We want to send you a copy of Stephen Baxter’s The Massacre of Mankind, a sequel to H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, available now from Crown!
It has been 14 years since the Martians invaded England. The world has moved on, always watching the skies but content that we know how to defeat the Martian menace. Machinery looted from the abandoned capsules and war-machines has led to technological leaps forward. The Martians are vulnerable to earth germs. The Army is prepared.
So when the signs of launches on Mars are seen, there seems little reason to worry. Unless you listen to one man, Walter Jenkins, the narrator of Wells’ book. He is sure that the Martians have learned, adapted, understood their defeat.
He is right.
Thrust into the chaos of a new invasion, a journalist – sister-in-law to Walter Jenkins – must survive, escape and report on the war.
The massacre of mankind has begun.
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From Chapter 14: The Landing of the First Wave
I learned later that the astronomical spotters had got some of it right—at least the number of projectiles, and the rough location of their fall. None had anticipated the manner of that fall.
A total of fifty-two cylinders landed on central England that night. Tsiolkovsky and co-workers later calculated, given comparisons with the 1907 assault, that they must have launched in five flotillas, each of ten or so shots: launched on February 18, and then on the 20th, 22nd, 24th and 26th.
(The cylinders to fall the next night, at that moment still en route to the earth, had been fired off on the interleaving nights, from the 19th through to the 27th . . .)
As Tsiolkovsky had suggested, the Martians used engines during their interplanetary flight to tweak their trajectories, the lead volleys slowing to allow latecomers to catch up, so that in the end all the cylinders of the first wave fell simultaneously—at least within the limits of accuracy of the timepieces of the military observers who saw them fall—at midnight of Monday, March 29. And the last cylinder to be fired on February 26, unlike its brothers having none to wait for, landed on the earth four weeks and four days after its launch—the precise same timing as with the cylinders launched in ’07.
(And meanwhile, as we would soon learn, the second-wave cylinders were still coordinating their own fall, out in space . . .)
That first fifty-two fell together in a great ring of twenty miles diameter, roughly centered on the town of Amersham in Buckinghamshire. The circle of impacts reached out beyond High Wycombe to the southwest, Wendover to the northwest, Hemel Hempstead to the northeast—and it brushed quite precisely over Uxbridge to the southeast, where Frank was stationed. The cylinders came down in a chain, each a little more than a mile from its neighbors on either side. There were no green flashes this time, no attempts to slow the craft—if true craft they were, rather than inert missiles fitted with steering engines.
The purpose of that first wave was evidently not to deliver Martians and their equipment intact to the earth, as had been the case with the Horsell cylinder, and its siblings of the First War. The sole objective was destruction.
This was the simple but cruder tactic adopted by the Martians to begin their second assault on the earth: to use the brute kinetic energy of these dummy projectiles to smash any resistance before it had a chance to escape, let alone respond. Thus the event that befell England that March night.
Consider the impact of a single cylinder. In its last seconds of existence the Uxbridge cylinder must have angled in from the west, across the Atlan¬tic Ocean. It punched its way through the earth’s atmosphere in a fraction of a second, blasting away the air around it, leaving a tunnel of vacuum where it had passed. And when it hit the ground, it delivered all its energy of motion in an instant of heat. The cylinder itself must have been utterly destroyed, says Denning. A narrow cone of incandescent rock mist fired back along the cylinder’s incoming trajectory, back through the tunnel in the air dug out in those last moments—some more distant observers thought they had seen a vast searchlight beam. Around this central glowing shaft, a much broader spray of pulverized and shattered rock, amounting to hundreds of times the cylinder’s own mass, was blown out of the widening crater. Then the shock waves came, a battering wind, a searing heat. Even the ground flexed and groaned, as a crater a mile wide was dug into the flesh of the earth.
In that same moment the event was repeated in that grand ring, all around the target circle: seen from the air (as photographs taken the next day proved) it was a circle of glowing pits, every one still more impressive than the Arizona crater, and all neatly punched into the English ground.
And any military units which had been within a mile of the fall were lost.
Many had believed that England would not be subject to a second Martian attack, but enough had believed it possible, and enough more had feared it, that the authorities had been compelled to prepare. The result had been a reconfiguring of our military and economy, of our international relationships, and a coarsening of the fabric of our society. All this had delivered a much more effective home army, and when the attack had finally come the mobilization, after years of planning and preparation, had been fast and effective.
But as a result of that promptness of mobilization a little less than half the new British Army, as measured in numbers of regular troops and front-line material, was destroyed in the first minutes of the assault—most of the lost troops leaving no trace. And even those on the periphery of the landfalls, like Frank, endured great trials.
Adapted from The Massacre of Mankind © 2017 by Stephen Baxter. Published by Crown, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
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