The Time Machine by H. G. Wells.

The Time Traveller Explains by Brian Weaver.

The Time Machine is H. G. Wells' first novel, first published in 1895 when Wells was 29. I think so far this is my favourite of his - I've read it before, and since then I've read and loved The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, and The Island of Moreau (well, no - I didn't love that, it was awful, but it was really very good as well!).

The book opens with a quote from Robert Browning's Rabbi Ben Ezra:
Fool! All that is, at all,
Lasts ever, past recall
In it, Wells tells the story of an unnamed time traveller, narrated by one of his friends (also unnamed), who travels from the 'present time' (i.e. 1895 or thereabouts) to the future. It begins with a small social gathering of friends:
The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us. His grey eyes shone and twinkled, and his usually pale face was flushed and animated. The fire burned brightly, and the soft radiance of the incandescent lights in the lilies of silver caught the bubbles that flashed and passed in our glasses. Our chairs, being his patents, embraced and caressed us rather than submitted to be sat upon, and there was that luxurious after-dinner atmosphere when thought roams gracefully free of the trammels of precision. And he put it to us in this way—marking the points with a lean forefinger—as we sat and lazily admired his earnestness over this new paradox (as we thought it) and his fecundity.
The Time Traveller goes on to explain his theory - that time travel is a very real possibility:
'It is simply this. That Space, as our mathematicians have it, is spoken of as having three dimensions, which one may call Length, Breadth, and Thickness, and is always definable by reference to three planes, each at right angles to the others. But some philosophical people have been asking why three dimensions particularly—why not another direction at right angles to the other three?—and have even tried to construct a Four-Dimension geometry. Professor Simon Newcomb was expounding this to the New York Mathematical Society only a month or so ago. You know how on a flat surface, which has only two dimensions, we can represent a figure of a three-dimensional solid, and similarly they think that by models of three dimensions they could represent one of four—if they could master the perspective of the thing. See?'
An illustration of the time machine by Brian Weaver.
His friends, though interested, are not convinced even when he shows them his time machine. He is humoured, and then his friends depart, but the next week when the friends return to the Time Traveller's house for their weekly dinner -
There was some speculation at the dinner-table about the Time Traveller's absence, and I suggested time travelling, in a half-jocular spirit. The Editor wanted that explained to him, and the Psychologist volunteered a wooden account of the 'ingenious paradox and trick' we had witnessed that day week. He was in the midst of his exposition when the door from the corridor opened slowly and without noise. I was facing the door, and saw it first. 'Hallo!' I said. 'At last!' And the door opened wider, and the Time Traveller stood before us. I gave a cry of surprise. 'Good heavens! man, what's the matter?' cried the Medical Man, who saw him next. And the whole tableful turned towards the door. 
He was in an amazing plight. His coat was dusty and dirty, and smeared with green down the sleeves; his hair disordered, and as it seemed to me greyer—either with dust and dirt or because its colour had actually faded. His face was ghastly pale; his chin had a brown cut on it—a cut half healed; his expression was haggard and drawn, as by intense suffering. For a moment he hesitated in the doorway, as if he had been dazzled by the light. Then he came into the room. He walked with just such a limp as I have seen in footsore tramps. We stared at him in silence, expecting him to speak.
Morlock by Tatsuya Morino. 
Eventually, he does, and he tells his fantastic story of how he travelled through time to the year 802 701 A.D. There he meets the 'Eloi', a peaceful society of very lazy childlike humans (so lazy in fact that when one of them, Weena, nearly drowns, none of them bother to save her). He soon learns that the earth is not just inhabited by the Eloi; he later encounters the 'Morlocks', ape-like nocturnal  troglodytes: the paradise of the Eloi is thus contrasted with the nightmarish underground people who come to the surface at night and kill and eat the Eloi. And when they steal the time traveller's time machine he must do battle with them...

'Future Museum' by Brian Weaver.
From past comments I realise that there are some readers who are not fans of the science fiction genre. I'm not a fan myself, but I do like H. G. Wells and this is worth reading, especially for fans of Victorian Literature. In The Time Machine Wells not only explores the fears of Victorian England for the future (a decaying civilisation exemplified by the deteriorating buildings and the sphinx in the story, described as "greatly weather-worn, and that imparted an unpleasant suggestion of disease", and also, of course, the fear of the great advancements in science), but he also presents a Marxist interpretation of the future of social class: the lazy Eloi living in their paradise are the upper classes, and the terrifying Morlocks are the lower and under classes, and the two are in both conflict and consensus - they depend on each other (the Morlocks also look after the Eloi), but from the dependence comes great harm. A dark, but great tale.

And it's a novel that has inspired a great many adaptations - radio, television, and film, and many sequels, spin-offs, and comic books. I've only seen one film version - 'The Time Machine' directed by George Pal and starring Rod Taylor, Yvette Mimieux and Alan Young (1960). I first saw it when I was about ten, and I still love it to this day!

The Time Machine (1960).

Comments

  1. Out of the 3 Wells novels I've read this is the only one that didn't make me violent (the other two are The Invisible Man and The War of the Worlds). This was the last one I read and since I wanted to finish on a high, I haven't touched any of his other works since...

    What I really came to say is that I like your thorough review and that picture of the Morlock :)

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    1. I'm wanting to read more by Wells, but I know what you mean about finishing on a high! I'm a little worried I'll come across a dud all too quickly. Nevertheless I mean to give it a go! :)

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  2. Great review and illustrations, as always. I do love the 1960 film version, since I was a kid; but after reading the book for the first time as an adult, I was a little disappointed that it did not follow the film exactly. Nonetheless, the message is still clear.

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    1. I haven't seen the film for a while - I think there was a few years between me seeing the film then reading the book, so I didn't actually pick up on that. Must see that film again soon... :)

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  3. And then there is the metafictional irony involved in the Wells story: We as readers are always "time travelers" vicariously through the authors' presentations; we either enjoy or despise the journey and destination, but we take comfort in knowing that the "time machine" will always let us return to our own realities. BTW, I have always been fond of the film version with Rod Taylor in the lead role.

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    1. I didn't think about the metafictional irony I must confess, interesting to consider it in that way :)

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