The War of the Worlds is set in the late 1890s in England. For Wells and his original audience, this was a modern Setting, and the British weapons he describes were the very latest products of high technology. Although the ironclad warships and batteries of cannons may seem old-fashioned to present-day readers, one should keep in mind that these weapons were once symbols of terrible destruction. That the Martian war-machines crush the well-armed and mighty British army confirms the Martians as technologically superior enemies of humanity. After the British artillery batteries are destroyed, no one doubts the Martians’ ability to exterminate humanity.
All the locales in The War of the Worlds are real places in England-places where Wells lived or often visited. Readers familiar with England would have readily recognized the place names and the descriptions of the countryside. Thus Wells brings home the effects of the invasion on ordinary people.
It should also be noted that scientific theories of the 1890s suggested that Mars might be inhabited by intelligent beings. The “canals” of Mars, which today are regarded as merely optical illusions, were taken seriously at the time The War of the Worlds was written. Maps of the canals had been published, and some scientists openly speculated about how and why they might have been constructed.
Furthermore, a prominent scientific theory about the origins of the solar system suggested that the sun periodically spewed out matter into the solar system, creating a new inner planet and forcing the other planets to move outward into new orbits. Many people reasoned that if Mars were older than earth, perhaps it would have an older civilization. And if Mars once occupied Earth’s orbit, perhaps its civilization had arisen in a warmer climate than that which currently prevailed on the planet, making the Martians envious of Earth’s gentler weather.