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January 22, 2008

Book of the Month - The Time Machine

For my first Book of the Month Challenge, I chose to read The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells to fit the theme of time. Despite the fact that I've always been a Fantasy/Science Fiction buff, I've actually never read any H.G. Wells, which nearly destroys my geek cred, considering Wells, along with Jules Verne, is considered the Father of Science Fiction. (At least I have read some Verne). The Time Machine was his first novel, written in 1895. It is a very short, quick read - I think I plowed through it in a couple of hours.

For a brief synopsis - the narrator of the book is a friend of the Time Traveller, who has invented a time machine. The book mainly takes place over dinner, drinks, and cigars as the Time Traveller has his drinking buddies over to tell them of his adventures. The TT decided, for his inaugural time traveling voyage, to travel to the year 802, 701 and see what's happened to the world. Once there, he encounters the remnants of human civilization - the Eloi and the Morlocks, two opposing tribes, one living above ground and one living below. The TT has all sorts of adventures, narrowly escapes being eaten, recovers his Time machine, travels to the end of the world, and then manages to return to good ol' 1895 to give a good evening's entertainment to his friends.

I think one of the most interesting aspect of time travel is the possibilities it opens up. 802,701 is a vast time in the future - it's surprising to even find a human descendant in existence. Human history itself only goes back about 10,000 years, let alone hundreds of thousands of years. This doesn't daunt the TT at all, however, he blandly comes up with his own interpretations of the events that have led to this future society, and is completely comfortable with his own mental and physical superiority to the Eloi and Morlocks (very reminiscent of 19th century British colonialism mentality). Certain events of the book, such as the discovery of 19th century artifacts in a museum, really strain my credulity - I really can't believe that matches would have been preserved over 800,000 years in a broken-down museum! Also, the book very much dates itself in the complete lack of women, other than the helpless and hapless Weena, who can scarcely count as such.

I can't help but wonder how a 21st century person might interpret and analyze this future society, were he or she to find herself there. How would they react? Would they immediately think the division of the Eloi/Morlocks were an exaggerated division of class - working vs. privileged? Would they be surprised to find recognizable artifacts after such a considerable period of time? Would they have packed matches?

All in all, it was an enjoyable read. Wells' description of time travel is particularly engaging, and his depiction of the last days of the planet are rather bleak and imaginative. The book is years ahead of its time, but I believe it doesn't quite hold up as well to the modern reader.

2 comments:

  1. I like your review of the Time Machine. I know want to read it. I have only seen the movie. I probably will read it now. I think I will also join the book a month club.

    I did not think about artifacts still being around that far in the future. I do remember the lack of any strong female characters.

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  2. I think you SHOULD join the Book a Month Challenge - everyone who's ANYONE is doing it!

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