As befits a book about a Martian invasion, The War of the Worlds has a big list of characters, but the main characters are the unnamed narrator, the Martians, the narrator's brother, the artillery man, the curate, and Ogilvy.
The novel starts with the narrator, a writer of philosophical texts, explaining that planets such as Mars have been scrutinizing human behavior for years and insisting we don't judge them too harshly.
We must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its inferior races.
He continues to explain how the Martians came to power and what life is like under their reign, describing the Martians as follows:
The peculiar V-shaped mouth with its pointed upper lip, the absence of brow ridges, the absence of a chin beneath the wedgelike lower lip, the incessant quivering of this mouth, the Gorgon groups of tentacles, the tumultuous breathing of the lungs in a strange atmosphere, the evident heaviness and painfulness of movement due to the greater gravitational energy of the earth—above all, the extraordinary intensity of the immense eyes—were at once vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous.
The Martians first arrive in the narrator's town of Woking, but through correspondence with his brother, he also tells the reader about their later invasion of London.
They say there’s been guns heard at Chertsey, heavy firing, and that mounted soldiers have told them to get off at once because the Martians are coming. We heard guns firing at Hampton Court station, but we thought it was thunder. What the dickens does it all mean?
The narrator manages to escape with a driver from the artillery and hides out in a cellar with the curate—a preacher who believes the invasion is God's judgement.
Tragically, the curate goes mad, and the narrator is forced to sacrifice him to the Martians to avoid detection.
Ogilvy, the first to open the cylinder containing the Martians, also dies when he approaches the Martians with a white flag.