The Time Machine

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The Time MachineThe Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Published: 1895

I finally got around to reading some H.G. Wells, and I was not at all disappointed. The Time Machine is so imaginative that it’s difficult to wrap my head around it being written nearly 120 years ago. I’m not entirely sure what I expected, but I thought the plot would seem primitive in comparison to all of the great stories this has inspired throughout the years, but somehow it manages to have more substance than a lot of the derivative works of the last century.

This overview will contain spoilers, so skip to the last paragraph if that’s an issue.

The story is told by the time traveller himself, and we listen from the point of view of a guest at his weekly dinner party. At one of these dinners, the traveller explains his theory to traverse time as one would traverse the three physical dimensions, and he demonstrates this with a scale model of a device he’s developing. The device disappears before the guest’s eyes, and that night they leave the party skeptical yet intrigued.

He was in an amazing plight. His coat was dusty and dirty, and smeared with green down the sleeves; his hair disordered, and as it seemed to me greyer—either with dust and dirt or because its colour had actually faded. His face was ghastly pale; his chin had a brown cut on it—a cut half healed; his expression was haggard and drawn, as by intense suffering. For a moment he hesitated in the doorway, as if he had been dazzled by the light. Then he came into the room. He walked with just such a limp as I have seen in footsore tramps. We stared at him in silence, expecting him to speak.

A week later, they arrive for dinner to find the traveller is late. He eventually emerges from his workshop dirty and stunned, in what I imagine is the original scene of this particular trope. After cleaning himself up, he tells his story to the group. He had managed to travel forward in time about 800,000 years. There he found civilization in ruins, with humankind having split into two separate species – the cheerful, soft, and cowardly Eloi and the underground-dwelling, carnivorous Morlocks.

The traveller theorizes that the Morlocks and Eloi are the two species that evolved from separate ends of the class system. The Morlocks having descended from the working class and the Eloi from the middle class. The trend towards darkened underground factories and mines is what led the Morlocks to reside in the darkness. In fact, they still maintain the old machinery out of tradition. The Eloi grew weak and stupid, but also happy, on the surface of the world, now essentially acting as cattle for the Morlocks.

We should strive to welcome change and challenges, because they are what help us grow. With out them we grow weak like the Eloi in comfort and security. We need to constantly be challenging ourselves in order to strengthen our character and increase our intelligence.

He discovered all of this while trying to retrieve his machine, which disappeared mysteriously the first night after his arrival. Before returning to his original time, he decided to travel further into the future. He watched the world around him grow more harsh and barren as he pushed further and further in a great scene at the end of the novel.

I really enjoyed this, and I’m excited to read more from him. I was a little worried when I had to look up multiple words on the first page, but he seemed to chill out after that. It’s not a difficult read, and it has that classic adventure storytelling that I just love. There’s a lot of great older science fiction and Wells is a shining example of it.

It feels a little ridiculous to even type that last sentence. He’s been incredibly popular for over a century and there’s obviously a reason for that. It’s not like I’m exposing the cutting edge of fiction here. Hey, have you guys heard of this Shakespeare? He’s pretty good. I think you’d like him.

8 thoughts on “The Time Machine

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  2. Geoff W

    It really is astounding isn’t it when you realize that it was written that long ago! So many people say Jules Verne is the father of SciFi, but really it was Wells, he brought originality to it!

    1. Rob Post author

      I’ve only read Journey to the Center of the Earth (which was still great), but this felt a lot more like the type of science fiction seen today – maybe less focus on the details of how it was done and more of a focus on what you could do with it and what it tells us about society, whereas Verne seemed to really favour realism. I’ll have to read more from both of them!

      1. Geoff W

        Exactly! I think it had to do with Verne (I haven’t read one yet, but they’re on my list) just creating something that was just a step beyond realistic which is great, but Wells was definitely the father of modern day SciFi!

  3. Lady Disdain

    Ha. So tell me more about this Shakespeare fellow, he sounds familiar.

    I kind of skimmed through your review, cos I didn’t want spoilers but this just makes me want to pick it up now. I have so many books pending as I’m kind of rabid when I make a visit to the library, but I think I’ll get around to him soon.

    Glad to hear that it was so entertaining – I kind of wondered how it would be as well to go back to the origin of sci-fi, and if it’d be satisfying or not. I remember reading Dracula and I wasn’t all that impressed with it, and Stoker kind of has the throne for vampire fiction as Wells does for sci-fi. Will you be reading any of his other works soon?

    1. Rob Post author

      The Time Machine is quite short, so it’s a nice place to dip your toe in and see if you like him. I have a soft spot for classic adventure stories, so this was right up my alley.

      I already have The War of the Worlds, so I’ll likely pick that up soon.

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