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The Time Machine


H.G. Wells

The Time Machine
average rating is 4 out of 5

Classics, Science Fiction, Fantasy

R. Alex Jenkins

The Time Machine is a little bit quirky to say the least and probably the father of science fiction because of its time-travel element and the year it was published in, back in 1895, plus the way it rushes into a far distant future but also old fashioned as focused on a bunch of important men dining on choice cuts and smoking expensive cigars while, suddenly, the main character mysteriously zips off into seemingly impossible worlds.

Imagine what a time machine designed in 1895 would be like, with its mechanical levers, analogue dials and steam whistling out of its coal-fueled (probably) boiler. Basically just an upright seat in an open, oblong frame.

The book is phenomenally forward thinking for its age, including time lags associated with travelling through space, out there for days on end, maybe weeks, but when you come back it's only been a few minutes for everyone else, which means ageing while everyone at home remains the same, a concept that's mean explored in thousands of science fiction stories since.

The book focuses on a future race called the Eloi and how they subsist on the surface of the visited planet, a seemingly useless and weak people who live in lazy and ignorant abandonment, and their mirror image, the evil Morlocks who live in the shadows and physically out of sight under the ground, but who run the industry that keeps everything possible in the background, who regularly pop out onto the surface to terrorize and feed on the unsuspecting Eloi, creating a distinct dystopian rather than utopian atmosphere of horror.

The Morlocks could be the forefather of Tolkien's orcs and there's a definite good versus evil element to this book. It works well.

Although a classic, this is not a flawless read, as the unnamed main character gets his opportunity to explore the sinister depths and reveal the potentially depraved nature of how the Morlocks live, but clambers back to the surface before seeing anything, so we never find out what it's like down there. There is a disappointing lack of plot development because of this. There is also the really weird and almost husband-and-wife relationship between Unnamed and an Eloi called Weena as his little companion, who strokes his hair, sits on his shoulder and dotes on him.

This is a weird book to say the least, with distinct black and white contradictions and past vs future divergences that combine really well, as fine literature that's more and more memorable as you reflect and think more about it.

Overall and although super far-fetched, H.G. Wells writes in an extremely charming and accessible way that's a total pleasure to read. Consider this a science fiction masterclass for the ages and quite wonderfully weird.

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