H. G. Wells – The Time Machine
Length: 122 pages
Genre: Classic Science Fiction
Started: 27 July 2011
Finished: 20 August 2011
Where did it come from? / Why do I have it? Free copy from Atria Books, bundled with the ARC of The Map of Time. (Also a free Kindle download.)
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 16 May 2011.
Time traveling’s well
and good until you get stuck
in the far future.
Summary: His Victorian colleagues don’t believe he’s constructed a time machine, but the Time Traveller returns with a tale to tell, of his journey to the year 802,701. There (Then?) he found that humankind had evolved into two distinct races: the childlike Eloi, who live a life of leisure, free of worry, sickness, or care; and the Morlocks, who are more mechanically inclined but dwell exclusively underground. The Morlocks steal his time machine immediately after he arrives, and in his attempts to get it back, he discovers that the life of the Eloi is not as idyllic as it might seem.
Review: As much as I love the genre of science fiction as a whole, The Time Machine is one of my first forays into its origins. I was already fairly well-versed in its plot from having read the fantastic The Map of Time earlier this summer, but I was surprised to find that the main point of the book was not the technology or its consequences, but rather a statement of Wells’s beliefs about the effects of class division on the human condition. Of course, the social politics are wrapped up in a fantastical adventure story, but they’re not buried particularly deep. I also didn’t find the message to be particularly complex, or even particularly plausible.
But, setting aside the underlying theme, Wells certainly manages to tell a good story. His vision of the Eloi’s world is fascinating, and I spent a lot of time thinking about how things got from here to there. (I particularly loved the scene in the ruined museum.) Once the protagonist leaves the time of the Eloi, he goes even farther into the future, and Wells’s vision of a desolate Earth under a dying sun is nightmarishly vivid. It’s a very short book – barely long enough to qualify as a novella, really – and part of me wishes it were longer, with a more complex plot. The prose, while not as dense as I was expecting, did take some getting used to, but overall it was definitely worth the read. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: It probably should be read by every sci-fi fan, particularly those interested in time travel stories, as a basis of where the genre started; it’s quick enough and with an interesting enough story to win over even the more ardent avoiders of the classics.
Other Reviews: Yup! Lots and lots at the Book Blog Search Engine.
First Line: See the first vocab item below. :)
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- p. 3: “The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us” – dealing with very profound, difficult, or abstruse subject matter.
- p. 65: “I had no convenient cicerone in the pattern of the Utopian books.” – a person who conducts sightseers; guide.
- p. 71: “The place, by the by, was very stuffy and oppressive, and the faint halitus of freshly shed blood was in the air.” – breath; exhalation; vapor.
- p. 91: “And here, yielding to an irresistible impulse, I wrote my name upon the nose of a steatite monster from South America that particularly took my fancy.” – soapstone.
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