A Timeless Masterpiece
(A Book Review of H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine)
The subject of time travel is common place today, with plenty of books, television shows, and movies using the process as a storytelling device, but back in 1895 when The Time Machine was published, it was so trailblazing, time traveling has become one of the pioneering fundamental science-fiction concepts ever introduced it even spawned an entire sub-genre in itself.
The recent film version of The Time Machine (starring Guy Pierce) may probably make you expect an adventure story (I admit I did), and certainly, there’s an element of it — though just a bit — in this slim volume, but Wells’s main concern is a discussion of the direction that mankind is heading.
As I see it, the novel basically poses the question “What’s in store for man in the future?” Through the account of the unnamed narrator who then recounts the Time Traveller’s expedition to the year 802, 701, humanity has devolved into two species: the childish, naïve Elois and the subterranean, cannibalistic Morlocks. Wells comes up with an unlikely scenario with the Time Traveler deluded by his notion of an almost Utopian society free from politics, poverty, prejudice, and wars. But soon he realizes there’s something going on underneath for the truth is something far more from what he earlier surmised. Dealing with grand themes such as the nature of society, man’s hopes, dreams and fears, Wells, despite the book’s sociological-satire premise, presents us with a vision of a future society deprived of political structure, social idealism, conflict and the craving for change is completely eradicated in the surface of the Earth it stagnates mankind. In the absence of those, achievement has become non-essential, making mankind wither both physically and mentally.
More than telling a good story, one of the founding fathers of science-fiction also goes on and challenges the reader to think what will the Earth be like hundreds of thousands of years from now? As the Time Traveler goes further along into time we witness a planet in its last throes, devoid of human life, a huge, red sun with its dull gleam, yet inhabited by bizarre vegetation and outlandish creatures; life seems to halt. Wells shows a different picture of a post-apocalyptic world with its near Eden-like similarities though with a savage flaw. Apparently, with the climate change and speculations of extinction currently being played out in much of today’s media, it’s not hard to think a dying world is never too far off. Chilling!
Though the prose is a tad stilted, maybe because of its Victorian influence and exploratory narrative, it can still be enjoyed by readers curious enough to plunge through the nascent books that give birth to the genre of science-fiction. For me one of the terrific aspects of the novel is in how Wells describes the physical act of time traveling, which clearly is no walk in the park. There are physical and emotional attributes in its process that greatly affects the Time Traveler and I have to say that his experiences during this time shifts are some of the most descriptive parts of the book.
Although written over a century ago, The Time Machine remains a seminal work of literature generations of readers has come to enjoy as H. G. Wells takes them in a journey into the future, scary and provocative at the same time, without the benefit of a time machine.
Book Details: Book #16 for 2011
Published by Dalmatian Press
(Hardcover, Great Reads 2004 First Edition)
Started: May 22, 2011
Finished: May 23, 2011