Friday, August 19, 2011

Book Review: The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

Title:  The Time Machine
Author:  H.G. Wells
Genre:  Science Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5 carnivorous albinos

The Time Machine is a classic of science fiction and a pioneering novel in the sub-genre of time travel.  Truly, if one thought of the epitome of a time travel book, this would be it.  Let's take a trip back in time to uncover the novel that sparked millions of imaginations.

The Time Machine, published in 1895, was H.G. Wells' first novel.  The book is broken up into two parts.  The first of which is narrated by a man that was invited to the house of the time traveler.  During the meeting, he describes how the Traveler attempts to tell them all how he has invented a time machine, and how he describes the fourth dimension (time).  The second part is a retelling of the events that occurred after the Traveler went forward in time.  In the second part, the Traveler meets the beautiful Eloi and the horrifying subterranean Morlocks, both of which are the end result of human evolution.

The way the novel is written uses a narrative style that I have grown to like lately.  Namely, a first person account of what ANOTHER character says.  This makes it seem like the narrator may have gotten some of the facts wrong, and that some elements of the story might have been embellished or left out.  The sense of mystery this gives the reader makes reading novels such as these all the more exciting.

The descriptions in this book, especially of things in the future, are very vivid.  The Traveler travels to the far distant future where society as we know it is destroyed and nature has reclaimed most of our space.  Wells' characters are beautifully described as well.  Even the few action scenes keep you on the edge of your seat.

At the heart of The Time Machine are the Eloi and Morlocks.  The Eloi are small, weak, and spend their days loafing in the sun and eating fruits.  Their lives would be perfect, if it were not for the fact that the terrible Morlocks - with their white fur and insatiable appetites - emerge from under the ground during new moons and feast on the Eloi's flesh.  This is meant to be a warning against the stratification of the upper and middle classes that was present event in Wells' time.  He supposes that if they become further and further separated in a socioeconomic fashion, that the classes would eventually split of biologically, and yield two species.  The upper class would become the Eloi and the middle and lower classes would become the Morlocks.

Although this is a satisfying comparison to make, it represents one of my biggest problems with the book.  The problem is that the comparison isn't subtle or hinted at.  On the contrary, the Traveler spells everything out for the reader.  To me, it ruined the immersion when the author basically shouts at me:  "Watch out!  This is the moral of the story!  Listen up!"

Also, whether it is because of Wells' preoccupation with this moral or simply because he didn't consider it, the Traveler never goes back in time.  And although the novel stands perfectly well without it, I cave come to love time travel for the ways in which one can alter the past and present.

In all, The Time Machine is a marvel of science fiction.  H.G. Wells is the real deal - check this one out!

4 out of 5 carnivorous albinos!

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