“The Time Machine” by H. G. Wells

“The Time Machine” by H. G. WellsThe Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Published: 1895 Genres: Science Fiction, Steampunk
Pages: 118
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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After reading “Before the Storm” by Marian Perera, I decided that I need more steampunk in my life.  After consulting a bunch of random lists on the internet, I came to the conclusion that I ought to read something by H. G. Wells before delving into modern steampunk, as his ideas provide an inspiration to many steampunk writers.

Before starting the book, I didn’t know much about it.  Yeah, I saw the “Wishbone” episode as a kid, but I don’t think that counts, as I’m pretty sure that I remember Weena being a love interest in that version.

I probably would have read “The Time Machine” a lot sooner if I’d have realized that it was so short.  Clocking in at only about 100 pages, it’s a rather quick read, as Elizabeth mentioned in her review.  Sometimes I think that a book’s status as a classic makes it more intimidating than it ought to be…

The narrator of the “The Time Machine” has an eccentric friend who attempts to convince his social circle that he has the ability to travel through time.  At first he sends a simple device, then finally tries out his own time machine.  The Time Traveler journeys to the distant future and finds, rather than a more intellectual and technological society,  a childlike race known as the Eloi.  The Eloi don’t read or write, and lead a blissful animal-like existence during daylight.  The Time Traveler tries to theorize why the Eloi exist, using his own social theories to try to comprehend the future.  What the Time Traveler doesn’t immediately realize is that the Eloi are terrorized at night by the Morlocks, a subterranean humanoid race that treat the Eloi as a food source.  When the Morlocks steal his time machine, the Time Traveler is forced to confront them in order to return to the past.

“The Time Machine” uses a science fiction story about time travel to illustrate a broader point about social class.  The Eloi and the Morlocks were both descendents of mankind, as the gulf between the workers and the wealthy became so great that they followed their own evolutionary directions.  As we’re in the middle of a major recession marked by growing income inequality, it’s a timely message.  It’s funny how little has changed since 1895!

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This book counts for several of the challenges that I’m participating in.  I’m including it in the The 2012 Science Fiction Experience hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings and the Speculative Fiction Challenge 2012 hosted by Baffled Books.  It also counts toward the Vintage SciFi Not-a-Challenge hosted by The Little Red Reviewer.

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25 comments

  1. You should read “War of the Worlds” next. That book is all about imperialism and eugenics. H.G. Wells was a socialists if you did not know that at this point, most of his stories often illustrate certain aspects of his political beliefs. If you don’t believe me then you should read many of his correspondent letters when he travelled to Russia in 1917. Another good novel by him is “The Shape of Things to Come”.

    Two novels I request you read right now are:

    Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott
    Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon

    Flatland has amusing social class commentary for 1884.

    Star Maker is one of a kind. That is all I can say for the novel.

    I seconded though make it a third novel.

    Looking Backward, 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy

  2. I discovered H.G. Wells in 2011 thanks to books by him on my e-reader. I had always wanted to read him but never got around to it. I ended up reading 2 books by him, though, and now I really want to try and read this one this year as well as War of the Worlds. I hope you continue to enjoy him!

  3. And you should read some Jules Verne — he’s probably just as influential for steampunk (I’ve read Paris in the 20th century, Robur the Conquerer, and Face the Flag in the original French) — the American editions, until VERY recently, published abridged versions even when they claimed to not be doing so. The original Mysterious Island was 200 pages longer than the American edition released! But I can’t keep up the concentration reading a French novel 600+ so I stuck to his short ones in the original language…. hehe

    I love Verne — Mysterious Island is one of my favorites — but obviously his sci-fi experiments are more relevant to your topic.

  4. I can’t believe that I still haven’t read this story, I’m a little embarrassed. I also didn’t know that it was so short. Hopefully I will get to it soon.

  5. You’re SO right about how a status as “classic” makes books seem far more intimidating than they should be! I don’t know how many times I’ve read an intimidating classic only to find it’s short and/or pretty easy to read. (Although, not Dickens–he really is a trek to get through!) Fortunately, I read Time Machine when I was too young to think of being intimidated. I remember I enjoyed it, although it’s been a long time now…

    1. It’s a good story, and I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. 😀

      Some Dickens is heavy reading, but even “A Christmas Carol” is pretty short and easy to read. I read that one back in middle school so many times that I nearly had it memorized, lol.

  6. Seems like everyone is reading this book at the moment! I plan on re-reading it for these challenges this week, and as part of my general H.G. Wells kick I have going on at the moment.
    There’s a lot of other really good short stories by Wells that are more steampunk than ‘The Time Machine’, such as ‘The Lord of the Dynamo’s’, ‘Argonauts of the Air’, and ‘The Land Ironclads’ which take next to no time to read and are very worthwhile.

    One of the things I love about Wells is his occasional timelessness, as you pointed out. He could be a true visionary at times, but also was definitely a man of his own time and swung between being truly prophetic and egalitarian, to being stunningly racist and offensive. He’s a real mixed bag which I think makes him really exciting to read.

    1. Part of the reason why I read it was because I had seen a lot of reviews of it lately, and I felt like it’s something that I should have read a long time ago. I’ll definitely have to read more Wells. I enjoy being able to notice how older authors have influenced modern ones.

    1. The Morlocks are very creepy. There’s a steampunk novel that I want to read eventually called “Morlock Night,” based on the Morlocks duplicating the time machine and showing up in Victorian England. 😛

  7. This is a favorite Wells novel of mine. I also just re-read War of the Worlds, which is also “awesome” 🙂

    I remember being scared of the old classic movie version Of The Time Machine as a kid as well; with the underground Morlocks and their humming machinery… One day recently at my office, several of us were taking the stairs from one floor to another and I guess the door to the “generator room” (or whatever) in the basement happened to be open and we could hear the whine and pulsing of the machinery more than usual. I remarked,”Sounds like we might have a Morlock problem in the basement…”. Only one of my companions chuckled… 🙂

    -Jay

    1. I’m in the process of reading War of the Worlds now, which is exciting. It’s something that I wish I would have read a long time ago.

      The Morlock problem in the basement makes me smile. 😀