Traveling in Time

The Classic Club announced its Classic Club is doing Spin#11 and I came up with The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Wells has been on my TBR for sometime and I was really happy to finally get the right inspiration to read his work.  I got hold of the book and was surprised to see that it was less than a 100 pages; but then most adventure novels of that era were slim reads ( King Soloman’s Mine to cite an example ) and thought it would be an easy read. However I did discover that, do not judge a book by its cover and what appears may not be a true reflection of what is and all those homilies can very much be applied to The Time Machine!

The novel opens with a gathering of gentleman at the Time Travelers house, where the latter introduces them to the Time Machine, which he has invented. To further understand and discuss the machine he has invented, the Time Traveler invites them for dinner next week. The group meets on the appointed day, but there host is missing. While they are about to finish the dinner, the Time Traveler finally staggers in with torn clothes and a bruised appearance and declares that he had traveled to AD 802,701 and narrates to story of the future of the earth. He tells them of two races that inhabit the future earth, the beautiful, simple childlike Eloi and the dark and ape like creatures that stay in the subterranean regions of the earth, called Morlocks. He tells the group how he had found himself stranded in the future and how his time machine had been hidden away and he shares his efforts to befriend these creatures and his efforts to finally get back to his own era, and the tragedy that was the price for this tryst.

The novel is  for sure a Victorian adventure tale, very much in spirit of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, King Soloman’s Mine and such like. It is in essence as stiff upper lip as it gets as the British narrator assess his situation and takes action that would for sure impress Her Majesty, the Great Queen Victoria. In terms of plot construction, the story is very linear and it follows the usual pattern of introduction, discovery, crisis and the end. However the concept of Time Machine in 1894 was in itself an originality and an innovation that H.G.Wells  richly deserves all the credit. The concept of Time Travel though something bandied about very commonly today, was unique concept, when Wells wrote his novella. There is much to be said about the author’s imagination as creates a world of Eloi and Morlocks as well the variations of earth in future that the time traveler stops at before finally reaching back to his own time. There is a sense of dread and darkness and fear in the narrative as well as a distinctly humane tone as the author gently tells us that the creatures of the future are  the culmination of all the actions of the man, partly good and partly bad. The only problem is the boyish adventure tone in which the hustle and bustle of Great Britain meets the dysptopian world. The very English prep school narration seems incongruous with the dark and creepy future world. There are times when the plot sags and there is just too much of discovering this and discovering that….one of the main reasons, why the book lay on my bedside for more than a month after the initial pages had been read!

Overall, its a good novel, but not a great literature. It deserves it cult status because of the uniqueness of the concepts rather than any literary brilliance.


14 thoughts on “Traveling in Time

    1. Sorry…But I just could not muster enough enthusiasm for it…like I said, it was too much of British Prep School Adventure book…but the concepts are unique and it is a novella…so you would not take much time…just have to get started. It is a book to be read atleast once because it was the originator of all kind of time travel cults.

  1. I didn’t read all of your review, because I haven’t finished the book yet. And, of course, now I’ve misplaced it. Obviously it caught my rapt attention! :-Z

    From the little I read of your review, I think that my reaction will be the same as yours. C.S. Lewis loved Wells’ fiction as a boy but later, even though an enjoyment remained, he found his books too simple, calling them entertaining but lacking “the roughness and density of life.” This was my third read of Wells, and I’d tend to agree.

    So I’ll be back to read your complete review, when I find my book and finish! Sigh!

    1. hahhhaaa…hope you find your book Cleo! I think C.S. Lewis is absolutely correct in calling Well’s work simple…. bang on! But I will wait once you find and then finish the book! 🙂

      1. I gave this one a lower rating than you. I don’t dispute its entertainment …. it can be suspenseful, but even that is rather haphazardly done. Your comment about the plot sagging is very accurate. Wells’ points seem to get lost in his heavy manipulated and at times, not so clear, narrative. The Time Traveller is supposed to be admirable and progressive, yet he leaves a trail of destruction behind him that is rather appalling. I know that’s part of Wells’ point, but again, it’s not so clear exactly what he’s trying to say. I’m also puzzled in that Wells, as far as I know, was influenced by Darwin, yet here he seems to be emphasizing a devolving of humanity, which I think is at least outside the scope of Darwin’s theory, if not completely contrary to it. I don’t know ……. I’ll have to think about this one for awhile. Which is sort of annoying …… I don’t feel that the book needed to be so haphazard ….. Wells is an intelligent guy, so to me it just feels like a poor job. Blah!

      2. I thought I had replied to this one…oh! well! I gave it a higher rating, purely for the innovation part! But I am completely in alignment with you….its not a well thought through novel…like Wells lost the inspiration in the middle (quite possible). I have yet to get down to reading Darwin, but from what I know. I agree, Well’s hypothesis seems absolutely in contrary!
        P.S. I know the feeling…giving a book the time, it really does not deserve!

  2. Ah too bad the book wasn’t as exciting as you had hoped. I’ve read a couple Wells books and enjoyed them in spite of the flows. Haven’t read this one yet but I will one of these days.

  3. I just finished reading this to my kids, who were fascinated naturally by the idea. But as an adult, well, it felt like it had more potential than was delivered. Like you said, the plot sagged. Kind of a bummer, but glad my kids loved it.

    1. I think I would have really liked this novel as 10 or a 12 year old. I think the problem comes that as a adult reader, we are looking for something a little more deeper than an adventure story! Glad your kids enjoyed it though! I can quite see them trying to put together a time machine through odds and ends! 🙂

  4. I read this a couple years ago and I felt as you did. It’s unique for being one of the very first of it’s genre but it’s just not great literature.

  5. I tried to read this a couple of years ago and just could not get into it. I’m not a huge sci-fi fan but I feel like I should try just so I can get an idea of the early examples of the genre. I think I was just too traumatized by watching the 1960 film version as a child. Those Morlocks scared me to death!

    However, there’s a really hilarious bit about the movie in the first season of “The Big Bang Theory.” Leonard and his friends buy the original prop machine from the movie on Ebay and it gives Sheldon some terrible nightmares. It’s pretty funny.

    1. I am not much of a sci-fi fan either but I ventured into this, because it was one its first kind. I have not seen the movie and after the book, I really have zero motivation to watch it. The Big Bang Theory episode does seem funny though!!!

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