Category Archives: Story

774. Learn English with a Scary Story (Camp Stabbiwaka by Peter Carlson)

Listen to Luke reading a text adventure story set in a summer camp. You can read the story at the same time as you listen, or just relax and have fun following this action packed horror story, and read do text adventure later. Includes some vocabulary explanations, differences between British & American English and some very dodgy jokes. Video version available.

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Video Version (read the text on the screen – automatic subtitles are also available)

📖 👀 Click here to open the story in your browser 📖 👀

Where’s the text? Where’s the transcript? It’s up there, look! 👆👆

771. Sick In Japan (Recorded Live at the BC)

My story about how I ended up in a Japanese hospital bed, scared out of my brain. Recorded live in front of an audience at the British Council in Paris.

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YouTube version (activate automatic subtitles)

The original Sick In Japan episode (with notes/transcript)

770. Boats & Murder (but mostly murder) with Moz

An episode with my friend Moz from the Murder Mile True Crime Podcast. Moz returns to tell us some true stories of crimes in the London area. Expect some smalltalk about living on a boat, some murder stories and an interactive detective game in which we have to solve a murder.

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English Comedy Show in Paris (20 mins of stand up comedy by Luke) www.panameartcafe.com/shop/stand_up/paname-english-comedy-night/

The Murder Detective Story (and advert for Penguin books)

www.penguin.co.uk/articles/children/2018/murder-most-unladylike-quiz.html

Murder Mile True Crime Podcast

www.murdermiletours.com/podcast.html

765. Travelling Stories / Reverse Culture Shock (with Martin Johnston from Rock n’ Roll English)

Martin joins Luke to talk about moving back to the UK, his fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees and some funny stories about travelling experiences.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

In this episode I am talking to Martin Johnston from the Rock n Roll English Podcast. Do you know the Rock N Roll English Podcast? This is where Martin and his Rock N Roll friends and family do podcasts for learners of English that are unfiltered and frequently involve discussions of taboo subjects, but also plenty of other stuff as well. It’s very funny and bound to be good for your English and general cultural knowledge. Martin featured me in episode 250 of RnR English and we talked about what it’s really like being an English teacher with a podcast. That was a funny chat with lots of memories and funny moments. Episode 250.

In this episode though, we’re going to have a rambling chat about moving to different countries, Martin’s fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees and then some stories of travelling and getting stuck in tricky situations while abroad.  

Martin has recently moved back to England after living in Italy for a number of years, so I thought I would ask him about his experiences of feeling like a foreigner in his own country, and some of his culture shock experiences both abroad and at home. Because this is a thing – reverse culture shock. When you feel like a foreigner in your own country after living abroad for a long time.

Martin has also recently launched a fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees. Basically it is a learning pack with 25 stories, and transcripts and exercises. All the proceeds go to help Ukrainian refugees. You can find out more at www.rocknrollenglish.com/stories 

So this is a very good cause. We know that several millions of people have been forced to flee their homes as a result of this war, invasion, operation – whatever you want to call it. This violence and aggression has separated families and made civilians homeless as well as killing thousands. This is a horrendous thing to be happening on our doorstep and so the least we can do is try to provide support in some way, so I call upon all of you to go ahead and get that PDF with those 25 stories and all the money will go towards helping these refugees. Martin talks about it  during the episode if you want more details. But let’s help out some fellow citizens of LEPland here. Plus, of course, you get tons of stories with audio versions and everything. It sounds like a win win to me.

So we chat about the project a bit, which is all about learning English with stories and this then leads us to have a story-off. This is a sort of battle of stories where Martin and I trade different anecdotes and we see who comes out on top. So there are 4 or 5 funny stories of travelling experiences we’ve had, in the second half of this episode. I hope you enjoy them.

That’s it for the introduction. There is a video version on YouTube. Don’t forget to smash that like button.

I should say there is some fairly explicit content in this episode, which means fairly graphic descriptions of things like nudity, sex and bodily functions, which is completely normal for an episode of Rock n Roll English to be honest.

I’ll speak to you again briefly at the end, but now, let’s get started.


Ending

So there you are, that was Martin Johnston. I hope you enjoyed our stories.

Don’t forget, if you want to get that pack of 25 stories by the RNR English family, go to www.rocknrollenglish.com/stories It costs just 10dollars or pounds, and all the proceeds go to help Ukrainian refugees.

This is obviously a very good cause as so many people have been displaced, made homeless and so on and these people need our help.

If you enjoyed our stories in this episode, you could check out some of the episodes with those stories told in full. 

Check out 118 Sick in Japan (although I should be doing a live version of that next month) and also Holiday in Thailand 

or A Rambling Chat with Moz for more of the spa story

763. Rambling in the new Pod-Room / Choose The Adverb / Deal or No Deal

This is a chance for me to just let loose and have a ramble while inviting you to this kind of housewarming party (or perhaps just the first part of the party) in my new pod-room. In this one I am going to welcome you into the new room and do a ramble challenge in which I am restricted to only talking about things inside the room, plus reading from some random books on my shelves. Grammar rules, adverbial collocations and a game show story.

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Episode Notes

Private Lessons with British Council English Score Tutors www.teacherluke.co.uk/english Episode page

LEP Premium www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

LEP T-Shirts & Merch www.teacherluke.co.uk/merch

Rules of the Ramble

  • Welcome everyone to the pod-room.
  • Give a tour.
  • I’m restricted to only talking about things inside the room.
  • Maybe describe some of the items on the walls and pictures.
  • Include some descriptive language.
  • Pick up a book and do a random exercise from it.
  • Keep talking without pausing or saying “errr”.

Contents

  • 00:00:00 Hello
  • 00:00:52 Promo
  • 00:02:30 Introduction
  • 00:03:44 Ramble Rules
  • 00:05:26 Welcome to the new pod-room
  • 00:05:42 The Electricity & Internet Situation
  • 00:10:37 Sound Recording Setup
  • 00:17:01 Let me show you around the room
  • 00:22:32 The desk
  • 00:24:30 A Book from the `Bookshelf
  • 00:25:17 English Grammar in Use by Ramond Murphy
  • 00:25:38 Present Perfect Simple vs Continuous
  • 00:27:04 Build Your Vocabulary 3
  • 00:27:31 Choose The Adverb
  • 00:47:23 Lighting
  • 00:49:25 Random Book: Jon Ronson – Lost At Sea
  • 00:51:01 Deal or No Deal story
  • 01:00:48 Ending

739. The Escaped Man by CT Platt (Learn English with Short Stories)

Reading a short story presented on Commaful.com. The Escaped Man is a mystery full of tension and intrigue. Listen closely as I break it all down and explain the vocabulary fully. YouTube video version also available.

Audio Version

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Video Version

Introduction Transcript & Links

Hello listeners and video viewers,

It’s time to do another story on the podcast. This time I’m going to be reading a story called The Escaped Man which was written by CT Platt and is presented on the Commaful website.

Commaful.com is a website where you can find short stories, fan fiction and other reading texts and it’s all presented in quite a nice and easy-to-read format.

I’m going to read the story to you once and all you have to do is follow it, and hopefully enjoy it. I have a couple of questions for you to help you stay focused on your listening.

Then I’ll read through the story again and break it down line by line, explaining, pointing out and teaching you bits of vocabulary and grammar as I go.

Learning English through stories is a great idea and tends to work because it places language in a vivid context and is generally quite entertaining and fun.

So listen to the story and then let me break all the language down for you bit by bit.

Just before I read the story, here are a couple of questions for you.

Where does the story take place? How do you know?
Is this American English or British English? How do you know?
What is going to happen next?

OK, let’s start.

commaful.com/play/lisa/the-escaped-man/

Full Script of the Story

www.wattpad.com/543021670-suspense-stories-the-escaped-man-c-t-platt-2017

738. Do you remember…? with Mum, Dad & James / Family Stories with The Thompsons

Chatting to my family about some old anecdotes and stories from the past. Listen for some enjoyable chat, memories, descriptions and tales from days gone by.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello and welcome back to the podcast. 

In this episode I am happy to present to you a conversation with my mum, dad and brother all about old family stories and anecdotes from the past.

The episode is called Do you remember…? And that’s the title of the activity I chose for this episode. The idea is that we could generate some stories about things that happened in the past and you can follow along and see if you can pick up some English in the process, or simply enjoy a bit of storytelling on the podcast.

So you’re going to hear stories of little accidents, moments when James and I got into trouble, learning to drive and failed driving tests, how my parents first met each other and how my bottom lip was always left trembling at the end of every story.

We recorded this in my parents’ living room, sitting around after dinner and if you like you can imagine that you’re there too, listening into the conversation – not taking part though. For some reason you’re not allowed to speak, you can only listen like a weird audience in our living room just lurking in the background. Anyway, you can imagine that you’re there if you like, if it helps you to tune into the conversation and follow along more easily.

I will now leave you to enjoy this relaxed conversation, follow the stories and little jokes and I will speak to you again at the end of this episode.


Ending Transcript

So, that was my family, recorded in the living room recently while I was on holiday in England. I hope you enjoyed that.

Apologies if we repeated any stories you had heard before (perhaps all of them?) but then again it can be really helpful to hear the same stories over and over when learning English. You could even try to tell the stories yourself, and then compare your story to the recorded version.

If you want other, similar episodes from the archive, check out these ones.

79. Family Arguments & Debates (Debating things like language and politics)

teacherluke.co.uk/2012/01/23/family-arguments-and-debates/

322. With the Thompsons (Answering random conversation questions)

teacherluke.co.uk/2016/01/07/322-with-the-thompsons/

372. The Importance of Anecdotes in English / Telling 4 Family Anecdotes

teacherluke.co.uk/2016/08/09/372-the-importance-of-anecdotes-in-english-narrative-tenses-four-anecdotes/ 

413. With The Family 1 Talking about cooking christmas dinner

teacherluke.co.uk/2017/01/03/413-with-the-family-part-1-mums-cooking-vocabulary-with-uncle-nic/

414. With The Family 2 – My Uncle Met a Rock Star – Nic tells stories of meeting famous musicians including Paul McCartney

teacherluke.co.uk/2017/01/05/414-with-the-family-part-2-my-uncle-met-a-rock-star/ 

415. With The Family 3- Meeting Famous People – We tell stories of meeting famous people and what happened

teacherluke.co.uk/2017/01/10/415-with-the-family-part-3-more-encounters-with-famous-people/

542. Talking Rubbish & Having Fun with The Thompsons (More random topics and fun)

teacherluke.co.uk/2018/08/21/542-talking-rubbish-just-having-fun-with-the-thompsons/ 

554. ODD News Stories with Mum & Dad (Speculating about and discussing some weird news stories)

teacherluke.co.uk/2018/10/18/554-odd-news-stories-with-mum-dad/ 

605. Unexpected Road Trip (The story of a road trip that went horribly wrong, wth James as my co-pilot)

teacherluke.co.uk/2019/07/18/605-unexpected-road-trip-with-james/ 

But for now I will leave you to go back to your life, unless you choose to listen to another episode which you will find in the archive.

Don’t forget to check out LEP Premium. P31 parts 4,5, 6 are on their way and may have already been published by the time you listen to this.

But in the meantime, be excellent to each other, have a lovely day, morning, afternoon, evening or night and I will chat to you later but now it’s just time to say good bye bye bye bye bye.

736. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells [Part 3] Learn English with Stories

The final part of this series in which I am reading from the classic story The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, while explaining and clarifying the English which comes up. Full transcript available and YouTube video version too.

Audio Version

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Video Version

Full Transcript

Please watch parts 1 and 2 before watching this. Links in the description.

Click here for part 1

Click here for part 2

Recap of the story so far

Without realising it, the people of earth have been attacked by an aggressive alien species from Mars, with the intention of colonising our planet while escaping their home planet which has become uninhabitable.

The Martians are vastly superior to us in terms of their intelligence and technology. They are also unfriendly. Very unfriendly. Humans are now reduced to mere animals or insects in the presence of these things.

Human society has quickly turned to chaos and destruction as the Martians begin their campaign to take our planet.

The aliens first landed in a cylinder which fell from space with a green flash. After the cylinder opened, revealing the visitors to be awkward and clumsy in our atmosphere, their technology proved to be devestatingly powerful. They are armed with a heat-ray which they have used to clear out all life surrounding the fallen cylinder.

The narrator of the story witnessed the Martians emerging from their cylinder and the ruthless destructive power of their heat ray, but still does not yet realise the full scale of the invasion. He decides to escape the area and travel in the direction of London.

During the night, he sees another cylinder landing, and then sees the first Martian tripods striding over the countryside. These are the vehicles the Martians use and they are colossal and formidable. Suddenly the clumsy Martians are mobile and far more physically powerful than in their normal, naked form.

Reading an extract from chapter 12 (action packed stuff)

Summary of Chapter 11 (next part of the story)
From the upstairs window of his study the narrator observes the destruction of his village and the fires all around the common, as well as the outlines of three creatures moving in the pit, which he can see from a distance.

He hardly recognizes his surroundings. The narrator begins to comprehend that the creatures from the cylinder operate the tripods, comparing them to a human-driven steam engine.

He invites a soldier outside the house to hide inside. The man recounts the futile military efforts against the Martians, who easily destroyed both companies and their weaponry before emerging as tripods from the pit and destroying the railway station and a train. The artilleryman managed to escape.

The two men look again from the window to see three tripods at the pit. As the sun comes up the narrator sees destruction “so indiscriminate and so universal” as to be unprecedented in human warfare.

HG Wells describes the horrific feeling of realising that these Martians are far more powerful than humans. Each cylinder contains at least three tripods, and each tripod is armed with a heat ray. Later we learn more about the martians and their technology as the narrator manages to observe them more, but they are still completely mysterious.

Meanwhile, people have become like refugees from a warzone and there is general chaos as people attempt to escape, get resources, look after themselves etc.

Shepperton Station has become a target for the Martians in their tripods and they have been destroying it, the railway lines and trains. This is especially poignant because they are targeting our infrastructure and our technology seems infinitely primitive to that of the Martians, and we are often compared to animals, insects, bugs or even microorganisms in comparison to our alien visitors.

HG Wells makes a point of observing how society reacts to a moment like this and how fragile it is, while also contrasting the familiar cosy surroundings of the English home counties, with the bizarre, grotesque and strange images of these very bad aliens from Mars.

The narrator and the soldier he met choose to leave the house. The soldier wants to go to London and the narrator wants to go back to his wife in Leatherhead.

They end up in Weybridge which a town just on the river Thames, with London to the east and the Thames Valley to the west.

This is a place where the Thames meets The Wey, another river. It’s a sort of port where you can get a ferry across to the other side. Crowds of people are gathered there, hoping to get on a ferry. The army have placed rows of large artillery guns behind some trees as they expect the tripods to come from a nearby town that is currently under attack. This all happens close to the edge of the water and is full of really precise and specific vocabulary to describe the action that takes place.

XII.
WHAT I SAW OF THE DESTRUCTION OF WEYBRIDGE AND SHEPPERTON. (extract)

We remained at Weybridge until midday, and at that hour we found ourselves at the place near Shepperton Lock where the Wey and Thames join. Part of the time we spent helping two old women to pack a little cart. The Wey has a treble mouth, and at this point boats are to be hired, and there was a ferry across the river. On the Shepperton side was an inn with a lawn, and beyond that the tower of Shepperton Church rose above the trees.

Here we found an excited and noisy crowd of fugitives. As yet the flight had not grown to a panic, but there were already far more people than all the boats going to and fro could enable to cross. People came panting along under heavy burdens; one husband and wife were even carrying a small outhouse door between them, with some of their household goods piled thereon. One man told us he meant to try to get away from Shepperton station.

There was a lot of shouting, and one man was even jesting. The idea people seemed to have here was that the Martians were simply formidable human beings, who might attack and sack the town, to be certainly destroyed in the end. Every now and then people would glance nervously across the Wey, at the meadows towards Chertsey, but everything over there was still.

Across the Thames, except just where the boats landed, everything was quiet, in vivid contrast with the Surrey side. The people who landed there from the boats went tramping off down the lane. The big ferryboat had just made a journey. Three or four soldiers stood on the lawn of the inn, staring and jesting at the fugitives, without offering to help. The inn was closed, as it was now within prohibited hours.

“What’s that?” cried a boatman, and “Shut up, you fool!” said a man near me to a yelping dog. Then the sound came again, this time from the direction of Chertsey, a muffled thud—the sound of a gun.

The fighting was beginning. Almost immediately unseen batteries across the river to our right, unseen because of the trees, took up the chorus, firing heavily one after the other. A woman screamed. Everyone stood arrested by the sudden stir of battle, near us and yet invisible to us. Nothing was to be seen save flat meadows, cows feeding unconcernedly for the most part, and silvery pollard willows motionless in the warm sunlight.

“The sojers’ll stop ’em,” said a woman beside me, doubtfully. A haziness rose over the treetops.

Then suddenly we saw a rush of smoke far away up the river, a puff of smoke that jerked up into the air and hung; and forthwith the ground heaved under foot and a heavy explosion shook the air, smashing two or three windows in the houses near, and leaving us astonished.

“Here they are!” shouted a man in a blue jersey. “Yonder! D’yer see them? Yonder!”

Quickly, one after the other, one, two, three, four of the armoured Martians appeared, far away over the little trees, across the flat meadows that stretched towards Chertsey, and striding hurriedly towards the river. Little cowled figures they seemed at first, going with a rolling motion and as fast as flying birds.

Then, advancing obliquely towards us, came a fifth. Their armoured bodies glittered in the sun as they swept swiftly forward upon the guns, growing rapidly larger as they drew nearer. One on the extreme left, the remotest that is, flourished a huge case high in the air, and the ghostly, terrible Heat-Ray I had already seen on Friday night smote towards Chertsey, and struck the town.

At sight of these strange, swift, and terrible creatures the crowd near the water’s edge seemed to me to be for a moment horror-struck. There was no screaming or shouting, but a silence. Then a hoarse murmur and a movement of feet—a splashing from the water. A man, too frightened to drop the portmanteau he carried on his shoulder, swung round and sent me staggering with a blow from the corner of his burden. A woman thrust at me with her hand and rushed past me. I turned with the rush of the people, but I was not too terrified for thought. The terrible Heat-Ray was in my mind. To get under water! That was it!

“Get under water!” I shouted, unheeded.

I faced about again, and rushed towards the approaching Martian, rushed right down the gravelly beach and headlong into the water. Others did the same. A boatload of people putting back came leaping out as I rushed past. The stones under my feet were muddy and slippery, and the river was so low that I ran perhaps twenty feet scarcely waist-deep. Then, as the Martian towered overhead scarcely a couple of hundred yards away, I flung myself forward under the surface.

The splashes of the people in the boats leaping into the river sounded like thunderclaps in my ears. People were landing hastily on both sides of the river. But the Martian machine took no more notice, for the moment, of the people running this way and that, than a man would of the confusion of ants in a nest against which his foot has kicked.

When, half suffocated, I raised my head above water, the Martian’s hood pointed at the batteries that were still firing across the river, and as it advanced it swung loose what must have been the generator of the Heat-Ray.

In another moment it was on the bank, and in a stride wading halfway across. The knees of its foremost legs bent at the farther bank, and in another moment it had raised itself to its full height again, close to the village of Shepperton.

Forthwith the six guns which, unknown to anyone on the right bank, had been hidden behind the outskirts of that village, fired simultaneously. The sudden near concussion, the last close upon the first, made my heart jump. The monster was already raising the case generating the Heat-Ray as the first shell burst six yards above the hood.

I gave a cry of astonishment. I saw and thought nothing of the other four Martian monsters; my attention was riveted upon the nearer incident. Simultaneously two other shells burst in the air near the body as the hood twisted round in time to receive, but not in time to dodge, the fourth shell.

The shell burst clean in the face of the Thing. The hood bulged, flashed, was whirled off in a dozen tattered fragments of red flesh and glittering metal.

“Hit!” shouted I, with something between a scream and a cheer.
I heard answering shouts from the people in the water about me. I could have leaped out of the water with that momentary exultation.

The decapitated colossus reeled like a drunken giant; but it did not fall over. It recovered its balance by a miracle, and, no longer heeding its steps and with the camera that fired the Heat-Ray now rigidly upheld, it reeled swiftly upon Shepperton. The living intelligence, the Martian within the hood, was slain and splashed to the four winds of heaven, and the Thing was now but a mere intricate device of metal whirling to destruction. It drove along in a straight line, incapable of guidance. It struck the tower of Shepperton Church, smashing it down as the impact of a battering ram might have done, swerved aside, blundered on and collapsed with tremendous force into the river out of my sight.

A violent explosion shook the air, and a spout of water, steam, mud, and shattered metal shot far up into the sky. As the camera of the Heat-Ray hit the water, the latter had immediately flashed into steam. In another moment a huge muddy tidal wave, almost scaldingly hot, came sweeping round the bend upstream. I saw people struggling shorewards, and heard their screaming and shouting faintly above the seething and roar of the Martian’s collapse.

For a moment I heeded nothing of the heat, forgot the patent need of self-preservation. I splashed through the tumultuous water, pushing aside a man in black to do so, until I could see round the bend. Half a dozen deserted boats pitched aimlessly upon the confusion of the waves. The fallen Martian came into sight downstream, lying across the river, and for the most part submerged.

Thick clouds of steam were pouring off the wreckage, and through the tumultuously whirling wisps I could see, intermittently and vaguely, the gigantic limbs churning the water and flinging a splash and spray of mud and froth into the air. The tentacles swayed and struck like living arms, and, save for the helpless purposelessness of these movements, it was as if some wounded thing were struggling for its life amid the waves. Enormous quantities of a ruddy-brown fluid were spurting up in noisy jets out of the machine.

My attention was diverted from this death flurry by a furious yelling, like that of the thing called a siren in our manufacturing towns. A man, knee-deep near the towing path, shouted inaudibly to me and pointed. Looking back, I saw the other Martians advancing with gigantic strides down the riverbank from the direction of Chertsey. The Shepperton guns spoke this time unavailingly.

At that I ducked at once under water, and, holding my breath until movement was an agony, blundered painfully ahead under the surface as long as I could. The water was in a tumult about me, and rapidly growing hotter.

When for a moment I raised my head to take breath and throw the hair and water from my eyes, the steam was rising in a whirling white fog that at first hid the Martians altogether. The noise was deafening. Then I saw them dimly, colossal figures of grey, magnified by the mist. They had passed by me, and two were stooping over the frothing, tumultuous ruins of their comrade.

The third and fourth stood beside him in the water, one perhaps two hundred yards from me, the other towards Laleham. The generators of the Heat-Rays waved high, and the hissing beams smote down this way and that.

The air was full of sound, a deafening and confusing conflict of noises—the clangorous din of the Martians, the crash of falling houses, the thud of trees, fences, sheds flashing into flame, and the crackling and roaring of fire. Dense black smoke was leaping up to mingle with the steam from the river, and as the Heat-Ray went to and fro over Weybridge its impact was marked by flashes of incandescent white, that gave place at once to a smoky dance of lurid flames. The nearer houses still stood intact, awaiting their fate, shadowy, faint and pallid in the steam, with the fire behind them going to and fro.

For a moment perhaps I stood there, breast-high in the almost boiling water, dumbfounded at my position, hopeless of escape. Through the reek I could see the people who had been with me in the river scrambling out of the water through the reeds, like little frogs hurrying through grass from the advance of a man, or running to and fro in utter dismay on the towing path.

Then suddenly the white flashes of the Heat-Ray came leaping towards me. The houses caved in as they dissolved at its touch, and darted out flames; the trees changed to fire with a roar. The Ray flickered up and down the towing path, licking off the people who ran this way and that, and came down to the water’s edge not fifty yards from where I stood. It swept across the river to Shepperton, and the water in its track rose in a boiling weal crested with steam. I turned shoreward.

In another moment the huge wave, well-nigh at the boiling-point had rushed upon me. I screamed aloud, and scalded, half blinded, agonised, I staggered through the leaping, hissing water towards the shore. Had my foot stumbled, it would have been the end. I fell helplessly, in full sight of the Martians, upon the broad, bare gravelly spit that runs down to mark the angle of the Wey and Thames. I expected nothing but death.

I have a dim memory of the foot of a Martian coming down within a score of yards of my head, driving straight into the loose gravel, whirling it this way and that and lifting again; of a long suspense, and then of the four carrying the debris of their comrade between them, now clear and then presently faint through a veil of smoke, receding interminably, as it seemed to me, across a vast space of river and meadow. And then, very slowly, I realised that by a miracle I had escaped.

Summary (AKA – what the hell just happened?)

The two men reach a chaotic scene in Weybridge as people crowd the railway station and the ferry in an effort to leave.
Suddenly they hear gunfire and a large explosion, and four tripods come into view across the river.
The narrator hides in the river.
Six guns hidden in the woods fire on the nearest tripod.
One shell strikes the tripod and gruesomely kills the Martian inside.
Unguided but still moving, the tripod smashes into a church and falls into the river.
The other Martians come to the fallen tripod, shooting their Heat-Rays at the village and destroying the opposition.
The Heat-Ray from the fallen tripod heats the water in the river and scalds the narrator before he manages to escape.

Final comments and analysis

It’s possible to see various interpretations of this story, or subtexts to the story.

Here are some.

The complacency of humans
As the dominant species on earth for hundreds of thousands of years, we have become complacent about our position in the natural hierarchy, and this is a mistake. Humans could easily be removed from this dominant position by things we aren’t even aware of. In the story this means intelligent creatures from another planet. In reality this could be something like the coronavirus or just something else we don’t usually think about.

How would human society cope with a crisis like this?
This is a common theme in disaster movies, zombie films, science fiction etc. All it takes is for something to disrupt our carefully organised society and things can descend into chaos quite easily, and this often brings out the worst in people. Normal citizens can quickly become immoral and do bad things, when the structure of society collapses and we end up having to fight for our survival.

Treatment of Animals
The story makes us think about the way we treat animals, which are below us in the power hierarchy on earth. Perhaps we should be more compassionate and kind to animals. In fact this is one of the only conclusions the narrator reaches in this story, as he suddenly understands what it means to be ruled over by a superior species.

The bigger they come, the harder they fall.

Microorganisms and viruses might be the most powerful forces on earth.

More themes here including technology, fear, power, and Familiar versus Strange
www.coursehero.com/lit/The-War-of-the-Worlds/themes/

A sample from coursehero.com
Technology
The benefits, possibilities, and potential threats of technology—represented in the Martian tripods—make technology a pervasive theme in the novel. Following the Industrial Revolution, technology changed society dramatically—from travel, to work, to communication. Virtually no part of life was untouched by new inventions. The benefits provided by these new machines meant people could accomplish tasks faster, easier, and often independently.

But as ever with modern science fiction stories, there is an element of fear regarding advancements in technology and how we may ultimately be surpassed by technological innovations.

This is where we’re going to stop.


I seriously hope you enjoyed this!

If you’re still listening or watching, then “hello”. Thanks for sticking with this. I guess it must mean you’ve been enjoying it.

I’m sure it’s been challenging at times, but to be honest I also feel this is difficult to follow when I read it. There’s a sense that things are just beyond your imagination, and that your mind has to do quite a lot of work to understand the fairly complex descriptions being given. This is not quite the same as watching a film where everything is shown. Or maybe it’s like watching a really well-directed film where you never quite see clearly what is happening, and this adds to the drama and excitement.

Anyway – thank you for sticking with this and listening all the way through.

Let me know what you think of this, and I highly recommend reading the rest of the story. There’s a lot more action and a few more close encounters with the Martians and their tripods, and of course the ending is very clever. I won’t spoil it. The book is better than the film though, I assure you!

In terms of English, I hope you have found it interesting to hear some samples of old fashioned English from the 19th century. I would say it is broadly modern English, but with a more formal style. It’s really enjoyable though. I love the descriptiveness and the general command over the language is a joy to behold.

Don’t forget you can get the full text for this episode printed right there on the page for this episode, and there’s the YouTube video version as well to enjoy where you can see text on the screen as you read it.

Listen to LEP wherever you get your podcasts. Don’t forget to like and subscribe.

Leave a positive review on iTunes and check out my free app.

And consider signing up to LEP Premium to get specific lessons on vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar. teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

Thanks for listening.

All the best,

Bye bye bye bye

735. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells [Part 2] Learn English with Stories

Continuing to read extracts from this fantastic science fiction story from the 19th century. Follow the plot and pick up some English in the process. Full transcript available, and a YouTube version too.

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Watch PART 1 before you watch this! Links in the description.

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Click here for part 3

Recap of the story so far

6 years prior to the main events of the story, explosions are observed on the surface of Mars, but scientists assume they are gas or volcanic eruptions and are nothing to worry about.

Then, one night, a meteor falls to earth in green flash. The astronomer who finds the fallen meteorite in a pit of sand in a nearby common discovers that the object is a cylinder, is making strange noises and is even beginning to open and assumes there must be people inside it.

A crowd gathers, including the narrator of this story. The cylinder opens slowly and people are shocked and horrified to see the hideous and frightening creatures inside. They seem slow and heavy, as if earth’s atmosphere makes things difficult for them. Their appearance is a huge shock to everyone.

One person has fallen into the pit and it’s possible that they have been killed.

The narrator, although terrified, is also intensely curious about these visitors, as are the other witnesses at the sand pits where the cylinder has landed.

V.
THE HEAT-RAY.
After the glimpse I had had of the Martians emerging from the cylinder in which they had come to the earth from their planet, a kind of fascination paralysed my actions. I remained standing knee-deep in the heather, staring at the mound that hid them. I was a battleground of fear and curiosity.
I did not dare to go back towards the pit, but I felt a passionate longing to peer into it. I began walking, therefore, in a big curve, seeking some point of vantage and continually looking at the sand-heaps that hid these new-comers to our earth. Once a leash of thin black whips, like the arms of an octopus, flashed across the sunset and was immediately withdrawn, and afterwards a thin rod rose up, joint by joint, bearing at its apex a circular disk that spun with a wobbling motion. What could be going on there?
Most of the spectators had gathered in one or two groups—one a little crowd towards Woking, the other a knot of people in the direction of Chobham. Evidently they shared my mental conflict. There were few near me. One man I approached—he was, I perceived, a neighbour of mine, though I did not know his name—and accosted. But it was scarcely a time for articulate conversation.
“What ugly brutes!” he said. “Good God! What ugly brutes!” He repeated this over and over again.
“Did you see a man in the pit?” I said; but he made no answer to that. We became silent, and stood watching for a time side by side, deriving, I fancy, a certain comfort in one another’s company. Then I shifted my position to a little knoll that gave me the advantage of a yard or more of elevation and when I looked for him presently he was walking towards Woking.
The sunset faded to twilight before anything further happened. The crowd far away on the left, towards Woking, seemed to grow, and I heard now a faint murmur from it. The little knot of people towards Chobham dispersed. There was scarcely an intimation of movement from the pit.
It was this, as much as anything, that gave people courage, and I suppose the new arrivals from Woking also helped to restore confidence. At any rate, as the dusk came on a slow, intermittent movement upon the sand-pits began, a movement that seemed to gather force as the stillness of the evening about the cylinder remained unbroken. Vertical black figures in twos and threes would advance, stop, watch, and advance again, spreading out as they did so in a thin irregular crescent that promised to enclose the pit in its attenuated horns. I, too, on my side began to move towards the pit.
Then I saw some cabmen and others had walked boldly into the sand-pits, and heard the clatter of hoofs and the gride of wheels. I saw a lad trundling off the barrow of apples. And then, within thirty yards of the pit, advancing from the direction of Horsell, I noted a little black knot of men, the foremost of whom was waving a white flag.
This was the Deputation. There had been a hasty consultation, and since the Martians were evidently, in spite of their repulsive forms, intelligent creatures, it had been resolved to show them, by approaching them with signals, that we too were intelligent.
Flutter, flutter, went the flag, first to the right, then to the left. It was too far for me to recognise anyone there, but afterwards I learned that Ogilvy, Stent, and Henderson were with others in this attempt at communication. This little group had in its advance dragged inward, so to speak, the circumference of the now almost complete circle of people, and a number of dim black figures followed it at discreet distances.
Suddenly there was a flash of light, and a quantity of luminous greenish smoke came out of the pit in three distinct puffs, which drove up, one after the other, straight into the still air.
This smoke (or flame, perhaps, would be the better word for it) was so bright that the deep blue sky overhead and the hazy stretches of brown common towards Chertsey, set with black pine trees, seemed to darken abruptly as these puffs arose, and to remain the darker after their dispersal. At the same time a faint hissing sound became audible.
Beyond the pit stood the little wedge of people with the white flag at its apex, arrested by these phenomena, a little knot of small vertical black shapes upon the black ground. As the green smoke arose, their faces flashed out pallid green, and faded again as it vanished. Then slowly the hissing passed into a humming, into a long, loud, droning noise. Slowly a humped shape rose out of the pit, and the ghost of a beam of light seemed to flicker out from it.
Forthwith flashes of actual flame, a bright glare leaping from one to another, sprang from the scattered group of men. It was as if some invisible jet impinged upon them and flashed into white flame. It was as if each man were suddenly and momentarily turned to fire.
Then, by the light of their own destruction, I saw them staggering and falling, and their supporters turning to run.
I stood staring, not as yet realising that this was death leaping from man to man in that little distant crowd. All I felt was that it was something very strange. An almost noiseless and blinding flash of light, and a man fell headlong and lay still; and as the unseen shaft of heat passed over them, pine trees burst into fire, and every dry furze bush became with one dull thud a mass of flames. And far away towards Knaphill I saw the flashes of trees and hedges and wooden buildings suddenly set alight in the distance.
It was sweeping round swiftly and steadily, this flaming death, this invisible, inevitable sword of heat. I perceived it coming towards me by the flashing bushes it touched, and was too astounded and stupefied to stir. I heard the crackle of fire in the sand-pits and the sudden squeal of a horse that was as suddenly stilled. Then it was as if an invisible yet intensely heated finger were drawn through the heather between me and the Martians, and all along a curving line beyond the sand-pits the dark ground smoked and crackled. Something fell with a crash far away to the left where the road from Woking station opens out on the common. Forth-with the hissing and humming ceased, and the black, dome-like object sank slowly out of sight into the pit.
All this had happened with such swiftness that I had stood motionless, dumbfounded and dazzled by the flashes of light. Had that death swept through a full circle, it must inevitably have slain me in my surprise. But it passed and spared me, and left the night about me suddenly dark and unfamiliar.
The undulating common seemed now dark almost to blackness, except where its roadways lay grey and pale under the deep blue sky of the early night. It was dark, and suddenly void of men. Overhead the stars were mustering, and in the west the sky was still a pale, bright, almost greenish blue. The tops of the pine trees and the roofs of Horsell came out sharp and black against the western afterglow. The Martians and their appliances were altogether invisible, save for that thin mast upon which their restless mirror wobbled. Patches of bush and isolated trees here and there smoked and glowed still, and the houses towards Woking station were sending up spires of flame into the stillness of the evening air.
Nothing was changed save for that and a terrible astonishment. The little group of black specks with the flag of white had been swept out of existence, and the stillness of the evening, so it seemed to me, had scarcely been broken.
It came to me that I was upon this dark common, helpless, unprotected, and alone. Suddenly, like a thing falling upon me from without, came—fear.
With an effort I turned and began a stumbling run through the heather.
The fear I felt was no rational fear, but a panic terror not only of the Martians, but of the dusk and stillness all about me. Such an extraordinary effect in unmanning me it had that I ran weeping silently as a child might do. Once I had turned, I did not dare to look back.
I remember I felt an extraordinary persuasion that I was being played with, that presently, when I was upon the very verge of safety, this mysterious death—as swift as the passage of light—would leap after me from the pit about the cylinder, and strike me down.

Summary of Chapter 5: The Heat Ray

The narrator finds himself irresistibly drawn back toward the crater to see more.
He observes a long pole with a circular disc on its end rising from the pit.
Other people linger, seemingly rooted to the spot in a mix of horror and curiosity.
Heartened by a lack of alien movement for a period, onlookers begin to slowly advance toward the pit.
The Deputation (group of scientists) walks toward the pit with a white flag.
The narrator later learns Ogilvy, Stent, and Henderson were part of the group.
A flash of light, three puffs of green smoke, a hissing sound, and a dome-like object rise from the pit.
With a droning noise, the group of men suddenly burst into flame.
As the “invisible, inevitable sword of heat” rotates, everything it touches turns to flame, including grass on the common and trees in the distance.
The rotating Heat-Ray stops before it reaches the narrator, and he realizes he was “helpless, unprotected and alone.”
He flees in fear with the disturbing feeling he is “being played with.”

Although the Martians seem quite weak and immobile, their technology is far superiour to ours, especially the technology we had in the late 19th century (guns, horse drawn, cannons, pre World War 1 weapons). The heat ray is absolutely devestating. It burns or melts everything it touches instantly and can reach long distances.

Summary of the next few chapters

Nobody understands the technology the Martians are using. Whatever the heat ray points at, bursts into flame.

Plenty of people around the pit have been killed and there are burned remains of their bodies lying around. Horses have also been killed as well as numerous trees and buildings set on fire.

The group of scientists are all dead.

After the Martian attack with the heat ray the crowd of people stampeded in horror and a few people were crushed to death in the panic.

The Martians stay in the pit, and appear to be working on something as little puffs of green smoke can be seen rising from the hole, and there’s noise of work inside.

The narrator runs away in fear and eventually gets himself under control and then goes home, still not completely aware of what’s going on. He comforts himself with the knowledge that the military are now going to step in, and that one shell or bomb landing in the sand pit will be enough to stop the Martians. He sees his wife and has dinner.

The news of the Martians travels slowly. People seem sceptical of the stories they’ve heard. Even the newspaper editor chooses not to print the story as he doesn’t believe the account and it hasn’t been confirmed by any enough witnesses yet. So, news travels slowly. Meanwhile, the Martians still seem to be working on something within the pit.

Some people are still curious about what’s going on in the sand pit, but as they approach it they are instantly killed by the heat ray.

The narrator compares the cylinder ominously to a poison dart, whose poison “was scarcely working yet.”

That night several companies of soldiers with large artillery guns approach the pit.

During the night, a second cylinder falls nearby.

The next day is suspenseful. The military surround the aliens in their sand pit. The narrator is not allowed to go back onto the common. Soldiers tell him that nobody is allowed into the area.

That afternoon there are sounds of gunfire and explosions. The Martians keep using their heat ray which appears to be clearing out all obstacles in its path, creating a wider and wider circle of destruction and a bigger area that nobody can enter.

The narrator is at home with is wife and at one point a big explosion nearby causes him to go outside to check. He sees the top of the nearby church sliding off and crashing to the ground, the tops of nearby trees on fire and in fact the chimney stack of his own house falling to the ground. He realises that his house is nearly in range of the heat ray, which has taken out trees and buildings between the house and the sand pit.

The narrator and his wife decide to leave, and pack a horse drawn cart with as many possessions as possible they head in the direction of London, to Leatherhead. As they travel there is fire and smoke behind them and the sound of weapons. The Martians are burning everything within range of their heat ray.

The narrator’s wife is deeply concerned about the situation, but the narrator assures her that the Martians are severely disadvantaged by their weight and inability to move quickly or breathe properly in our atmosphere. They arrive in Leatherhead and have dinner.

Then the narrator has to go back to Woking in order to return the horse and cart that he borrowed (what a good guy).

As night falls a storm comes in with rain and lightning. As the narrator is travelling through the darkness he sees a third cylinder fall from the sky in a green flash. The horse is very spooked and is hard to control.

Then in the darkness and rain, lit up by the occasional flash of lightning from the storm he sees something monstrous that causes him to loose control of the horse and crash by the side of the road.

Extract from Chapter 10: In the Storm

X.
IN THE STORM. (extract)

At first I regarded little but the road before me, and then abruptly my attention was arrested by something that was moving rapidly down the opposite slope of Maybury Hill. At first I took it for the wet roof of a house, but one flash following another showed it to be in swift rolling movement. It was an elusive vision—a moment of bewildering darkness, and then, in a flash like daylight, the red masses of the Orphanage near the crest of the hill, the green tops of the pine trees, and this problematical object came out clear and sharp and bright.

And this Thing I saw! How can I describe it? A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside in its career; a walking engine of glittering metal, striding now across the heather; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder. A flash, and it came out vividly, heeling over one way with two feet in the air, to vanish and reappear almost instantly as it seemed, with the next flash, a hundred yards nearer. Can you imagine a milking stool tilted and bowled violently along the ground? That was the impression those instant flashes gave. But instead of a milking stool imagine it a great body of machinery on a tripod stand.

Then suddenly the trees in the pine wood ahead of me were parted, as brittle reeds are parted by a man thrusting through them; they were snapped off and driven headlong, and a second huge tripod appeared, rushing, as it seemed, headlong towards me. And I was galloping hard to meet it! At the sight of the second monster my nerve went altogether. Not stopping to look again, I wrenched the horse’s head hard round to the right and in another moment the dog cart had heeled over upon the horse; the shafts smashed noisily, and I was flung sideways and fell heavily into a shallow pool of water.

I crawled out almost immediately, and crouched, my feet still in the water, under a clump of furze. The horse lay motionless (his neck was broken, poor brute!) and by the lightning flashes I saw the black bulk of the overturned dog cart and the silhouette of the wheel still spinning slowly. In another moment the colossal mechanism went striding by me, and passed uphill towards Pyrford.

Seen nearer, the Thing was incredibly strange, for it was no mere insensate machine driving on its way. Machine it was, with a ringing metallic pace, and long, flexible, glittering tentacles (one of which gripped a young pine tree) swinging and rattling about its strange body. It picked its road as it went striding along, and the brazen hood that surmounted it moved to and fro with the inevitable suggestion of a head looking about. Behind the main body was a huge mass of white metal like a gigantic fisherman’s basket, and puffs of green smoke squirted out from the joints of the limbs as the monster swept by me. And in an instant it was gone.

So much I saw then, all vaguely for the flickering of the lightning, in blinding highlights and dense black shadows.

As it passed it set up an exultant deafening howl that drowned the thunder—“Aloo! Aloo!”—and in another minute it was with its companion, half a mile away, stooping over something in the field. I have no doubt this Thing in the field was the third of the ten cylinders they had fired at us from Mars.

For some minutes I lay there in the rain and darkness watching, by the intermittent light, these monstrous beings of metal moving about in the distance over the hedge tops. A thin hail was now beginning, and as it came and went their figures grew misty and then flashed into clearness again. Now and then came a gap in the lightning, and the night swallowed them up.

I was soaked with hail above and puddle water below. It was some time before my blank astonishment would let me struggle up the bank to a drier position, or think at all of my imminent peril.

Summary of Chapter 10 extract

On his way he notices a red glow in the sky and then a green streak, which happens to be the third cylinder.

It begins to storm.

The narrator suddenly encounters “a monstrous tripod, higher than many houses,” smashing through the woods next to the road.

As soon as it vanishes into the woods, another tripod appears heading right for the narrator.

He tries to change direction, but the cart overturns and the horse is killed.

The tripod passes by.

The narrator describes the two tripods bending over something in the distance, which he believes is the third cylinder.

He continues on foot with difficulty, happening upon the landlord’s dead body before he reaches home.

End of part 2

To be continued in part 3. 

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734. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells [Part 1] Learn English with Stories

Luke reads extracts from The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. This is a classic bit of science fiction writing from the Victorian era, with some thrilling passages and scary descriptions. It’s one of my favourite books of all time and I hope you enjoy it too and learn some English from it. Full transcript available and YouTube version too.

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Full Episode Transcript (starts after the jingle)

Hello listeners,

It’s story time in this episode because I’m going to tell you a classic English science fiction story.

The story is called War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells the classic storyteller who also wrote The Invisible Man and The Time Machine, and you have probably heard of War Of The Worlds because it is definitely one of the most famous and most influential science fiction stories ever written.

Now, I know that science fiction is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I do hope you stick around and listen to this story because I think this is just particularly good writing and the story is very exciting, immersive and memorable so it should be a really enjoyable way to pick up some more English.

I won’t be reading the whole book of course but I will be reading some selected extracts and giving you a summary of the key details in the first part of the story.

The aims of this episode

To entertain you with a really engaging story in English.
Stories are a great way to get more English into your head and if they are exciting and immersive, then that’s even better.

To show you a slightly old-fashioned version of English, which is really rich in descriptive language and more formal in style than today’s English.
It’s good to be exposed to diverse versions of the language.
Old fashioned English is much more like modern formal English, so it’s a good lesson in style.
This can really strengthen your English in various ways.

To help you notice some nice bits of vocabulary along the way.
Having a broad range of vocabulary is essential in achieving truly advanced English. This story is very rich in descriptive language.

To inspire you perhaps to read the rest of the book.
Reading is such an important thing to do for your English, and maybe you’re looking for interesting books to read. You could consider this one. It’s not too long.

This is also available as a video episode on YouTube and if you watch you can see me recording the podcast with the text on the screen next to my face. So you can listen and read at the same time and see me telling the story.

You can read the entire text I am reading from on the page for this episode at teacherluke.co.uk.

Context of the story and the writing style

War of the Worlds has been adapted lots of times – in films (most famously the 2005 Stephen Spielberg film with Tom Cruise – which you might have seen) and another film version in the 1950s set in Los Angeles, an audiobook musical version read by Richard Burton and an infamous dramatised radio series by Orson Welles.

This is the original alien invasion story. This book was one of the very first stories to ever explore these themes and to describe these kinds of things in such a realistic way.

This is the one that has inspired so many others and in my opinion, none of the other versions of this story or copies of this story can compare to this original version from 1897.

The writing is very realistic and journalistic in style, written from the first person perspective of a guy just experiencing the events as they happened and describing everything in great detail.

A note about the language and the writing style

The language is pretty old fashioned (1897) but it’s really well written and it should be interesting for you and useful for your English to explore another version of this language. Exposure to different types of English makes your English stronger I think.

As we go through this I will point out particular words or phrases as we go and perhaps compare this to normal modern plain English.

Comparing the styles of languages actually gives you more perspective on normal modern English and how formal written English today still retains some aspects of old fashioned language.

There is quite a lot of language you might find in legal documents or other very formal situations.

Words like therein, hereby, forthwith and things like that are quite common, as well as certain structures, longer sentences and choices of words which mark this out in a particular style.

This is very descriptive literary language from over 100 years ago. It’s more complex than today’s English, more formal than today’s English and very specific in its descriptions.

This will probably be a challenge for you but I’m here to help and I will explain things as we go.

This is quite scary stuff

I have to add actually, that having re-read some of this story in preparation for this episode, I hadn’t realised just how terrifying this story is.

Personally I really enjoy the thrills you get from a story like this, but if you are feeling a bit force-sensitive today you might want to get a pillow or hide behind the sofa or something.

Useful Links & Sources

Here are a couple of links I have found useful in making this episode.

Project Gutenberg
I have several paperback copies of this book, but I also found it on www.gutenberg.org – a website which shares stories and books which are now in the public domain.

Link to War of the Worlds html version
www.gutenberg.org/files/36/36-h/36-h.htm

CourseHero Study Notes
Also there’s a website called coursehero.com which has useful summaries of the story and other useful information.
www.coursehero.com/lit/The-War-of-the-Worlds/

Summarising the opening chapters

These are the opening paragraphs of the book, which set the scene in which the events take place. Note the sombre tone and specific choice of language.

Main Character

The story is told by an unnamed narrator.

He is a middle-class educated man who writes philosophical papers and is interested in science. That’s all we know. The story is written in the past tense, as if he is looking back on those events and has written a full account of what happened.

I.
THE EVE OF THE WAR.

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 scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. [one sentence!]

With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same.

No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable.

It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most, terrestrial men fancied there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise.

Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.

Summary of the story up until Chapter 4: The Cylinder Opens

That opening chapter describes how a species of intelligent creatures on Mars had been observing us for many years before the events of this story. The opening chapter goes on to explain that the Martians were planning to invade earth because their home planet was steadily getting cooler year after year due to the fact that it is further from the sun than the earth. They faced extinction on their own planet, and so they set their sights on their nearest neighbour – Earth – with its warmer atmosphere and closer position to the sun, and with their superior mathematical knowledge and technology they decided they would colonise earth in order to survive. They spent years observing us and planning the invasion.

Note: I am using present tenses from now on to describe this story. This is a normal way to retell the plot of a book, film, or play. It’s because the events of the story are permanent because they never change, they are written that way. So we can use present tenses to summarise the story of a book or film.

Ogilvy the Astronomer

The narrator has a friend called Ogilvy who is a respected astronomer. He has a telescope and uses it to observe the night sky, including the surface of Mars, our nearest neighbour.

So Ogilvy is our friend and he’s an astronomer.

6 years before the main events of the story Ogilvy invites the narrator to an observatory to study Mars after another astronomer reported a dramatic explosion of gas on the surface of the planet, which seems to be directed toward Earth. The narrator observes a similar explosion as he watches through the telescope.

Ogilvy doubts the existence of life on Mars and speculates the phenomenon may be related to meteorites or volcanoes. Many other people witness the phenomenon, which repeats itself at midnight over a total of 10 days.

Nobody at the time is concerned or worried about the explosions on Mars.

6 years later some people see a falling star – a meteorite which flies through the night sky with a bright green flash and lands nearby on Horsell Common – a large area of grass, meadows and trees. Again, nobody assumes there is anything weird going on. Ogilvy the astronomer is interested in the meteorite and finds it on the common.

As it has landed it has formed a large crater of sand. So the object is lying at the bottom of a kind of large sand pit in the middle of an open area of grassland surrounded by buildings and trees.

The meteorite that he finds is quite odd. It’s in a cylindrical shape – like a long can of coke, but he thinks its made of rock as it is covered in a kind of crusty layer. It’s also extremely hot and he can’t get near it, but he notices there are weird sounds coming from inside it. He assumes these are noises caused by the object cooling, but as he continues to observe it he realises that something funny is going on.

The crusty layer is slowly falling off as the object cools, revealing a kind of metallic surface underneath, and even weirder than that, the end of the cylinder appears to be turning, as if it is unscrewing very slowly. Ogilvy suddenly assumes that the cylinder has people inside it and decides to get help, but nobody believes him.

Eventually he finds a journalist who is willing to check the cylinder. A crowd of people begins to gather as word spreads about “men from space stuck inside a cylinder on the common”. People don’t quite realise what’s going on but they are incredibly curious. Normal life continues, with people stopping by to have a look at the object in the sand pit, before continuing their normal routines.

The narrator goes down to Horsell Common to check out what’s going on. A larger crowd has gathered there. He manages to squeeze through the crowd which is getting more and more excited and agitated. A small group of scientists, including the narrator’s friend Ogilvy are in the pit attempting to work out what is happening.

The narrator observes what is going on and comments on how most people are not really educated about this kind of thing and they haven’t worked out what’s going on, but he assumes that the cylinder must be extra-terrestrial. He observes the end of the cylinder moving and as it turns it’s revealing a kind of shining metal thread.

The next chapter describes what happens when the end of the cylinder finally drops off, revealing what is inside.

Reading chapters 4 and 5 with comments and explanations

The narrator approaches the pit containing the cylinder.
Crowds of people are all around the pit, trying to see what’s happening. They’re pushing each other a bit, and things are quite tense. (You know, when a large crowd forms, people start pushing and shoving and it’s stressful)
Ogilvy and some other scientists are in the pit.

IV.
THE CYLINDER OPENS.
The crowd about the pit had increased, and stood out black against the lemon yellow of the sky—a couple of hundred people, perhaps. There were raised voices, and some sort of struggle appeared to be going on about the pit. Strange imaginings passed through my mind. As I drew nearer I heard Stent’s voice:
“Keep back! Keep back!”
A boy came running towards me.
“It’s a-movin’,” he said to me as he passed; “a-screwin’ and a-screwin’ out. I don’t like it. I’m a-goin’ ’ome, I am.”
I went on to the crowd. There were really, I should think, two or three hundred people elbowing and jostling one another, the one or two ladies there being by no means the least active.
“He’s fallen in the pit!” cried some one.
“Keep back!” said several.
The crowd swayed a little, and I elbowed my way through. Every one seemed greatly excited. I heard a peculiar humming sound from the pit.
“I say!” said Ogilvy; “help keep these idiots back. We don’t know what’s in the confounded thing, you know!”
I saw a young man, a shop assistant in Woking I believe he was, standing on the cylinder and trying to scramble out of the hole again. The crowd had pushed him in.
The end of the cylinder was being screwed out from within. Nearly two feet of shining screw projected. Somebody blundered against me, and I narrowly missed being pitched onto the top of the screw. I turned, and as I did so the screw must have come out, for the lid of the cylinder fell upon the gravel with a ringing concussion. I stuck my elbow into the person behind me, and turned my head towards the Thing again. For a moment that circular cavity seemed perfectly black. I had the sunset in my eyes.
I think everyone expected to see a man emerge—possibly something a little unlike us terrestrial men, but in all essentials a man. I know I did. But, looking, I presently saw something stirring within the shadow: greyish billowy movements, one above another, and then two luminous disks—like eyes. Then something resembling a little grey snake, about the thickness of a walking stick, coiled up out of the writhing middle, and wriggled in the air towards me—and then another.
A sudden chill came over me. There was a loud shriek from a woman behind. I half turned, keeping my eyes fixed upon the cylinder still, from which other tentacles were now projecting, and began pushing my way back from the edge of the pit. I saw astonishment giving place to horror on the faces of the people about me. I heard inarticulate exclamations on all sides. There was a general movement backwards. I saw the shopman struggling still on the edge of the pit. I found myself alone, and saw the people on the other side of the pit running off, Stent among them. I looked again at the cylinder, and ungovernable terror gripped me. I stood petrified and staring.
A big greyish rounded bulk, the size, perhaps, of a bear, was rising slowly and painfully out of the cylinder. As it bulged up and caught the light, it glistened like wet leather.
Two large dark-coloured eyes were regarding me steadfastly. The mass that framed them, the head of the thing, was rounded, and had, one might say, a face. There was a mouth under the eyes, the lipless brim of which quivered and panted, and dropped saliva. The whole creature heaved and pulsated convulsively. A lank tentacular appendage gripped the edge of the cylinder, another swayed in the air.
Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely imagine the strange horror of its appearance. The peculiar V-shaped mouth with its pointed upper lip, the absence of brow ridges, the absence of a chin beneath the wedgelike lower lip, the incessant quivering of this mouth, the Gorgon groups of tentacles, the tumultuous breathing of the lungs in a strange atmosphere, the evident heaviness and painfulness of movement due to the greater gravitational energy of the earth—above all, the extraordinary intensity of the immense eyes—were at once vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous. There was something fungoid in the oily brown skin, something in the clumsy deliberation of the tedious movements unspeakably nasty. Even at this first encounter, this first glimpse, I was overcome with disgust and dread.
[It’s a bit like if you spend any length of time staring at a nasty looking insect, or even just staring at a picture of one]
Suddenly the monster vanished. It had toppled over the brim of the cylinder and fallen into the pit, with a thud like the fall of a great mass of leather. I heard it give a peculiar thick cry, and forthwith another of these creatures appeared darkly in the deep shadow of the aperture.
I turned and, running madly, made for the first group of trees, perhaps a hundred yards away; but I ran slantingly and stumbling, for I could not avert my face from these things.
There, among some young pine trees and furze bushes, I stopped, panting, and waited further developments. The common round the sand-pits was dotted with people, standing like myself in a half-fascinated terror, staring at these creatures, or rather at the heaped gravel at the edge of the pit in which they lay. And then, with a renewed horror, I saw a round, black object bobbing up and down on the edge of the pit. It was the head of the shopman who had fallen in, but showing as a little black object against the hot western sun. Now he got his shoulder and knee up, and again he seemed to slip back until only his head was visible. Suddenly he vanished, and I could have fancied a faint shriek had reached me. I had a momentary impulse to go back and help him that my fears overruled.
Everything was then quite invisible, hidden by the deep pit and the heap of sand that the fall of the cylinder had made. Anyone coming along the road from Chobham or Woking would have been amazed at the sight—a dwindling multitude of perhaps a hundred people or more standing in a great irregular circle, in ditches, behind bushes, behind gates and hedges, saying little to one another in short, excited shouts, and staring, staring hard at a few heaps of sand. A barrow of ginger beer stood, a queer derelict, black against the burning sky, and in the sand-pits was a row of deserted vehicles with their horses feeding out of nosebags or pawing the ground.

Summary of Chapter 4

As the sun sets, the narrator returns to the pit, where a few hundred people have gathered.
A boy warns the narrator that the end of the cylinder has unscrewed itself, and the narrator forces his way to the front of the crowd to get a better view.
Ogilvy warns the people to stay away and reminds them of its unknown contents.
One man is pushed into the pit by the jostling of the crowd.
The end of the cylinder comes off and falls into the pit.
The narrator and the crowd are horrified by the grotesque octopus-like appearance of an alien who slowly and painstakingly emerges from the cylinder. They seem heavy and struggling to breathe in the atmosphere.
The narrator and the crowd run away from the pit, but many, including the narrator, stop to watch the aliens from the nearby tree line.
The sun sets, leaving enough light to just see the silhouette of the shopkeeper as he tries and fails to get out of the pit alive.

To be continued in part 2…