The novel contains 18 stories from different authors, each of which envisions a famous individual's reactions to the Martian invasion and the impact of the invasion on a different part of the world. Several of the stories tie into other works of fiction.
The stories, in order presented:
- The Roosevelt Dispatches: Theodore Roosevelt encounters a Martian in the jungles of Cuba, and after killing it takes precautions against other Martians coming.
- Canals in the Sand: Percival Lowell tries to get the Martians attention by constructing a huge network of canals in the Sahara, identical to the canals on Mars.
- Foreign Devils: the Martians invade China. The Guangxu Emperor uses the disarray to get rid of both the European powers and the treacherous Prince Tuan to seize control over China again, turning it into a super power 50 years ahead of time.
- Blue Period: Pablo Picasso witnesses the Martians attack Paris, and their appearance greatly inspires his later work.
- The Martian Invasion Journals of Henry James: a retelling of the events from Wells novel, from Henry James point of view (who, in this reality, becomes the writer of War of the Worlds)
- The True Tale of the Final Battle of Umslopogaas the Zulu: While in Africa, Winston Churchill meets Umslopogaas, the famous Zulu warrior from King Solomon's Mines, and watches him battle the Martians.
- Night of the Cooters: The Texas Rangers fight the Martians, successfully repelling them.
- Determinism and the Martian War, with Relativistic Corrections: Albert Einstein gets involved with the Martian war when the train he is riding in is attacked. When he gets locked up in one of the Martians fighting machines, he learns that time passes much slower inside than outside the machine.
- Soldier of the Queen: aided by Mahatma Gandhi, Mowgli, and the local population, the British colonists in India fight back against the Martians.
- Mars: The Home Front: John Carter visits Earth again and tells his nephew, Edgar Rice Burroughs, a tale about how he encountered, and fought back against, the Martian invaders, here called Sarmaks, on their own planet.
- A Letter from St. Louis: During the attack on St. Louis, reporter Arthur Barnett meets with Joseph Pulitzer on board his personal train.
- Resurrection: Leo Tolstoy and Joseph Stalin join forces to help refugees of the Martian war in Russia.
- Paris Conquers All: another story focusing on Paris. When the Martians seem to develop an interest in the Eiffel Tower, Jules Verne comes up with a plan to set a trap for them.
- To Mars and Providence: during the invasion on Providence, the young H. P. Lovecraft makes a shocking discovery about himself and the reason the Martians invaded Earth.
- Roughing it During the Martian Invasion: Mark Twain encounters the Martians when the ship hes on arrives back in America in the middle of the invasion.
- To See the World End: 10 years prior to the invasion, Joseph Conrad meets an African woman named Sililo, who predicts the world will soon end. When the invasion starts, Joseph and his family flee to Africa to meet up with her again.
- After a Lean Winter: in the polar region, where the Martians manage to survive for much longer due to the lack of bacteria and their natural resistance to cold temperatures, Jack London and several other surviving humans manage to capture a Martian and force it to fight against their dogs.
- The Soul Selects her own Society: Invasion and Repulsion: A Chronological Reinterpretation of Two of Emily Dickinson's Poems: A Wellsian Perspective: an essay discussing two recently discovered poems that appear to be written by Emily Dickinson during the Martian invasion, despite the fact that she had died over a decade earlier.
Tropes associated with the book as a whole
- Alternate History: the Martian invasion greatly affects historical events. Both China and India manage to shake of colonial tutlelage and become independent 50 years earlier than in real life. China also remains a monarchy. Russia becomes a stable Constitutional Monarchy and Stalin, who never rises to power in this reality, remains an obscure revolutionary. Pulitzer is killed by Martians before having had a chance to endow the Pulitzer Prize. And in this universe, it is Henry James who wrote The War of the Worlds.
- Alien Invasion: naturally.
- Mood Whiplash: the stories vary in tone from serious to comedy.
- Retcon: in his own novel, Wells makes it pretty clear that there were only 10 Martian Cylinders, and that they all landed in England. Here, there are more than 10 cylinders and they land all over the world. Also, in Vernes story the Martians have two sexes just like Earthly life forms while in Wells novel they are genderless.
- Series Continuity Error: officially, the 18 stories and Wells novel are supposed to take place in the same universe. However, they greatly contradict both Wells original novel (like the exact date the invasion took place) and each other (in Picassos story the Eifel Tower is destroyed, while in Vernes story the tower is a vital part in bringing the Martians down). A foreword supposedly written by Wells tries to handwave this away by claiming the chaos caused by the Martians made it impossible to correctly keep track of the date (and also notes that Picasso and Verne apparently refuse to speak to each other due to their conflicting accounts).
Tropes associated with The Roosevelt Dispatches
- Cool Sword: the Martian in this story carries a portable heat ray generator that looks like a sword.
- Epistolary Novel: the story is written as a series of letters from Roosevelt to various people, the bulk of the story being a letter written to F.C. Selous.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: how the Martian eventually dies; his sword that generates the heat ray falls into the water, firing a heat ray directly at him.
- Rasputinian Death: the Martian that Roosevelt encounters is very powerful and hard to kill, even without having a tripod at his disposal. It takes several shots from Roosevelts rifle to weaken him, but he doesnt die until he gets hit with his own heat ray.
Tropes associated with Canals in the Sand
- Epic Hail: what Lowell attempts to create in the Sahara in order to summon the Martians. He succeeds.
Tropes associated with Foreign Devils
- From a Certain Point of View:
- The Chinese have a different view of the siege of the Legation, as those inside are firing on anyone who approaches, even official parties attempting negotiation.
- The Emperor was deposed with the help of his mother, who had been told he was falling under foreign influence. He tells her he was just asking for some advice on their constitution from the Japanese ambassador.
- The Emperor orders Prince Tuan to commit suicide, but the latter always pretends it's a joke.
- Off with His Head!: The Emperor personally does this to prince Tuan and all others who oppose him in order to secure his reign.
- Puppet King: The Guangxu Emperor starts out as this. Officially, he is the leader of China, but in reality prince Tuan has all the power because of his many allies and formidable army. The Martian invasion, which cripples Tuans army, provides the emperor with a chance to finally take back power however.
Tropes associated with Blue Period
- Monumental Damage: The Eiffel Tower and The Notre Dame both suffer this fate
Tropes associated with The Martian Invasion Journals of Henry James
- P.O.V. Sequel: we get to see the same Martian invasion of England as in Wells original novel, but from Henry James POV.
Tropes associated with The True Tale of the Final Battle of Umslopogaas the Zulu
- Absurdly Sharp Axe: Umslopogaas battle ax can cut through the metal of a Martian Tripod.
- An Axe to Grind: Umslopogaas weapon of choice is a battle axe he calls Inkosikaas
- The Atoner: Umslopogaas, who believes he brought the Martian invasion upon his country because he destroyed a sacred black marble block.
- Out-of-Character Moment: Churchill considers Umslopogaas destruction of the above mentioned black marble block to be this for the zulu warrior.
- Redemption Equals Death: Umslopogaas doesn't survive his battle with the Martians,.
Tropes associated with Night of the Cooters
- America Saves the Day: a downplayed example; they dont save the entire Earth, but the Texas Rangers do manage to fight back and destroy the Martians.
- Stuff Blowing Up: the cylinders landing in Texas are nearly all blown up with tons of dynamite.
Tropes associated with Determinism and the Martian War
- Trainwreck Episode: a literal example; Einstein is involved in a train crash caused by a Martian tripod.
- Year Outside, Hour Inside: Einstein discovers that all Martian Tripods have an emergency mechanism that can seal off the head and slow down time inside in order to stall time if a wounded Martian has to wait for help. When Einstein accidentally activates this device, he gets trapped in the tripod for 7 hours, and when he finally gets out, two and a half weeks have passed outside the tripod.
Tropes associated with Soldier of the Queen
- Enemy Mine: the Martian invasion forges an alliance between the local Indian population and the British colonists.
- The Stoic: Gandhi. While the others are panicking about being hunted and eventually captured by the Martians, he remains calm and instead studies the Martians.
Tropes associated with Mars: The Home Front
- Another Story for Another Time: the story is cut off after John Carter and Kar Komak escape imprisonment from the Sarmaks, with Kar Komak going back to Helum to warn the navy while John Carter continues his search for Dejah Thoris. What happened afterwards is only briefly mentioned, but its stated John Carter and his allies eventually triumphed and defeated the Sarmaks.
- Badass Army: the Sarmaks on Mars are eventually defeated by a massive alliance between the forces of Helium, the Red Martians from many cities and nations, the black First Born, and the Green Martians from both the Thark and the Warhoon tribes.
- Crossover: between War of the Worlds and John Carter of Mars.
- Heroes Fight Barehanded: John Carter and Kar Komak escape their cell by overpowering the guards, even though the guards are armed and they are not.
- Lured into a Trap: when John Carter and Kar Komak go after Dejah Thoris, they discover her abductors left one of their fliers behind with the destination compass already set for their home location. Upon arriving there however, the two men are immediately captured. Turns out the Red Martians abducting people for the Sarmaks always leave behind clues and other evidence of their crimes in order to lure more unsuspecting victims to the pit.
- The Man Behind the Man: the Sarmaks (the invaders from Wells novel) play this role in the story, since John Carter only encounters the Red Martians working for them while the Sarmaks remain off screen.
- The Mole Bas Ok, the old Red Martian John Carter meets in his prison cell, eventually betrays Carter to the Sarmaks.
- Pastiche: the story has the same style as a typical Barsoom novel from Burroughs; it begins and ends with a narration told from Edgar Rice Burroughs point of view, while the bulk of the story is told in first person from John Carters point of view.
- Save the Princess: Dejah Thoris is abducted once more, forcing John Carter to rescue her.
- Stun Guns: the Red Martians working for the Sarmaks have a weapon that fires a paralyzing ray.
Tropes associated with A Letter from St. Louis
- Apocalyptic Log: the story is presented as a letter written by Arthur Barnett while he hides in a barn for the Martian invaders, which was found on his body after the invasion ended.
- Code Name: Joseph Pulitzer uses the code name Andes.
Tropes associated with Resurrection
- Justified Criminal: Tolstoy and Stalin are forced to raid the abandoned homes of nobleman to find enough food for the people in the refugee camp at Tolstoys estate.
- Honor Before Reason: Major Sekhim, who doesn't approve of the foraging expeditions because its technically stealing, even though this is an emergency situation and the refugees are left with no other options.
- War Refugees: thousands of them gather at Tolstoys estate and the village next to it.
Tropes associated with Paris Conquers All
- Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: Male Martians have 3 arms and legs, females have 4.
- Dance of Romance: the Martian tripods perform one around the Eiffel Tower
- The Power of Love: The Martians literally fall in love with the Eiffel tower, making it a perfect tool to set a trap for them.
- Shock and Awe: the Martians in Paris are defeated by electrocuting the Eiffel Tower, and the Martians climbing it, with dozens of improvised batteries.
Tropes associated with To Mars and Providence
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Lovecraft discovers he is one of the godlike horrors the Martians had invaded Earth to escape
- Eldritch Abomination: the Martians themselves, but also the godlike horrors that once populated Mars. The latter are so horrible that the mere thought of their return is what drove the Martians away from their home planet and forced them to invade Earth.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: downplayed: the shock of his discovery causes Lovecraft to forget the whole event, and later in life he has become one of the skeptics who claims there never was a Martian invasion.
- Grand Theft Me: it is revealed that prior to the invasion, the Martians telepathically send some of their scouts to Earth where they took over human bodies, but some forgot their true identity and stayed behind on Earth. It is suggested Lovecraft might be one of these scouts, which is why the Martians spare him on their first encounter. he isn't
- Slipping a Mickey: Lovecraft puts a sleeping powder in his mothers malted milk, so he can go out and explore the church next to the Martian cylinder.
- Shout-Out: the story contains quite some shout outs to Lovecrafts work, including "The Colour Out of Space", "The Haunter of the Dark", "The Shadow Out of Time", and At the Mountains of Madness.
- Tomato in the Mirror: in a direct reference to Lovecrafts own story The Outsider, the young Lovecraft discovers his true nature when he sees his own reflection in a mirror.
- Young Future Famous People: Lovecraft is still an eight year old child in this story.
Tropes associated with Roughing it During the Martian Invasion
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Mark Twain discovers Francois is not really French when he notices Francois suddenly dropped his French accent since they left Europe.
- Red Shirt: Stephen Bradshaw, the first officer of the passenger ship, who volunteers to go ashore with Mark Twain and Francois Maitroit. He is the only one of the group who is killed by the Martians.
Tropes associated with To See the World End
- Dead Person Conversation: Sililo claims she talks with Conrads deceased mother in her dreams.
- The End Is Nigh: Sililo got her name (which is Lenje for born during a relatives funeral) because when she was born, a wise old woman predicted she would see the world end. Sililo herself also keeps insisting the end is near.
- Humans Are Bastards: the story greatly compares the Martians brutality towards humans with the colonial powers own Moral Myopia (more specific; the Belgian colonists in Kongo), even more so than Wells original novel.
- One World Order: the aftermath of the Martian Invasion sees the world finally unite as one. Conrad even becomes Polands delegate to the Council of Earth.
- Prophecy Twist: Sililos prediction about the end of the world comes true, but not as everyone expected. The earth is not destroyed, but rather the old civilization with colonialism and people oppressing each other is ended because of the Martians.
Tropes associated with After a Lean Winter
- Base on Wheels: The Martians construct a walking city in the north. It ends up sinking to the ocean floor however.
- The End... Or Is It?: eventually, the Martians on the North Pole apparently die as well when their city sinks to the ocean floor, but Jack London is not sure if they are truly dead or if they are simply waiting on the sea bottom to strike again later.
- I Gave My Word: Jack London defends the Martian after he has won the fight, and is willing to keep his promise of letting him go. The others however, are not.
- Mugging the Monster: The humans think the dogs will have an easy time since they heard Martians are slow and weak without their Tripods. The Martian they captured however has been on Earth long enough to get used to the higher gravity, and actually thrives in the cold climate of the north (which, to him, is still relatively warm compared to the temperatures on Mars). As a result, hes nowhere near as weak as everyone thinks he is, and proceeds to mop the floor with the dogs.
- Revenge Before Reason: Dr. Weatherby is the only one of the group of humans who thinks they should study the captured Martian. His pleas are dismisses since all the others are thirsty for revenge and want to see the Martian suffer.
- Villain Respect: when Jack insists the Martian has fairly won the fight and they should let him go, he clearly gains the Martians respect. The alien telepathically shows him some mental images of how life on Mars is, and claims he and Jack understand each other.
- Win Your Freedom : The humans promise to set the Martian free if he defeats their dogs in a battle.
Tropes associated with The Soul Selects her own Society :
- Footnote Fever: the essay is riddled with them.
- Hidden Depths: the essay strongly suggest that, in spite of their brutal conquest en destructive ways, the Martians actually understand and like (Earthly) poetry.
- Long Title: by far the longest of all the stories in this anthology.
- Phone Call from the Dead: apparently, Emily Dickinson wrote her final poems from beyond the grave, during the Martian invasion.
- Satire: on over-elaborate literary criticism
- Suckiness Is Painful: whether or not Dickinson's poems are bad is of course a matter of opinion, but the Martians do seem frightened by her use of near-rhymes. The author even suggests that humanity could have saved itself a lot of trouble by reading the Martians poems from the beginning.