‘The Time Machine’ by H. G. Wells [Book Review]

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Whenever I’m asked the question “if you could travel to the past or the future, which would you choose?” I always pick the future. I’m not a particularly nostalgic person anyway and I find myself thinking of the future far more than my own past or even my present. But more than that, I’m a hopeless optimist. Don’t ask me why I have such faith in the goodness of humanity–there have been enough tragic things happening by its hand–but I do and it never seems to waver. So I want to believe that the future will be better and the idea of getting to see it is too tempting.

Wells’ version of the future wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for.

This is one of those novels that, for whatever reason, I was under the impression I wouldn’t enjoy. This is not because of any of Wells novels that I read before being un-enjoyable. In fact Wells is one of my favourite adventure writers from his time. My initial apprehension about reading this novel probably had something to do with other people talking about it. I’m pretty sure friends and family had read this novel before and told me that they didn’t quite understand it or that there were different things about it they didn’t enjoy. However I found myself riveted by the story. Especially considering how short the novel is, it had more than enough going on to keep my interest for the time it took me to read it.

Goodreads Blurb:

So begins the Time Traveller’s astonishing firsthand account of his journey 800,000 years beyond his own era—and the story that launched H.G. Wells’s successful career and earned him his reputation as the father of science fiction. With a speculative leap that still fires the imagination, Wells sends his brave explorer to face a future burdened with our greatest hopes…and our darkest fears. A pull of the Time Machine’s lever propels him to the age of a slowly dying Earth.  There he discovers two bizarre races—the ethereal Eloi and the subterranean Morlocks—who not only symbolize the duality of human nature, but offer a terrifying portrait of the men of tomorrow as well.  Published in 1895, this masterpiece of invention captivated readers on the threshold of a new century. Thanks to Wells’s expert storytelling and provocative insight, The Time Machine will continue to enthrall readers for generations to come.

Image of the time machine from Expedition News

While this is by no means a novel I disliked, it does make me slightly uncomfortable that the working class is turned into such a villainous antagonist. Being forced to live underground by the upperclassmen, these Morlocks become these monstrous creatures harkening almost to Gollum from Lord of the Rings. If it’s not bad enough that they’re such grotesque creatures who are prone to stealing and skulking around in the dark, they’re put into even worse light by being made into cannibals though an argument can be made that it’s not cannibalism since the human race has split so evenly down the middle. And yet here I am, still uncomfortable with it, and not in the way I believe Wells was going for.

Image of a Morlock from Austin Smith

Like many of Wells’ stories, the characters are not very well developed. These are adventure stories and Wells seems focused on the action and wonder more than the people who inhabit his worlds. JESSICABOOKWORM, in another review of this novel, brings up an interesting point about how the explorer could be Wells’ commentary on English explorers who paid little mind to the cultures they were imposing on. I find this an intriguing idea, especially since The Time Traveler, as our protagonist is referred to, spends more time thinking of his own worries and problems than the consequences of his actions. Not to give too much away but he does cause some deaths to happen–and he doesn’t appear to learn anything from it.

It should be remembered, as all Wells’ novels tend to be, the this is not a novel that is built on scientific findings. This is part of the reason Jules Verne and Wells had such a rivalry–Verne prided himself at having scientific explanations for everything while Wells just wanted to write a fun adventure. And that’s what this should be taken as: a fun escape from your reality for about a hundred pages and not a something with any real substance (at least where the science is concerned).

I personally don’t mind this (and not just because I find Verne’s novels a bit dry) because I pick up a science fiction novel to be dazzled and not to be taught. I love science and learning about it but I like my novels to be an escape for my brain from all the thinking I do in the rest of my life. And for a little while I got to poke my head into a possible future, even if it was a future that left something to be desired.


Rating: 3 out of 5.

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