The Time Machine
Book review of H. G. Wells’ first novel.
While looking for a new science fiction read in Goodreads’ “Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books”, I came across “The Time Machine” by H. G. Wells (ISBN 9781680294040). Unfamiliar with Wells’ writing, the father of science fiction, it was time to explore his works. Did you know The Time Machine was his first novel, and it coined the term “time machine”? The novel explores themes of science, society, and the nature of humanity, and has since become a classic in science fiction literature.
The story follows the journey of an inventor and scientist, known only as the time traveler, who invents a machine to travel through time. He describes a machine that can take him into the future or the past and is eager to test it. He takes a journey into a future, where he discovers humans have evolved into two distinct species: the Eloi and the Morlocks. As the time traveler explores this new world, he uncovers the secrets of the Eloi and Morlocks and their strange relationship with each other. He learns the Eloi live in a utopian society, free from work and pain, but they are also childlike in their ignorance and dependence on the Morlocks. The Morlocks, in contrast, are an underground species that dwell in darkness and prey upon the Eloi. After his stay with the Eloi, he travels even further into the future, where he finds an increasingly harsh and desolate world.
For me, The Time Machine didn’t live up to the hype. Wells wrote the novel in 1895 and that shows. The actual story is not about time traveling though, but in the relationship between the Eloi and Morlocks. As a such, it’s more a warning for Wells’ Victorian society about social injustice.
The story starts off strongly: friends drinking and smoking, ready for a delightful story with a demonstration of a time machine! They even discuss a higher dimensional world that would feel right at home in Flatland.
The meat of the novel, where the time traveler recounts his travel experiences, is not so. Wells does not explore the implications of altering the past or the future, for example, nor the paradox of potentially meeting yourself. Therefore, the time traveler might have just as easily arrived at a distant island or a strange new planet. The first part makes you hungry for an exciting travel story, but the actual travel disappoints.
The third part, where the time traveler continues to an even more distant dystopian future, felt like an afterthought, not adding to the story.