extravaganzas. It’s been 13 years since marauding Martians were vanquished by Earth bacteria, and the red planet is launching another invasion. The Martians have learned from their earlier experiences, but so have humans. Baxter presents this second conflict as one that pits the superior technology of the Martians against the guerilla ingenuity of scrappy Earthlings. The author takes a sweeping approach, providing a global panorama of the novel’s events, but most of the action is seen through the eyes of Londoner Julie Elphinstone, the former sister-in-law of the unnamed narrator of Wells’s novel (here named Walter Jenkins). Meticulous detail gives the story vividness and immediacy, but it draws the plot out unnecessarily, as do the repetitive scenes of devastation wrought by the Martian fighting machines. Once readers let go of any hope of a pastiche of Wells’s style, they’ll appreciate this capacious reworking of his themes. Agent: Christopher Schelling, Selectric Artists Literary & Talent. (Aug.)