Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Edison's Conquest of Mars

Go To
It was the evolution of the earth against the evolution of Mars.

"Why should we wait? Why should we run the risk of having our cities destroyed and our lands desolated a second time? Let us go to Mars. We have the means. Let us beard the lion in his den. Let us ourselves turn conquerors and take possession of that detestable planet, and if necessary, destroy it in order to relieve the earth of this perpetual threat which now hangs over us like the sword of Damocles."

Edison's Conquest Of Mars is a 1898 Science Fiction novel by American astronomer and writer Garrett P. Serviss. Written as a sequel to Fighters from Mars, an unauthorized adaptation of H. G. Wells's War of the Worlds, it is notable for introducing many important ideas to the genre.

Earth has started to recover from the Martian attacks, but humanity still fears that the aliens will return, and that the planet will not survive a second war. Fortunately, American inventor Thomas Edison has created prototypes for both a gun which humanity can use to take down the Martians, and a spaceship which will move the fight to the enemy's home turf. After getting donations from all surviving world leaders, Edison starts constructing an armada of ships and brings together an invasion force consisting of the greatest scientific minds in the world. Together, this army of Science Heroes set out on the longest journey in human history, in an attempt to save the world.


It can be read for free here.

Compare The Future Eve, another influential ninteenth century Science Fiction novel starring Thomas Edison. Compare and contrast To Mars with Tesla, a somewhat similar story starring a certain rival of Edison.

Edison's Conquest Of Mars contains examples of:

  • Abusive Precursors: The Martians are revealed to have been this, as they once conquered Egypt and brought humans there to serve as slaves.
  • Always Save the Girl: Subverted. Our protagonists try to save the giant woman of Ceres, but she ends up drowning anyway. Even worse, it's their fault the flood started in the first place.
  • America Saves the Day: Mostly Played Straight. While Earth's army is a Multinational Team, they are still led by the American Thomas Edison, who also invented most of the stuff they use. Most of the money used to finance the construction of the space fleet is also American, and the country is also the location of Earth's new world government. All of this naturally doubles as Creator Provincialism, as Serviss just happened to be American as well.
    Negotiations were at once begun. The United States naturally took the lead, and their leadership was never for a moment questioned abroad.
  • Advertisement:
  • Animal Testing: Edison demonstrates his disintegration device on a random crow, killing it.
  • Author Avatar: The nameless protagonist is a pretty clear stand-in for Serviss himself, and even resembles him in the illustrations.
  • Bio-Augmentation: The Martians are more or less doing this to themselves, breeding all members of their race to perform certain jobs. What's more, they apparently have a very strong Genetic Memory, as they can perform these jobs without any training whatsoever as soon as they have grown up.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Earth has been saved from destruction, our protagonists return home and are celebrated as heroes, and Ania has gotten married to Sidney Phillips, but Edison's fleet has suffered grievous losses, and they were forced to commit genocide to win.
  • Broad Strokes: It was actually written not as a sequel to War of the Worlds but rather an adaptation of it. As such, there are several differences between the backstory mentioned in this book and the actual plot of Wells' novel.
    • The invasion isn't restricted to the London area but rather happens all around the planet (though nothing in the book tells us that it didn't happen planet-wide).
    • It actually starts in Boston, not London.
    • The invading Martians don't all die. Some of them survive and flee back to Mars.
    • The Martians themselves are more like giant Human Aliens than the Starfish Aliens they were originally. Also, they are no longer desperate colonists looking for a new home but rather imperialistic Galactic Conquerors who have fought wars against many other alien races.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Turns out that humanity are not happy about being invaded, and are more than willing to strike back once they have the means to.
  • Eternal English: Zig Zagged. While languages have clearly changed on Earth since the construction of the pyramids, they apparently haven't changed among the humans living on Mars, despite them sharing a planet with aliens speaking a completely different language. You'd think they would at least have picked up a few loan words by now.
  • Final Solution:
    • The Martians kill (almost) all of their human slaves as a punishment for their own failed invasion of Earth - which was in no way their fault.
    • Edison's army end up doing this to the Martians by flooding the planet. Though this is treated as a last resort for them, and they do acknowledge that quite a few innocent people will die too.
  • Flying Car: Sort of. Edison's ships are constantly referred to as "cars," but they are clearly much bigger, as they can easily fit 20 people, a small science lab, and a captured giant martian.
  • Fountain of Youth: The emperor of Mars is rumored to have discovered something similar to this, which has allowed him to rule the planet since at least the dawn of human civilisation.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Towards the end of the story, humans and Martians have a peace negotiation under a truce, only for one of the Martian guards to shoot the unarmed, unprotected Aina, who is acting as an interpreter. It is possible that the Martians really were planning to surrender, only for this one douche to open fire on the woman responsible for the flood. Nevertheless, it does end all hope for a peaceful end to the conflict, and it would indeed be classified as a serious war crime if it happened today.
  • Last of Their Kind: Ania is the only survivor of the Martian's genocide on their human slaves, and thus also the last member of her precursor race (though her eventual husband Sidney Phillips is apparently enough of a badass to qualify as an honorary member.)
  • Lightworlder: The Martians are much taller than humans due to their planet's weaker gravity. The people of Ceres are even taller, if the one person we see is any indication.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Zig-Zagged Trope. The Humans remember how the Martians were defeated in the original book, and wear space suits in case the atmosphere of Mars is unbreathable. However, this turns out to be unnecessary. They also travel to Mars under the assumption that they will be able to live off the land once they get there, and they are eventually proven right.)
  • Nominal Importance: While half of Edison's army dies, none of the dead are ever named. In fact, it's outright stated at the end that all characters mentioned by name at any point in the story all survived. Perhaps Serviss felt uncomfortable about killing real people?
  • One World Order: Earth might be heading in this direction, since pretty much all of the surviving world leaders have moved to one city and started make decisions concerning the entire planet as a single governmental body.
  • Orion Drive: The Martians retreat by way of detonating an explosive underneath their capsule. Since they don't have a cannon to focus most of the energy, they use a bomb powerful enough to level all of New York State and part of New Jersey.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: The buzz of Edison inventing a spaceship is understandably and catastrophically eclipsed by the mortal chaos of the Martian Invasion.
  • Real-Person Fic: Many real people appear as characters in this story, the most obvious example probably being Thomas Edison himself. Serviss actually got permission from Edison to use his name in the story.
    Suddenly cablegrams flashed to the Government at Washington, announcing that Queen Victoria, the Emperor William, the Czar Nicholas, Alphonso of Spain, with his mother, Maria Christina; the old Emperor Francis Joseph and the Empress Elizabeth, of Austria; King Oscar and Queen Sophia, of Sweden and Norway; King Humbert and Queen Margherita, of Italy; King George and Queen Olga, of Greece; Abdul Hamid, of Turkey; Tsait'ien, Emperor of China; Mutsuhito, the Japanese Mikado, with his beautiful Princess Haruko; the President of France, President of Switzerland, the First Syndic of the little republic of Andorra, perched on the crest of the Pyrenees, and the heads of all the Central and South American republics, were coming to Washington to take part in the deliberations, which, it was felt, were to settle the fate of earth and Mars.
  • Science Hero: Most of the army consists of these, but Edison stands out, as he invented the majority of the equipment they use.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The story starts out as very idealistic, with humanity being hopeful about the future. Later on, the story gets far more pessimistic as they realize just how outnumbered they are against the Martians. The story eventually ends on a bittersweet note as Earth has been saved, but many innocent people died to make it happen.
  • Solar System Neighbors: The Martians are also fighting giant beings from the dwarf planet (then considered an asteroid) Ceres. Their size comes from the very low gravity of Ceres.
  • Spoiler Title: With a title like "Edison's Conquest of Mars" it's not exactly hard to guess which side will win the war.
  • Trope Maker: A surprisingly large number of Science Fiction tropes were first used in this story.
    • Alien Abduction: The Martians kidnapped humans during their first visit to the planet, and their descendants are still living on Mars (or at least they do until the Martians decide to execute them all.)
    • Ancient Astronauts: The earliest known example of the "Aliens in Ancient Egypt" subtrope. The Martians built the pyramids, and the sphinx is actually a statue of their emperor.
    • Asteroid Miners: The Martians are mining one of their asteroids for gold. The fact that it is almost completely made out of the metal is kept secret from most of the Martian population, in order to keep the economy in balance.
    • Death Ray: The martians already had these back in War of the Worlds, but now they have been upgraded into handheld weapons.
    • Disintegrator Ray: Invented by Edison as a weapon against the Martians.
    • Orion Drive: Atomic bombs were theorized, but nobody knew for sure how they'd actually work in 1898 (to whit, one contemporary figured they'd only be as powerful as TNT but "burn" for days). The Martians use a bomb to launch their "car" back to Mars, and it levels a good portion of New York and all of New Jersey states.
    • Reverse the Polarity: Unlike many other examples of this trope, the term actually means something here. Serviss apparently thought that gravity was a form of electricity, so Edison's ships are pretty much huge electromagnets. Thus, reversing the polarity causes the ships to alter between being drawn towards or pushed away from a planetary body. (Incidentally, this means that the stronger a planet's gravity is, the easier it is to leave.)
    • Space Battle: Between Edison's "cars" and the Martian's flying vehicles.
    • Space Suits Are SCUBA Gear: Edison provides the crew with the first space suits in fiction, and they are specifically compared to diving suits. It is however a bit of an Unbuilt Trope, as - thanks to compressed air - the astronauts can survive for several hours even without a hose connecting them to the ship.