The Massacre of Mankind


The Massacre of Mankind
The Massacre of Mankind.jpg
First edition cover
AuthorStephen Baxter
GenreScience fiction
PublisherOrion Books
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Preceded byThe War of the Worlds 

The Massacre of Mankind (2017) is a science fiction novel by British writer Stephen Baxter, a sequel to H. G. Wells' 1898 classic The War of the Worlds, authorised by the Wells estate. It is set in 1920, 13 years after the events of the original novel, as a second Martian invasion is chronicled by Miss Elphinstone, the ex-sister-in-law of the narrator of War of the Worlds. Baxter also wrote an authorised sequel to Wells' novel The Time Machine, The Time Ships.[1][2][3][4]

Plot summary

Book I: The Return of the Martians

In New York City in 1920, Julie Elphinstone meets Major Eric Eden, a POW in the Martian war of 1907. He has come from Britain to try to get her to take a call from her ex-husband's brother Walter Jenkins, the author of the "Narrative" (i.e. The War of the Worlds). Her husband was Frank Jenkins.

While waiting for Walter's call, Julie and Eric meet with Albert Cook, the artillery man that Walter made infamous in his memoir. When the call finally comes, it's Walter's doctor; he is being treated for neurasthenia, a sort of "heat stroke" caused by his interactions with the Martians. Dr. Meyers believes that it's actually shell shock, and points out many instances from Walter's book that account for it: Walter doesn't name himself or his wife, the murder of the curate, etc. He recommends therapy, mandated by the prime minister. Walter tells Julie he wants to meet her in London; he has grave news from the sky.

Julie, Eric Eden, Philip Paris, and Albert Cook take passage on a steamer to England. They arrive to see German soldiers everywhere, as the British sided with the Kaiser in the war against France, Russia, and Belgium, and may attack America next. Philip takes them to the site where one of the cylinders fell. Here, men have reverse-engineered the crab-like Martian machine and are using it to make aluminium. Men also figured out how the heat ray and some other machines work; Einstein believes the power source is battery packs that use atomic energy. The black smoke and red weed left the land toxic.

Julie is taken aback by how totalitarian London has become. The leader, Brian Marvin, has statues and pictures of himself everywhere, and the whole country is fully dedicated to gearing up for the next Martian attack. Julie visits a Martian monument and passes out when she thinks she sees it turn its head.

The next morning, Julie et. al. meet at Ogilvy's former observatory, along with Carolyne (Walter's ex) and Frank (Walter's brother). Walter calls from Germany to say that they saw sigils on Jupiter like they saw on Mars and Venus, though they're of a different design. They believe that the Martians may use the sigils to signal possession of the planets to the more ancient Jovian beings. Observers also saw the Martian cannons firing again, but instead of just one, there were ten cannons that each fired ten shots. He thinks they'll return to England to gather their fallen comrades and technology.

Frank is drafted the next day and London fills with soldiers and guns to prepare for war. He meets a VAD named Verity Bliss, who tells him he's the one in charge of their group. They board a train for Uxbridge. Upon arrival, he's told that the cylinder will be dropping at 19:00, and that there will be 50+ landing around the country.

These Martian tubes did not slow their descent as the previous ones had, acting as kinetic missiles instead of transport vessels. Anything and anyone within a mile of the impact craters is destroyed instantly. Nearly half of Britain's military is wiped out. Frank and Verity help the survivors, though there are few. The nearest cylinder drops 13 miles from London, so Julie doesn't find out that half the army was destroyed until she reads it in the paper the next day. The shops close and rationing starts.

Frank and his group help wherever they can. The next round of cylinders will hit again at midnight. Albert Cook finds Frank on the frontline right before 12. The cylinder hits right on time, but instead of taking 19 hours for the Martians to surface like last time, the Martians pop out right away and start blasting their heat ray. Within minutes, 4 tripods emerge from the hole and take out the guns and artillery. Bert tells them to lie on the ground; anyone who submits is safe, because the Martians have already won and are saving people to be harvested.

The next day, Julie spots a Martian flying machine over London--though this time it is flanked by human planes. Prime Minister Marvin calls for all able-bodied men to come to the King's Line (a makeshift defense line built around the Martians' landing site) to start digging trenches.

Frank, Verity, et al are rescued by a farm woman named Mildred, who arrives with a horse-drawn buggy to take them back to her farm; it seems the Martians only fire on machines. The Martians deploy their crab-like machine to start building a cordon of their own.

Mildred takes Frank to the Manor of Lady Bonneville where Lt. Fairfield is waiting on him. The Martians sent out 200 tripods and took out all the military bases in southern England in mere hours--not to mention all the roads and telephone wires they destroyed.

That night, the tripods from all over start to converge on London. German bombers light them up, but they are no match for the heat ray. Julie and her sister-in-law Alice flee London and make for France. They travel to Rotherhithe, where Alice has an in with a union leader.

Winston Churchill, the Secretary of State for War, remains in the city to oversee its defense. Eric Eden waits in the trenches, ready to fight the straggling tripods that survive the shelling barrage. Unfortunately, their heat rays explode most of the shells in mid-air (though a handful of tripods do go down), and the Martians begin systematically torching the trenches as well. The call for retreat is issued right before the Martians reach Eric.

Churchill's secret plan is to use heat rays augmented with human tech, rolled out on the backs of trucks. Unfortunately, the guns won't fire on Martian targets. In a last ditch effort, Eric Eden turns one of the guns onto another gun and blasts it, creating a nuclear explosion that takes out a handful of tripods, but the remaining 40 press on towards London.

The Martians systematically destroy London, encountering little resistance along the way. Many Londoners escape or take shelter though, thanks to the advanced planning by Marvin's regime.

Book II: England under the Martians

Two years later: the Martians control England, though they mostly remain in their cordon. Julie, in Paris, gets a letter from Walter asking her to come to Berlin; she reluctantly decides to go.

In Germany the citizens live their lives normally, despite the Martian incursion only 100 miles away, and despite the ongoing Russian-German war. Walter asks Julie (per General Eden and Minister of War Churchill) to go into the Martian cordon to try to communicate with them using abstract symbols, like the sigils displayed by the Martians and the Jovians.

Julie takes a boat from Germany to England, part of a larger convoy that includes Eric Eden. About halfway to England, the fleet encounters Martian war machines at Dogger Bank. The Martians seem to have no trouble spotting vessels through the clouds or the water (U-boats). A naval battle ensues, and the Martians take out about 30% of the fleet, but the Martians are ultimately defeated by a shelling barrage. Julie makes it past without incident in her much smaller boat.

Julie arrives in England. She takes a train through a "Winstonville", one of the small pop-up towns formed by people on the run from the Martians, and named after Winston Churchill, the governor of London ever since General Marvin died during the Martian invasion.

At Portsmouth, Julie is taken to a hospital and inoculated against diseases that have been running rampant, like cholera, etc., and is also given some experimental drugs as well. Afterwards, Eden reveals to her that she's actually been infected with a virus that should kill the Martians. She is to find their feeding vat of human blood and "poison the well." She is not happy to have been deceived.

Julie makes her way down the Thames, which has flooded many of the London streets. Her escorts take her to an open manhole and explain that they will be traveling via sewer to escape the Martian's view while they head into Martian territory.

They arrive the next day in Hampsted, where Eden is waiting for them. They take a bus to the Trench: a series of three 50 ft trenches built around the Martian Cordon. A network of caves has been built into the side where the troops are housed. It has been fairly effective at dealing with the tripods, if not the flying machines.

Early the next morning, the Martians attack. Julie, escorted by Ben Gray, Ted Lane, et. al., escape into the tunnels, heading into Martian territory. A Martian handling machine burrows into the tunnel ahead of them and kills a handful of the soldiers with its heat ray. Gray detonates a grenade, killing himself and the Martian, allowing the surviving few to escape into Martian territory. When they surface, Julie's ex Frank picks everyone up in a car and takes them to the farmed fields. Julie does not reveal her true mission to Frank.

In the riverbeds, the red weed is choking out all other vegetation and life, and changing the air composition to be more Mars-like. The group encounters German soldiers who have taken to potato farming; the Martians ignore them as long as they don't attack. They show Julie the other 2 species that are working nearby: tall, translucent, skinny, humanoid Martians bred by the other Martians as cattle; and more squat, brown beings from Venus.

Frank gets Julie set up in Abottsdale and they have dinner with the local dignitaries. Everyone is quite insistent that she donate blood, so the next day she visits Verity Bliss to do so. Verity explains that the Martians pick people off at random, so to try to curb the abductions, they leave blood offerings. Julie is aghast and decides not to donate, but she tells Verity of her mission and asks Verity to arrange a meeting with Albert Cook.

Verity takes her to an inn to meet a man named Marriott, who leads an underground resistance. He agrees to help her find Cook if she will help them dynamite a Martian dam. Julie, Verity, and two of Marriott's associates attempt to transport the dynamite to the dam, but they're intercepted by a fighting machine. The dynamite detonates when the Martian fires its heat ray, and Julie is thrown into the water. The red weed nearly strangles her, but she is saved by a nude, hair-covered "man" with webbed digits and gills.

Julie awakens 24 hours later. Verity tells her that she was saved by a Cytherean, a man from Venus. They're not as bright as humans, but can swim very well, and "Charlie" even helped Verity put her arm in a sling. Charlie wears a cross that he got from a priest that was trying to covert the Cythereans.

After a couple days convalescing, they are attacked by a fighting machine that is harvesting people. As it's about to grab them, Julie notices that Albert Cook seems to be a symbiotic passenger and calls to him. He remembers her from the first war, though he still holds a grudge against Walter. He tells her that helping the Martians harvest their prey is how he's adapted to the apocalypse. She explains that she's been sent to communicate with the Martians and he says to meet him at the Wycombe caves later.

Julie and Verity go to the caves and meet Bert, his wife Mary, and their baby. They tell him they're going into the Martian Redoubt to try to communicate with the Martians using Walter's sigil pictures, but need to know how Bert gets in without being attacked. He says that he sold out some other human's hiding place to endear himself to the Martians, and now he does it for them every day--though one day he plans to turn on them. He wears a wig and gaudy costume so the Martians can easily recognize him, as they have trouble differentiating humans. He saved Mary from a fighting machine and that's why she stays with him.

Bert agrees to take them to the Redoubt if they'll take his daughter Belle away from the caves; the Martians are selectively breeding people to get rid of the strongest and he thinks they'll take his baby.

At the Redoubt, a Martian gives them a quick once-over and they're left to their own devices once it recognizes Bert. The Martians are digging ever further into the Earth, as well as creating more machines. Bert takes them to the holding tanks where they keep Cythereans and humans for "the drips". He throws arrow heads into the human tank (Martians don't recognize them as weapons) so they can commit suicide, a slight reprieve against being drained alive.

Albert next shows them the experiments the Martians perform on adults and children; they're trying to selectively breed people that will sacrifice their children to save themselves. They also see experiments where they are trying to grow/fuse Martians out of/with humans.

Eventually they come to the feeding hole, where the Martians have humans hung upside-down from scaffolding while they inject the human's blood directly into their Martian bodies--presumably to flush out waste in a kind out transfusion. Julie has a revelation on how to stop all the Martians instead of just poisoning these ones. She sees more Martian cylinders falling to Earth, this time over America.

Book III: Worlds at War

Walter observes another tenfold increase in the firing of the Martian cannons: a thousand ships are launched at Earth, heading for America.

Harry Kane, a journalist, is at an end of the world party in Long Island when the next round of cylinders drop. He meets an injured military captain named Bill Woodward and a woman named Marigold Rafferty, an assistant to Thomas Edison, who is creating super weapons to fight off the Martians.

Rafferty leaves to find Edison, and Harry and Bill wait for her to return. She shows up the next morning and says Edison has been evacuated to Manhattan. The Martians start moving toward Manhattan themselves, and another round off cylinders crashes down in LA.

In England, Julie asks Bert to take her to see Eric Eden. When they meet him, Eric is about to launch an attack using his "landships", but Julie says a better plan is to try to change the Martians' sigils carved into the earth instead. He agrees to let her attempt it, and she and Verity come with him on his ship Bodicea.

The Martians destroy L.A.

The Bodicea landship is like a giant land submarine covered with turrets. It rests on three, forty-foot diameter wheels, and is crafted from Martian cylinders to resist their heat ray. A fleet of the ships attack the Martian cordon, and even manage to take out multiple fighting machines--but not without casualties. Eden tells Julie to go on foot to Marriott, while he takes the fleet to Amersham to attack the Martian control center. Verity stays behind, though Julie says she ultimately won't survive the battle.

Harry, Marigold, and Bill head to Central Park. Bill decides to hang back with the army they to assist Major Patton, and tells Harry and Marigold to head south, away from the direction the Martians are headed. Just then, the Martians cross the river into Manhattan and the battle begins.

The Martians destroy Melbourne, Peking, Manhattan, Constantinople, and Africa. The Germans and the Russians unite against the Martians.

In Germany, Walter decides to head to Berlin, directly into the heart of the oncoming Martian attack. A German bomber outfitted with fire bombs made from Martian technology manages to fell a few fighting machines, but the Martians ultimately prevail. Walter flees the city.

In New York, Bill Woodward returns with flux bombs created by Thomas Edison using Martian technology. They detonate a couple near a Martian pit and they are extremely effective in crippling the fighting machines. In retaliation, the Martian flying machines begin dispensing their deadly black smoke. Abruptly, they stop.

Julie's plan was successful: they detonated numerous explosives to change the Martian sigils into the circular Jovian symbols. Within 2 hours, the Martians have withdrawn; the Jovians leave their circular sigil on the moon.

Book IV: Mars on Earth

14 years later, the Martians are still on Earth but no one knows where. Carolyne, Walter's ex, comes to Julie and asks her to look after him. Julie heads to the Amersham pits to visit him.

At the Redoubt, Walter takes Julie a half mile into the earth to the underground Martian city. He speculates that this is how they live on Mars, that they have no secrets because of their telepathy, and that they are all treated as equals. The British Martians built a canon and shot themselves back to Mars; reports say that other Martians moved to the Earth's poles where the climate is more Mars-like.

Julie, Walter, Eric Eden, and some others take a German flying machine to the arctic. There, Walter shows them the active Martian pit and explains what all the red weed is there for: it's removing the air, which is why the Earth's climate has been changing. He thinks with the Jovians watching, they are forced to merely colonize, and that humans should work with them instead of against.

When Earth-Mars opposition comes around again, the Martians do not launch any cylinders. The war of the worlds is over.


  1. ^ The Guardian The Massacre of Mankind
  2. ^ The Massacre of Mankind
  3. ^ Irish Times The Massacre of Mankind
  4. ^ Oxford Culture Review The Massacre of Mankind