1895; 128 pages. New Author? : No. Genre : Classic Science Fiction. Overall Rating : 8*/10.
Is Time really the fourth dimension? If so, can we move back and forth in it, just like any other dimension? Nowadays, this is a major topic in Quantum Physics. But H.G. Wells was contemplating it way back in the 1890’s.
Of course, the big question is what kind of world we’d find by traveling forward in time. Super geniuses hopping around in flying cars? World peace? Or something else that’s a bit less advanced?
What’s To Like...
This is a groundbreaking book. It isn’t the first novel to deal with Time Travel (the Wikipedia list is here), but it is the first one with this topic to be a major bestseller, and it is fair to say it spawned the whole time Travel genre.
If you don’t like books with a gazillion characters to keep track of, The Time Machine is for you. There is the Time Traveller himself (his name is never given), and Weena, his love interest in the far-flung future (802,701 years, to be exact). That’s about it, except for the TT’s present-day companions, and the various unnamed Eloi and Morlocks.
The Time Machine starts a bit slow, opening just as the Time Traveller makes it back to our time, and his friends and acquaintances greet his chrono-hopping claim with understandable skepticism. But as he begins to tell his tale, things get interesting and zip along at a nice pace up through the very end.
The two things that surprised me about the book were its shortness (128 pages) and the political undertone to it. H.G. Wells sided squarely with the working class, and the inherent separation between Labor and Capitalism is the basis for his predictions of the future in The Time Machine.
The main time-jump is the first one, from now to 802,701 years from now. But the Tme Traveller also makes some further jumps, ending up 30 million years in the future. Those “end-times” scenes are powerful. The storyline’s ending (the Epilogue, actually) is superb.
Kewlest New Word. . .
Cicerone (n.) : a guide who gives information about antiquities and places of interest to sightseers.
“At last, hot and tired, I sat down to watch the place. But I was too restless to watch long; I am too Occidental for a long vigil. I could work at a problem for years, but to wait inactive for twenty-four hours – that is another matter.” (loc. 493)
But to me the future is still black and blank – is a vast ignorance, lit at a few casual places by the memory of his story. And I have by me, for my comfort, two strange white flowers – shrivelled now, and brown and flat and brittle – to witness that even when mind and strength had gone, gratitude and a mutual tenderness still lived on in the heart of man. (loc. 1213)
The copyrights have expired on a number of pieces of classical literature, including The Time Machine. So you can download it for free at Amazon, anytime you want.
“But is it not some hoax? Do you really travel through time?” (loc. 1189)
The bulk of the story is told in first-person narrative, which is not the most exciting way to tell a tale. You are assured that the Time Traveller will survive because, well, he’s back here telling you about it.
I read The Time Machine because I have a modern-day sequel to it – Stephen Baxter’s The Time Ships – sitting on my TBR shelf, and it seemed logical to read the “Book One” first. Allowing for the fact that it is “early days Science Fiction” (the genre has evolved considerably since then), it was a pleasant, ahead-of-its-time read, with lots of good points to ponder.
8 Stars. Subtract 1 star if you like your Science Fiction with lots of gratuitous violence and/or sex. This is speculative sci-fi, not Space Opera.