The Time Machine
I finished The Time Machine on Sunday, but I haven’t written a review yet, so here goes.
“the huge red-hot dome of the sun had come to obscure nearly a tenth part of the darkling heavens. Then I stopped once more, for the crawling multitude of crabs had disappeared, and the red beach, save for its livid green liverworts and lichens, seemed lifeless. And now it was flecked with white. A bitter cold assailed me. Rare white flakes ever and again came eddying down … the glare of snow lay under the starlight of the sable sky … There were fringes of ice along the sea margin, with drifting masses further out; but the main expanse of that salt ocean, all bloody under the eternal sunset, was still unfrozen.”
The Time Machine vs. The Invisible Man
First off, I have to say that I enjoyed it more than The Invisible Man, another book by Wells that I read earlier this summer. Unlike in that book, this one began by identifying the inventor of the time machine as a time traveler right off the bat instead of playing around with the revelation of an idea that’s contained within the title (as in, Oh, what do you think is up with this guy? He’s kind of weird and covered in bandages. He couldn’t by any chance be invisible, could he?) It also began by explaining the scientific theory behind the time machine, speaking of time as the fourth dimension and so on. I thought that the explanation of the underlying theory was one of the most interesting parts of The Invisible Man, and the fact that this book began with something very similar ensured that it began on a good note.
The Aspect of Time Travel
I also thought that it was a smart move on the author’s part to have his character travel exclusively into the future. He did mention the possibilities that existed if one travelled into the past, but usually in literature (and in theory) travelling into the past exposes one to all sorts of possible dangers and paradoxes: If you change even some small aspect of the past, is the present you return to affected in some major way? What happens if you go back in time and accidentally cause the death of one of your ancestors? etc. Travelling into the future can affect only events that haven’t happened yet, and thus vastly simplifies things.
Travelling into the future also provided an opportunity for the author to engage in utopia and dystopia-type speculation. Yeah, that’s right, it’s both! At least, that’s my interpretation. I actually have no idea what all the literary experts out there classify it as.
What I do know is that Wells takes some time to subtly take a dig at all the other utopia fiction of his time period: “This, I must warn you, was my theory at the time,” he says after explaining how the creatures of the time, the eloi and the morlocks, came to be. “I had no convenient cicerone in the pattern of the Utopian books.” Personally, I do think that the book was more interesting with the time traveler attempting to figure things out on his own instead of having another character explain everything to him. For one thing, it makes his final determination even more chilling.
One thing that must be mentioned is that, because the story was told from the perspective of a character who is not the time traveler, the reader knows that the time traveller will make it back to his own time because he is telling the story after having already arrived there. That being said, I didn’t seem to mind, perhaps because there are further events after the time traveler tells his initial story. I thought this ending portion was one of the best parts of the book; I love the concluding lines especially.
Wells, H. G. (Herbert George) (2009-10-04). The Time Machine (p. 51). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.