"War of the Worlds" by H. G. Wells will be a century old in 11 years, and despite spates of sci-fi and updated space literature since it was first published, it remains an undisturbed classic. Nothing has been changed by scientific evidence that Mars, home of the villains of the piece, does not have an amoeba on its surface, let alone a race of predators capable of building monstrous weapons and invading a sister planet across a quarter billion miles of space.
Wells' story keeps renewing itself through incarnations such as the Orson Welles radio dramatization of 1938, which traumatized thousands of listeners and created panic in parts of the country. A Spanish-language version broadcast in South America a year later, so aroused a volatile public that the station was attacked and several of its employees killed.
What brings an 89-year-old "War of the Worlds" to mind and to this page, is the current release of a two-cassette abridgement of the story, read by the British actor Robert Hardy. If, as projected by Ray Bradbury in "Fahrenheit 451," all books were burned by a draconic government and literature had to rely for preservation on being memorized and spoken, nobody could do it better than Hardy. His performance is impeccable, a model that could be studied with profit in every last school of dramatic art, not excepting the Actors Studio.