The War of the Worlds

by: H. G. Wells and Edward Gorey

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The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, illustrated by Edward Gorey / ISBN 9781681376097 / a small 221-page paperback, 4.75 x 7.25 inches, from NYRB Classics

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When massive, intelligent aliens from Mars touch down in Victorian England and threaten to destroy the civilized world, humanity’s vaunted knowledge proves to be of little use. First published in 1898, H. G. Wells’s masterpiece of speculative fiction has thrilled and delighted generations of readers, spawned countless imitations, and inspired dramatizations by such masters as Orson Welles and Steven Spielberg. The War of the Worlds is a fantasy that is startlingly up-to-date yet in touch with the most ancient of human fears.

In 1960, Edward Gorey prepared a set of his inimitable pen-and-ink drawings to illustrate a new edition of The War of the Worlds for the legendary Looking Glass Library. Characteristically quirky, elegant, and entrancing, Gorey’s visual take on Wells’s seminal tour de force was unavailable until 2005, when NYRB Classics reissued it in a special hardcover edition. Now in paperback, this edition brings back for today’s readers a richly rewarding collaboration between two modern masters of all that’s wonderful and strange.

Artist and author Edward Gorey (American, 1925–2000) is beloved for the boundless imagination and sharp humor exhibited in his more than 100 published works. Gorey was also a set and costume designer for innumerable theater productions, including a staging of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, for which he won a Tony. He had a profound affection for literature, film, ballet, and animals. Cats and other odd creatures appear in many of his crosshatched illustrations. His humorously unsettling drawings of vaguely Victorian innocents facing unfortunate ends became familiar to a wide audience after appearing in the opening credits of the PBS television series Mystery! Gorey’s Cape Cod home, a veritable cabinet of curiosities, is now a museum celebrating his life and work.