Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review: The Time Machine ~ by H. G Wells


time machine

Review by John for The Time Machine ~ by H. G. Wells (1895)

An old science fiction classic that still lives up to its reputation; a delightful read and a trend-setter that was published 100 years before anyone ever dreamt up “steampunk”.

About:    A gentleman inventor lectures his dinner guests about the “fourth dimension”, saying that in addition to length, breadth and height, everything also has longevity. He tells them that he had become frustrated that while things can be moved freely in three dimensions, there seemed to be no free movement in the fourth; so he set out to build a machine that would allow objects to move backwards or forwards in time. He goes on to demonstrate a table-top version of the machine and tells them that he is close to completing a full-scale version that would be capable of transporting a person through time.

The skeptical guests return a week later, and, finding that the inventor is not there, start dinner without him. Presently he turns up, bedraggled, limping and starving hungry, and proceeds to tell his disbelieving audience a fabulous tale of his travel into the far future.

The Time Traveller (as he is called in the story) has ventured 800,000 years into the future, where he finds a gorgeous garden-like world inhabited by the Eloi - small, frail humans who seem to be lacking in intelligence, curiosity and motivation. They spend their days playing and eating the plentiful fruit that grows all around them. He eventually theorizes that having overcome the challenges of nature, the defining characteristics of humans that helped them to advance were no longer necessary, and through gradual evolution humanity has naturally regressed.

It turns out that he is only partially correct. He gradually becomes aware of a second race of beings that could not be more different than the Eloi. The ape-like Morlocks live in total darkness and only appear at nighttime, and they are truly menacing creatures. Surely they couldn’t have evolved from humans too?

As he starts to better understand this strange new world, he becomes embroiled in a struggle with the Morlocks who have stolen his time machine. He eventually manages to flee from them but is flung even further into the future, where he experiences a moribund earth suffering from a lack of sunshine. Finally he returns to his own time, where only a few hours have passed since he started his adventure.

John’s Thoughts:   It is difficult to believe that this book was written well over a hundred years ago. To write futuristic science fiction that is still fresh and relevant after all of that time is a remarkable achievement. Some of the language and wording is a little old fashioned, but the ideas, concepts and vision could well have come from a 21st century writer. Which is actually a little ironic, given that Wells was writing about time travelling! Hmmm.

Anyhow, not only was Wells a ground-breaking novelist in the genre, but he was also a fine writer. The Time Machine is a short story of only about a hundred pages (depending on the book format), yet he has crammed so much into those pagetime machine S&Ss while at the same creating a story that is very easy to read. You have to suspect that most writers today would have turned all of those ideas into a humungous bloated three-volume series. Hurray for the short story format and for talented writers who can work in that difficult mode.

So a great story that is well-written - but it is also very thought provoking. His ideas on potential human evolution and social systems might not resonate with everyone, but they are credible and do make you think; and they do make for a very neat plot. Obviously I like this book a lot; I’d rate it 4.5 stars and recommend it to just about anyone. You certainly don’t have to be science fiction buff to appreciate it – the book doesn’t dwell on scientific or technical details at all.

US|UK|Canada. The Time Machine (enriched classics) 176 pages: Simon & Schuster (June 29, 2004)

Purchasing links are for the bottom cover copy. The edition John read, whose cover is at the top of the post and came with the arc of The Map of Time by Félix J. Palma for promotional purposes. John is currently reading this tome that was published on Tuesday of this week. It is getting some great reviews.


The Map of Time  ~ by Felix J. Palma; translated by Nick Caistor (June 28th 2011) With links to H. G. Wells, this novel is set in Victorian London and also has literary connections to The Time Machine and Dracula. It is translated from Spanish. US|UK|Canada.

Maybe The Map of Time will be John’s first 5 star? As always John will be addressing any comments around this review, so don’t forget to check to follow up box to get his reply.

This book will be included in a variety of challenges – The Steampunk Challenge, Get Steampunked! and The 42.

It’s a three day weekend coming up here for us in the US. I just love 4th of July! John being a Brit not so much. *wink*


Blodeuedd said...

I really should read a classic like this one. Buu on me for staying with present writers too much

John D said...

Hi Blodeuedd,
And this might be a very good place for you to start. It's only ~100 pages - go on, you can do it!

Alexia561 said...

Nice review! Surprised to realize that I've never actually read this one, but know the story from movies and articles. I remember not liking the Morlocks. At only 100 pages, I may have to pick this one up.

Looking forward to seeing what you think of The Map of Time, as it's getting great buzz!

John D said...

Hi Alexia,

Thanks for the nice words. If you do read it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I can report that I'm over 100 pages in to The Map of Time and so far it's looking pretty darned good. It's a nice mixture of fascinating real-life events, fiction and some good writing. The book has over 600 pages so there's a long way to go, but so far, so good. Cheers,


ediFanoB said...

I never read The Time Machine. I know the movie from 1960.
I was totally surprised when I read that the story is only 100 pages long!!

Now I look forward to your review of The Map of Time.

John D said...

Hi Edi,

Funnily enough I had read the Time Machine before (many years ago in my student days) and I'd totally forgotten that it was so short.

Anyhow, another 40 pages of The Map of Time read since my earlier comment, and it's still looking good!


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