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The first modern tale of alien invasion, H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds remains one of the most influential science fiction novels ever published. This Penguin Classics edition is edited by Patrick Parrinder with an introduction by Brian Aldiss, author of Hothouse , and notes by Andy Sawyer. The night after a shooting star is seen streaking through the sky from Mars, a cylinder is discovered on Horsell Common in London. At first, naïve locals approach the cylinder armed just with a white flag - only to be quickly killed by an all-destroying heat-ray, as terrifying tentacled invaders emerge. Soon the whole of human civilisation is under threat, as powerful Martians build gigantic killing machines, destroy all in their path with black gas and burning rays, and feast on the warm blood of trapped, still-living human prey. The forces of the Earth, however, may prove harder to beat than they at first appear. The War of the Worlds has been the subject of countless adaptations, including an Orson Welles radio drama which caused mass panic when it was broadcast, with listeners confusing it for a news broadcast heralding alien invasion; a musical version by Jeff Wayne; and, most recently, Steven Spielberg's 2005 film version, starring Tom Cruise. This Penguin Classics edition includes a full biographical essay on Wells, a further reading list and detailed notes. The introduction, by Brian Aldiss, considers the novel's view of religion and society. H.G. Wells (1866-1946) was a professional writer and journalist. Among his most popular works are The Time Machine (1895); The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), filmed with Bela Lugosi in 1932, and again in 1996 with Marlon Brando; The Invisible Man (1897); The War of the Worlds (1898); and The First Men in the Moon (1901), which predicted the first lunar landings. If you enjoyed The War of the Worlds , you might like Wells's The Time Machine , also available in Penguin Classics.
H. G. Wells
Penguin LCC US
Book One: The Coming of the Martians Chapter 1 The Eve of the War No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same. No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment. The planet Mars, I scarcely need remind the reader, revolves about the sun at a mean distance of 140,000,000 miles, and the light and heat it receives from the sun is barely half of that received by this world. It must be, if the nebular hypothesis has any truth, older than our world; and long before this earth ceased to be molten, life upon its surface must have begun its course. The fact that it is scarcely one seventh of the volume of the earth must have accelerated its cooling to the temperature at which life could begin. It has air and water and all that is necessary for the support of animated existence. Yet so vain is man and so blinded by his vanity, that no writer up to the very end of the nineteenth century expressed any idea that intelligent life might have developed there far, or indeed at all, beyond its earthly level. Nor was it generally understood that since Mars is older than our earth, with scarcely a quarter of the superficial area and remoter from the sun, it necessarily follows that Mars is not only more distant from life's beginning but also nearer its end. The secular cooling that must someday overtake our planet has already gone far indeed with our neighbor. Its physical condition is still largely a mystery, but we know now that even in its equatorial region the midday temperature barely approaches that of our coldest winter. Its air is much more attenuated than ours, its oceans have shrunk until they cover but a third of its surface, and as its slow seasons change huge snowcaps gather and melt about either pole and periodically inundate its temperate zones. That last stage of exhaustion, which to us is still incredibly remote, has become a present-day problem for the inhabitants of Mars. The immediate pressure of necessity has brightened their intellects, enlarged their powers, and hardened their hearts. And looking across space with instruments, and with intelligences such as we have scarcely dreamed of they see, at its nearest distance only 35,000,000 of miles sunward of them, a morning star of hope-our own warmer planet, green with vegetation and gray with water, with a cloudy atmosphere eloquent of fertility, with glimpses through drifting cloud-wisps of broad stretches of populous country and narrow navy-crowded seas. And we men, the creatures who inhabit this earth, must be to them at least as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us. The intellectual side of man already admits that life is an incessant struggle for existence, and it would seem that this too is the belief of
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