The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine was published in 1895, and effectively introduced the concept of time travel within modern storytelling. The unnamed narrator builds a ‘time machine’ – a device to move forwards and backwards through time, and the phrase not only stuck, but embedded itself into popular culture so strongly it has arguably become Wells’ most enduring legacy, of which there are many.
The book is told as a recollection of events, with the narrator explaining his travels and whereabouts to friends and scholars. Although the narrator speaks in first person, the scenes around his story are told in first-person plural, with the scholars themselves passing on the story to the reader as a group. The tale within a tale is the adventures of the narrator as he plunges further into the future, finding humanity in different states as he moves forward.
The book is as much a commentary on society and civilisation as a work of science fiction, and the eventual point the narrator reaches is both utopia and dystopia, with humanity having evolved into both the peaceful and innocent Eloi, and the animalistic, industrial Morlocks who live underground. The clash between these two races, and the fallout caused by the narrator’s arrival, lead the story into its culmination.
There is a lot to enjoy in The Time Machine. The love story between the narrator and Weena, an Eloi he saves from drowning; the violent clashes with the Morlocks; the exploration of future societies and the dark, symbiotic relationship between them; and the extensive scientific theory that explains how time travel is possible, through Victorian eyes.
Despite the narrative being so well known, and the story being very familiar, there is still a palpable sense of tension throughout. Even after a century or more of time travelling stories, this is a ground-breaking work and is stunning in its originality.
Review: © 2016 J A DuMairier
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Originally from Thanet, J A DuMairier enjoys writing and long walks in the country.