At the close of H.G. Wells’s 1898 novel “The War of the Worlds,” the Martian invaders are all dead, having succumbed to the viruses that infest our planet and for which they had never built up resistance. While something of a surprise ending, Wells had nonetheless prepared the reader for it with various clues, starting with his opening sentence: “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.” Despite the unexpected failure of what was probably just a scouting party, would Mars, a dying and depleted planet, simply abandon its plans of conquest? Wouldn’t those “intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic” continue to regard our Earth with the same envious eyes and, slowly and surely, draw up new plans against us? Such is the premise of Stephen Baxter’s “The Massacre of Mankind”— the phrase appears in […]

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