The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter
What would happen if an editor failed to edit a book? This story. I absolutely hate giving bad reviews, they feel like guilty confessions. But having spent approximately ten to eleven hours on this book, I am feeling rightfully frustrated. Am I being too harsh? Read on and you can decide for yourself.
The massacre of mankind is a sequel to The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. I want to start off saying I have never read that book, so if the book is greatly enhanced by that, then that would explain something (I hope). It tells the story of a Martian attack, the second one, on earth and details the preparation, the fighting, and the hope for the future. Plot-wise, there were moments of surprise and excitement – no doubt, but they were few and far between for a book of this magnitude. Much of the beginning is introduction material regarding the last book and a lot of it is lofty scientific explanations. It took over ten percent of the book before something occurred that propelled the plot. Additionally, at the end it just felt like there were bits tacked on for the sake of it and the whole ending felt drawn out.
Positives and Negatives
This book is rich with intertextuality, mentions of author/writers, events, and works of fiction. This has to do with its nature as a sequel, but also its genre (more on that later). Moving on to the note of documentation, the book, to me, was prolonged and dull. It strives to be a story, backed by research and witness accounts. But unfortunately, this made it quite dry and there were long tangents of “witness accounts” that really had no place at all. This alone results in the book being much longer than it would have to be, and that made reading it a chore. I felt I had to finish the book not due to anticipation of what happened, but in order to finish it.
While the main protagonist was female, I felt her characterization to be somewhat flat. I personally enjoyed Verity, a side character more.
I also need to go on a tangent of my own and say why do all the aliens have to be humanoids? This was surprisingly addressed in the book, but the explanation, to me, always feels like a cop out. Look at Olivia Butler. They are not humanoid. You can write a good alien that does not walk on two legs. Also it was very English speaking centered, focusing on, for the majority, white characters, except for one Chinese student and an aborigine who are the smallest of minor characters.
Why could it be like this?
But what could be the reasons why? I want to speak about why, I think, it could be like this. This type of sci fi is reminiscent of an older “harder” sci fi. I normally do not read that kind of writing, however I have heard great things about Stephen Baxter. That being said, maybe this writing style is just for the purpose of the sequel and stems from H.G Wells, one of the old “hard” sci fi greats so because of that fact, I granted this book more liberties than if it was not trying so hard to be intertextual (and at times it does feel like one big name drop).
The whole book, while a unique idea and premise, took too long. It felt like one of those long pieces of toffee that stretches till you wait for it to break. Granted it did not get to that breaking point for me, where I put it down, but that was because I am a stickler and needed to review this anyway! I wanted to love this book, but it did not do it for me. I finished it, but I felt like it was a major struggle.
I want to stress that you, if you enjoy scientific pieces of literature that is more structured like a documentary that tries to be all encompassing, then please read this. That way I can have someone to talk to about it! I do believe there are people who will love this, take goodreads, but I, unfortunately, was not one of them. You can buy it here.
disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from netgalley
Have you read anything by Stephen Baxter?
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If you like science fiction, you may enjoy reading The White Queen.