Alien invasion stories have many inherent conflicts that make pulling off such sci-fi classics little less than a miracle. Atmospheric differences, language barriers, cognitive development, life-form classification, sources of food, practical travel, and other questions can all come up during the story, making a believable invasion story difficult. But H.G. Wells goes even further than these surface-level questions by asking a deeper question: What would the horror of an alien invasion say about a supposedly benevolent God?
The Problem of Evil is hardly a new one. Even in Scripture people questioned how the good Jehovah could allow terrible things to happen to his people (Habakkuk, and a vast majority of Psalms). Since Biblical times the question has remained the bread and butter of the skeptic. Wells, who was personally closer alligned with Deism than Christianity, tackles the issue head-on.
The War of the Worlds is well-written above anything else. Wells is a brilliant science fiction writer, detailing with great depth how the Martians landed, the nature of their weaponry, how they survived, how they ate, how they likely came to be, and many other details that while you might not have thought of them, serve to make the story that much more realistic. But as the story unfolds, the primary theme is not simply the plot of whether or not the humans can survive. Wells turns to a more introspective aspect of the story by contemplating the insignificance of man, and one man has realized that insignificance, how the human race will respond to that knowledge.
Far from abstracts, Wells deals with the religious implications of this directly–by having his main protagonist come face-to-face with a preacher who cannot believe that God has abandoned him. We might compare this preacher with Habakkuk quite directly, as a matter of fact. But Wells’ character, though not particularly religious, is not only unswayed in his Theism by the Martian invasion, but is shocked at the preacher’s view of God, and delivers one of the most needed lines of dialogue in the story.
“Did you think God had exempted Weybridge? He is not an insurance agent.”
The Problem of Evil betrays an assumption on the part of its user–that a God who wants the best thing for his creations would never let any misfortune come to said creations. It assumes that what is inherently best for the human race is to never suffer any hardship–a line of thought that we discard as folly when it comes to parenting. This demotes God to a place of, as Wells puts it, insurance rather than an all-knowing Creator who works all things together for good (not “only allows good things”).
War of the Worlds is valuable for other reasons, as well. Wells’ unnamed protagonist shows relentless concern for his wife, as well as a bravery I can only hope I would possess if an alien invasion were ever to happen on Earth. But the most remarkable thing to me is that this relatively short science fiction novel from someone who doesn’t even identify as a Christian challenges me to treat God as the real person that He is, and not as guaranteed insurance. Themes that deep and applicable don’t come along that often, and neither do revolutionary works like War of the Worlds.