Chapter 1, The Eve of the War

The Narrator describes Earth in the early twentieth century. During the last few years of the nineteenth century, Earth was being watched closely by a higher intelligence on Mars. Humans are unaware and actually dismiss the idea of life on Mars as impossible. The beings on Mars view humans much like humans view other animals, “as lowly and alien” as monkeys. Since Mars is older and smaller than Earth, the lifespan and resources of the planet are running out. The beings on Mars see the vast resources of Earth. The Narrator meets Ogilvy, an astronomer, and visits his observatory outside of Ottershaw. The two look at Mars through the telescope and see the venting of gases. They do not know that they are seeing the launch of projectiles toward Earth. While the projectiles travel toward Earth, life goes on peacefully, as no one is aware of the impending threat.

Chapter 2, The Falling Star

A falling star is seen over Winchester. Ogilvy investigates and finds the crash site of a large metal cylinder in Horsell Common. It is still extremely hot, so he is unable to get very close. Ogilvy does notice that the end which protrudes from the ground is slowly rotating. He connects what he saw the previous night on Mars through his telescope and determines that there must be men inside. He runs to town, but people dismiss his story. He finds a London journalist, Henderson, and convinces him to come to the crash site. Finding that the cylinder has stopped moving, they return to town, where Henderson telegraphs the newspaper. When the Narrator reads of the crash site in his newspaper, he travels from his home in Woking to Horsell Common.

Chapter 3, On Horsell Common

The Narrator arrives at the cylinder’s crash site, where a small crowd has gathered at the edge of the crater. The table-sized end cap is no longer rotating, but he notices a yellowish-white metal between the cap and the cylinder. He believes that the cylinder must be full of information from Mars, and not living beings. He becomes impatient and returns home. He returns after the evening papers have reported “a message received from Mars.” Henderson, Ogilvy, Stent (the Astronomer Royal) and several workmen are trying to unearth the portion of the cylinder that is still embedded in the ground. Ogilvy asks the Narrator to contact Lord Hilton, who owns the property, to remove all of the onlookers, who are impeding the excavation. The Narrator is pleased to be involved, finds out that Lord Hilton will be arriving by train soon, and heads to the train station.

Chapter 4, The Cylinder Opens

The Narrator returns at sunset. Several hundred people have gathered. He elbows his way through the crowd and hears Ogilvy yelling to keep everyone back, since no one knows what is inside the cylinder. The end of the cylinder twists itself off and the Narrator stares into the dark emptiness of the cylinder. Gray tentacles, the thickness of a walking-stick, emerge from the cylinder, followed by a “rounded bulk” the size of a bear. The Narrator describes its movement as slow and painful, due to the difference in gravity between Mars and Earth. He adds that it is difficult to imagine the “strange horror” of a Martian’s appearance, with a V-shaped mouth, large pair of eyes, rounded body and mass of tentacles. The Narrator retreats to a group of trees and tries to watch. The crowd has almost entirely dispersed, but he can no longer see what is happening in the pit around the cylinder. 

Chapter 5, The Heat-Ray

A thin rod with a round disk, like a mirror, rises out of the pit. As the sun sets, in the twilight the Narrator can only make out shapes of people approaching. A small group, containing Stent, Ogilvy and Henderson, approaches the pit, waving a white flag. There are three puffs of green smoke, a bright flash, and a hissing noise. The Narrator sees one of the large creatures in the pit rise up, and the hissing turns to a hum. The Narrator watches as the surrounding area starts to catch fire, as if an invisible ray is being projected from the pit. The group with the white flag is consumed instantly. The Narrator can see that the invisible ray is starting to move across the surrounding area, setting everything on fire, including houses and trees in the distance. Paralzyed with fear, the Narrator stands still and watches. The beam does not make a full circle, otherwise the Narrator would have been killed. The Narrator runs in terror.

Chapter 6, The Heat-Ray in the Chobham Road

The Martian Heat-Ray can burn anything combustible. It melts lead, shatters glass, and turns water to steam. Forty people have been killed around the pit. Many others are burned from the fire started in the nearby grass and trees. The Narrator suggests that with a parabolic mirror, invisible light must have been concentrated in a beam. More people were burned by the fires before they ran, trampling one another to escape.

Chapter 7, How I Reached Home

The Narrator runs through the trees and collapses near a bridge. After regaining his strength, he approaches a group of people. He is confused and mentally detached from events. He asks the group about what happened on the common, but they dismiss him. They think he is demented when he tries to tell them what happened. The Narrator returns home and tells his wife. He reassures her, and himself, that the Martian creatures are very slow, due to Earth’s stronger gravity. The Narrator admits that he did not foresee that the increased oxygen content in the atmosphere would give the Martians more energy, or that the Martian’s advanced technology would not be limited by their weight and muscles. He believes that an artillery shell into the pit will solve the issue, should it get any worse.

Chapter 8, Friday Night

Life continues as normal in the region around Horsell Common. Most of the people who were present have been killed, and those who escaped are treated as if they are deranged. Since Henderson stopped sending updates, the newspaper does not take the story seriously. Anyone else who has tried to approach the pit has been incinerated. A military regiment has been activated, however, and several dozen soldiers deploy on the edges of the common to investigate. Just after midnight, a second cylinder streaks across the sky.

Chapter 9, The Fighting Begins

The following day, the soldiers surround the Martians at the first crash site. The Narrator travels down to the bridge and talks to a group of soldiers who have not seen the Martians yet. The soldiers question the Narrator about the Martians and then argue amongst themselves about how to deal with them. The Martians have not left their pit and seem to be readying for a battle. The Narrator returns home, where he hears artillery shells thudding at the second Martian crash site. Explosions and gunfire erupt at the first Martian crash site, and several buildings around the Narrator’s home are destroyed. He realizes that the Heat-Ray is within range of his home. He grabs his wife and servant, secures a horse and cart from his neighbor, and rides toward Leatherhead. The hills and buildings are burning behind him as he rides away.

Chapter 10, In the Storm

The Narrator travels twelve miles to Leatherhead. He leaves his wife and servant with his cousins and turns back toward his home, so that he can return the horse and cart. He sees a third falling star and knows that it contains more Martians. Late at night, he nears his home. A hailstorm with lightning has started. The Narrator sees two large metal machines rise over the hill. He describes them as a tripod with a large dish at the top. He watches them break through lines of trees like a man walks through reeds. The Narrator tries to turn the horse cart, but instead it tumbles over, killing the horse. He hides as the two large machines pass near him. He finds cover and works his way home in the dark.

Chapter 11, At the Window

The Narrator goes to the window in his study and looks out toward Horsell Common. He sees large shapes moving back and forth in the dark near the pit. The Narrator wonders whether the large machines are intelligent or are piloted by the Martians. All of the surrounding landscape is burnt and destroyed, including a train. He sees a soldier creeping across his lawn and invites him inside. The soldier tells the Narrator how his crew and their artillery gun were destroyed instantly from the Martian’s Heat-Ray. The Narrator finds food for the soldier and watches from his window again. He watches three of the large vehicles near the pit survey the area.

Chapter 12, What I Saw of the Destruction of Weybridge and Shepperton

At dawn, the Narrator and the soldier pack some food and leave the house. The Narrator wants to return to his wife and leave the country, but the Third Cylinder is between him and Leatherhead. He agrees to travel with the soldier and make a detour to reach Leatherhead. The two meet several mounted Hussars and see several more artillery emplacements. Some distance from Horsell Commons, the Narrator finds that the citizens who are being evacuated do not understand the seriousness of the problem. He tells them that “Death is coming!” At Shepperton Lock, where the Wey and Thames rivers join, another battle begins. Five of the large tripod vehicles descend upon the fleeing people. A line of artillery guns are able to bring down one of the large vehicles, destroying the cowl at the top (which the Narrator presumes is the cockpit). The Narrator runs into the river to avoid the ensuing Heat-Rays that vaporize the surrounding area. He watches as four of the vehicles carry away the one that was partially destroyed. He says that it is a miracle that he escaped.

Chapter 13, How I Fell in with the Curate

The Narrator travels farther from Horsell Common. Cylinders streak the sky and arrive every twenty-four hours. Artillery guns are placed around the destroyed area and scouts are deployed with heliographs (signaling devices). Only one large vehicle remains active, guarding the pit of the first cylinder. The remaining aliens appear to be working on something under a pillar of dense green smoke. The Narrator, exhausted and burned from his encounter, comes across a minister. The minister is raving about the end of days. The Narrator reassures him that the Martians are not invulnerable but warns that the two of them must retreat farther north to London.

Chapter 14, In London

The Narrator describes his brother’s experience in London. His brother initially hears about the first cylinder, but the initial reports do not make it out to be dangerous. When he tries to travel, he finds that the railway system has been temporarily shut down. Most people do not suspect the Martians as the reason. Refugees from Walton and Weybridge keep arriving, but no one has any information on the actual Martians. Several days later, the Narrator’s brother reads a newspaper story describing the Martians as “vast spider-like machines, nearly a hundred feet high, capable of the speed of an express train, and able to shoot out a beam of intense heat.” The tone is optimistic, stating that the Martians have been forced to retreat after one of them was defeated. He learns that the area around the Narrator’s home has been entirely destroyed. The next day, the Narrator’s brother sees that London is in a panic. Police are going door to door and telling everyone to evacuate. “The Martians are able to discharge enormous clouds of black and poisonous vapor by means of rockets.” The Narrator’s brother puts all of his available money in his pockets and leaves his home.

Chapter 15, What had Happened in Surrey

The Narrator and the minister leave the church to head toward London, but they stop and hide when they see several of the Martian vehicles approaching. Before reaching the next lines of artillery, the Martian vehicles use launch tubes to send rockets of heavy, black poisonous gas across the countryside. The Narrator watches as black clouds spread out over the ground. After losing one of the vehicles, the Martians advance cautiously, spreading the poison ahead of them, never giving the artillery another chance to fire. Soon, no soldiers are willing to fight them, other than to create traps or lay mines. By the next day, Richmond is full of the black vapor and London is being evacuated.

Chapter 16, The Exodus from London

The Narrator describes his brother’s escape from London. It is chaotic and dangerous. People are crushed trying to board trains, as some areas around London are covered in the black vapor. The Narrator’s brother steals a bicycle from a shop that is being looted and rides past a majority of the crowd. Outside of town, he fights several robbers who are attacking a pair of women. The Narrator’s brother joins the women and leads their pony and cart toward Edgware, outside of London. Traveling northeast, the three encounter a frantic stream of people and carts, trying to escape London. Many are shouting that the Martians are coming. The Narrator’s brother tries to help a few people but realizes that it is too dangerous. He joins the two women in the cart and crosses the stream of people, trying to get farther eastward. Eventually they stop at a stream to rest.

Chapter 17, The Thunder Child

The Martian vehicles occupy London, seemingly in an effort to demoralize and destroy any opposition, as they do not pursue the fleeing citizens. London’s population of six million people try to escape the city in a stampede, lacking food or supplies. Two more falling stars are seen nearby. The Narrator’s brother and his two traveling companions eventually reach the eastern coast. The water is full of different sizes and types of boats. 

The Narrator’s brother and the two women arrange for passage aboard a steamship. The captain of the ship waits until the boat is overcrowded before departing. Three Martian vehicles approach from the west. The steamship is underway and passes the Thunder Child, an ironclad naval vessel. The Martian vehicles wade into the coastal waters to attack the ships. The Thunder Child rams the first vehicle, toppling it. The second vehicle uses its Heat-Ray on the Thunder Child. Due to the momentum of the ironclad, both the Thunder Child and vehicle are destroyed. On the ship carrying the Narrator’s brother, everyone cheers that two vehicles have been defeated, as they steam away from the Essex coast. Looking up into the twilight, the Narrator’s brother sees something “flat and broad and very large” sweep across the sky. “And as it flew it rained down darkness upon the land.”


Chapter 1, Under Foot

The Narrator and the minister hide in a small house, trapped by black vapor. After two days, a Martian vehicle arrives and uses a steam jet to dissipate the black vapor. The two leave the house. The Narrator is determined to reach his wife in Leatherhead and believes that all the Martian vehicles will be traveling in the opposite direction, through London. There are scattered dead bodies everywhere. He watches as one of the vehicles grabs several people and places them in a large metal basket attached to the vehicle. Finding a neighborhood that is still standing, the Narrator and the minister search for food. They stop at a house that has a full pantry. There is a loud explosion and the house collapses around them. The Narrator crawls through the rubble and sees that one of the falling Martian cylinders has struck the house.

Chapter 2, What We Saw from the Ruined House

The Narrator and the minister hide in the ruined house. Its kitchen and pantry are intact, but the rest of the building is destroyed. Peering through a small gap in the rubble, the Narrator can see that the cylinder completely destroyed the neighboring house and then splashed earth and bricks in all directions. The house that he is hiding in is buried under debris, other than the side facing the cylinder. 

The Narrator watches the Martians carefully, and states that no other human was able to watch them so closely, or for so long. The Martians are actually not much more than round heads, four feet in diameter. They contain only a heart, lungs and large brain. Instead of eating, they draw blood from living creatures and inject it into themselves. The Narrator reveals that the Martians do not sleep and have no discernable gender, as they procreate through budding, like a plant. He also notes that the Martian world contained no microorganisms. He watches as the five or six Martians go about, building things in the pit beside the house, without communicating. The Narrator proposes that the Martians are telepathic and that the noises that they make are not for communication. 

Chapter 3, The Days of Imprisonment

The Narrator and the minister fight over who gets to watch the Martians through the peephole. The Narrator states his dislike of the minister, who does not ration food and cries for long periods of time. After several days of hiding, the Narrator witnesses one of the vehicles return and unload a human captive. He does not see what happens, but he hears screaming and hooting noises from the Martians. The Narrator plans to escape. He tries digging in a direction away from the pit but finds that it makes too much noise. While watching the pit, he hears six distinct booms, like large guns firing, followed by another six.

Chapter 4, The Death of the Curate

The Narrator tries to reason with the minister, but the minister becomes increasingly irrational. The Narrator rations out the food for ten days, but he must regularly wrestle the minister to stop him from eating. After nine days of hiding, the minister starts shouting and heads toward the peephole in the kitchen. The Narrator overtakes him and knocks him unconscious. A Martian appears at the peephole and a long metal tentacle snakes into the kitchen. The Narrator hides and watches from the pantry as the minister’s body is dragged away. The Narrator hides in the coal-cellar off of the pantry. The metal tentacle searches the pantry and even opens the coal-cellar door, but the Narrator is not discovered. After the tentacle is gone, the Narrator stays hiding in the coal-cellar for an entire day, despite his hunger and thirst.

Chapter 5, The Stillness

The Narrator leaves the coal-cellar and discovers that the Martian tentacle took all the remaining food. Desperate for water, he eventually uses a loud pump handle beside the sink, even though he fears that the Martians will hear him. To his surprise, a dog wanders into the kitchen. The Narrator investigates the pit. All of the Martians are gone, as well as their machinery. He walks out into the pit and looks around. Red Martian plants have grown over the area, but there are no signs of Martians anywhere. 

Chapter 6, The Work of Fifteen Days

The Narrator feels as if he is on the landscape of another planet, surrounded by burnt ground and red plants. He fears that humans are no longer the dominant species on Earth and that they will become subservient to the Martians. He scrounges for food, finding some vegetables in a nearby garden. He wanders to the Thames and sees that it is choked with the red Martian plant. He comments that the red plant died out not long after it spread so quickly, as it had no immunity to Earth’s bacteria. He travels farther without seeing any humans, still scrounging for food. He wonders whether the Martians have gone to destroy Berlin or Paris and whether he will be one of the few remaining humans.

Chapter 7, The Man on Putney Hill

The Narrator spends the night at an inn on Putney Hill. He searches for more food and travels toward Leatherhead. He thinks about the death of the minister, for which he feels no remorse. He worries about where the Martians are and also what has happened to his wife. While traveling, he comes across a desperate-looking man holding a sword. He recognizes the soldier that was at his home. They speak a while. The soldier tells him that the two of them should start a new society in the sewers and subway tunnels, like rats. They should only allow the strongest survivors to join and someday overthrow the Martians. The Narrator fears the world that the soldier describes, but he agrees to help the soldier dig into the tunnels. They dig for a while and then eat, drink and play cards. By the next day, the Narrator decides that he wants to find his wife and that he will leave the “undisciplined dreamer of great things to his drink and gluttony.”

Chapter 8, Dead London

The Narrator travels through London. Parts of the city are covered in bodies and black dust, while others remain more intact. He hears a strange, howling sound in the distance and decides to investigate. Traveling past Hyde Park toward Regent’s Park, he sees one of the Martian vehicles lying motionless. He finds several dead Martians along the way and follows the noise until it stops. He comes to the central base of the Martians in London and sees overturned war machines and dead Martian bodies being eaten by dogs and birds. Later, he would learn that the Martians were killed by bacteria that humans have become immune to over many generations. He believes that society will rebuild.

Chapter 9, Wreckage

Large numbers of people return to London. A helpful family has taken in the Narrator, who they found wandering and confused. They tell him that Leatherhead was destroyed by Martians. He decides that he wants to see what has happened to his home. Against the family’s recommendation, the Narrator departs. He finds that the trains are running again. From a train window, he watches the destroyed landscape pass by. His home is desolate, just as he and the soldier had left it. While walking through his house, the Narrator hears a voice. He runs to the French window and finds that his wife and cousin are there also. 

Chapter 10, Epilogue

In the aftermath of the invasion, the Narrator states, all the Martian bodies that were examined contained bacteria only from Earth. The composition of the black vapor is not discovered. The inner-workings of the Heat-Ray are still a mystery. The Narrator believes that if the Martians return, Earth will be more prepared. Humans will not allow the Martians to assemble their war machines so easily and will attack as soon as any cylinders arrive. He also notes that it is likely that the Martians have also sent cylinders to Venus. The attack has changed the outlook of humans, knowing that threatening beings live on other planets. It has also unified humanity in an effort to be better prepared. The events of the attack, the bodies, and the ruined landscape still haunt the Narrator.

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