April 13, 2012

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

The Time Machine, published in 1895, is the story of an otherwise-unnamed Time Traveller who invents (of course) a time machine and travels to the year 802,701. There, he meets a race of childlike adults called the Eloi, who live in communal societies, subsist mainly on fruit, and live together in beautiful but slowly crumbling buildings. Efforts to communicate with these people are largely unsuccessful, mostly due to the fact of their diminished intelligence (which the Time Traveller attributes to man’s conquest of nature with technology). They are a peaceful people, however, and they welcome the Time Traveller with affection.

Soon upon the Time Traveller’s arrival, his time machine goes mysteriously missing, and he discovers that the Eloi are not the only race that humanity has evolved into. It appears that sometime on the road of evolution, humanity gradually split into two races: a diurnal, surface living race (the Eloi), and a nocturnal race, called the Morlocks. These ape-like creatures live in eternal darkness underground, and appear to have stolen his time machine.

Now it’s up to the Time Traveller (and his Eloi friend, Weena) to get his time machine back if he ever hopes to get back to London and his own time again. Though he has no weapons and a companion who lives in mortal fear of darkness and the Morlocks, he makes it back—but who will believe his story?

I think you’re all pretty aware of how much I love old-timey science fiction. The Invisible Man, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—I just love the style. It’s technically narrated by a friend of the Time Traveller who listens to his story (a common mode of narration in this time, it seems, or perhaps just a favorite of H. G. Wells), but the majority of it is narrated in first person by the Time Traveller himself. It’s beautifully written, with fantastic descriptions that can make you really see the places he’s describing—and the feeling of the Morlocks’ claws plucking at your clothes…

Something else I really enjoyed was actually learning about the Morlocks, which I had heretofore only heard about in It (Ben always called the sewer pipes in the Barrens “Morlock holes”) and in the TV show The Big Bang Theory, specifically the episode where Leonard actually buys the Time Machine prop used in the 1960 film adaptation, thinking it’s just a miniature model. Of course, hilarity ensues: 

At any rate, this book was fantastic. I would have liked to read it in hard copy form (and might still go out and get a copy at some point) but it was easy and convenient to read it on my iPhone. (And really, anything that allows me to get books for free is a good thing, since this one was free on iBooks.) If you liked any of the books I mentioned above, you should give this one a try; you won’t be disappointed.

4 stars

This review is also posted on my personal blog.

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