Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (4/5)

The back says: The Time Machine was the novel which pioneered the idea of time travel. The hero’s adventures take him deep into the past and forward to the year 802701, telescoping man’s history and evolution into and exciting journey through the ‘fifth dimension’.

I say: Well, colour me surprised, a novel by Wells that didn’t make me violent.

This starts off in the best of ways, with the Time Traveller (we never learn his name, so I’ll refer to him as T3) discussing dimensions and how many of them there are (a conversation that I, coincidentally, had with my brother just last week), so I was mightily intrigued and excited. The following day the narrator arrives at T3’s house, only to be told by the guests that T3’s not there. During dinner (which, by the by, I think is a tad weird that they’d have when the host isn’t there), T3 returns and tells them the tale of his time travels.

Here Wells started to annoy me with his drab descriptions of time travel and how that made T3 feel. Fortunately, T3 soon enough starts describing the utopia that he’s stumbled upon and the way of life of ‘future mankind’. As always with these stories, things aren’t as they seem and T3 realises that there is a different race, if you will, of humans living underground. In total, he spends 8 days in this new world making all sorts of observations. Due to some serious drama, he is more than anxious to leave, but instead of going directly to the present, he goes further into the future, 30 million years to be exact.

There he finds that the future is exactly what he says other scientists had always predicted, yet he had written off as miscalculations.

I have to say that the writing wasn’t as annoying in this novel as the previous ones, and Wells does an excellent job of describing the surroundings in the year 802’701, as well as creating a sense of apprehension, and later full on fear, when T3 comes in contact with the creatures living underground. Wells also brings up a lot of interesting things that elicit further discussion, particularly this:

“‘I grieved to think how brief the dream of the human intellect had been. It had committed suicide. […] It is a law of nature we overlook, that intellectual versatility is the compensation for change, danger, and trouble. An animal perfectly in harmony with its environment is a perfect mechanism. Nature never appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are useless. There is no intelligence where there is no change and no need of change. Only those animals partake of intelligence that have to meet a huge variety of needs and dangers.’” – p 100/101

So yeah, as much as I was expecting this to have more to do with actual time travel, as the title and introduction had me believe, I’m not disappointed at the turn it took. And the ending was magnificent – right up my alley, for once.

All may not be forgiven between me and Wells, but we’re no longer on too hostile terms.


  1. Great review! What did you read by Wells before that you disliked? I too loved the ending of the book!

  2. The War or the Worlds and The Invisible Man. Reviews to the right. Not sure if I'll read any more Wells. At least not for a while...