#16 – The Time Machine Review – H.G. Wells

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Although it clocks in at less than 150 pages long, H.G. Wells’ is still one of the most influential Science Fiction novels ever written. Not only was it the first book to popularize the notion of time travel, it was also one of the first works to help bring the genre of Sci-Fi to mainstream fiction fans. Along with Jules Verne, Well is considered to be one of the founding fathers of Science Fiction and The Time Machine is one of his best known works. The novel is also known as one of the first examples of the Dying Earth sub-genre, in which events usually take place in a distant future where the Earth (or even the Universe) is seen in a state of advanced decline.

The Time Machine Summary

The main character in the book (referred to only as The Time Traveler) is a scientist and inventor in England who has been able to construct a machine that will allow him to travel back through time. At a meeting of dinner guests, the Time Traveler recounts the story of how he first tested his machine by traveling over 800,000 years into the future. Once there, he discovers that society as he knows it has fallen into ruins and that all that is left are remnants of crumbling buildings and overgrown vegetation. Instead of modern humans, he comes into contact with two species: First, the Eloi – a pint sized group of androgynous simpletons who seem to do no work and subsist mainly on fruit. Second – the Morlocks, scary ape-like creatures who live underground and come out only at night. The Time Traveler spends a good amount of time trying to decipher the relationship between the two species (whether it is symbiotic, predatory or something else completely).

After briefly losing and then recovering his Time Machine from the Morlocks, the Traveler then escapes into the distant future (30 million years) where he witnesses events on Earth at the end of its life. As he travels further in short jumps, he slowly sees the decay and degeneration of life on Earth – including the eventually dimming of the sun and the slowing down of the rotation of the planet. After coming to the end of life on Earth, he then decides to return to his own time and eventually finds himself back home.

The Time Machine Review

The Time Machine is a quick and enjoyable read that you can probably get through in an evening. Wells doesn’t dwell too much on the mechanics of the Machine or how it works – and that’s probably for the best – as even a theoretical basis for time travel wouldn’t be discovered until much later. While in some ways it is an adventure tale about a brave inventor who travels into the distant future, it is also a somber vision of the future of man unlike anything that had come before. Where most Science Fiction novels show us a future in which mankind is more technically advanced and powerful (either in a Utopian or Dystopian way), Wells instead posits a future in which the degeneration of intellect and curiosity has somehow caused us to revert back to our primitive ways. And while it may not be as technically dense and complicated as some of the other books on this list, The Time Machine is still a work of great imagination that can be read and appreciated by both Science Fiction and Non-Science Fiction fans alike.

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September 15, 2010

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