This story is set in the early 20th century, and begins with the unnamed narrator, a writer of speculative scientific articles, visiting an observatory in Ottershaw on the invitation of a "well-known astronomer" named Ogilvy. There he witnesses an explosion on the surface of the planet Mars, one of a series of such events that arouses much interest in the scientific community. An unspecified time later, a "meteor" is seen landing on Horsell Common, near London. The narrator's home is close by, and he is among the first to discover the object is a space-going artificial cylinder launched from Mars. The cylinder opens, disgorging the Martians: bulky, tentacled creatures that begin setting up strange machinery in the cylinder's impact crater. A human deputation moves towards the crater and is incinerated by an invisible ray of heat.