The Time Machine is a science fiction novel by H. G. Wells, published in 1895 and written as a frame narrative. Wells is generally credited with the popularization of time travel by using a vehicle that allows an operator to travel purposely and selectively forwards or backwards in time. The term “time machine” was coined by Wells and is now almost universally used to refer to such a vehicle. The Time Machine has been adapted into three feature films of the same name, two television versions, and a large number of comic book adaptations. It has also indirectly inspired many more works of fiction in many media productions.
Violence: The Time Traveler uses an impromptu mace to protect himself during a Morlock attack. No blood or gore is described. The Time Traveler describes a need to hunt down the Morlocks and avenge the Eloi for being used like cattle, but he decides against it.
Sexual Content: The Time Traveler rescues an Eloi named Weena and she becomes his companion. Weena is very affectionate towards the Time Traveler and will kiss and hug him, but that is the extent.
Drug/Alcohol Use: One scene depicts several colleagues drinking alcohol after a meal.
Spiritual Content: Spirituality and religion are not discussed in this story.
Language/Crude Humor: There are no instances of crude humor. One instance of “d****ed,” which is said by a character in the form of surprised interjection.
Other Negative Content: The Time Traveler realizes that the Morlocks eat Eloi and describes it as a form of cannibalism.
Positive Content: Despite the pessimistic view of the Time Traveler, the narrator makes a point to find the good. In his optimism, he says that despite the eventual decline of society, many traits of humanity — such as gratitude and mutual tenderness — still remain, which makes life worth living.
The narrator introduces an eccentric scientist whom he refers to as the Time Traveler. After lunch one afternoon at the Time Traveler’s home, he and his colleagues discuss the theory of time being considered as a fourth dimension. By considering this, the Time Traveler explains that, much like how matter can move through space, it could also move through time. His colleagues either laugh or show skepticism. Determined to prove his colleagues wrong, the Time Traveler uses all his efforts and resources to build his time machine.
About a week later, the narrator returns to the Time Traveler’s home, where they see several people who work for the local newspaper. As they are waiting, their host arrives, looking the worse for wear. After eating a large meal (as if he hadn’t eaten in days), he escorts his guests to the smoking room where he tells of his adventure as the first man to travel through time. He relates how he successfully traveled to the year 802,701.
There he found perfect, but simple-minded humans, Eloi, who live in large palaces. The Eloi were terrorized by a group of monstrous beings, Morlocks, who live underground. When the Time Traveler’s time machine disappears, he frantically searches for it and is forced to unravel more details about this mysterious culture, and how human civilization came to this point. The more he discovers about this supposed Utopia, the more he realizes that he has come to a very dark time and wonders if he will survive long enough to make it back home.
H. G. Wells is among one of the most notable classic sci-fi writers. The Time Machine is Well’s claim to fame, and for good reason. The story went on to inspire three movies, several spin offs, TV shows, comic books, and indirectly inspired many sci-fi stories. Even though it may classify as a short story, The Time Machine is every bit an exciting tale of adventure into the great unknown that will demand your attention and leave you pondering many deep questions. It is also very enjoyable to see how far the science fiction genre has evolved after more than 100 years.
I would describe the Time Traveler as a pessimist. As he explores the future human civilization, he often describes his disappointment. The future is not as he had hoped it would be, and he is quick to assume the worst when analyzing the possibilities of how society came to be this way. The narrator, however, is a sharp contrast; he is optimistic when he hears the journey through time and is inspired by the prospect that human qualities, such as gratitude and mutual tenderness, are still very strong. This discovery, in his eyes, is what makes life worth living. I believe that it’s because of this contrast that the author purposefully left the story open-ended. The reader is free to interpret the future with either appreciation or animosity.
If you enjoy stories that have you ponder philosophical questions, leave you in suspense, and give you the option to interpret them however you please, this is an excellent book to read.
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+ Excellent introductory book into the scifi genre. + A short read with a great storyline. + A thought provoking story and ending.
- Story tends to drag at times from detailed descriptions of environment and inner monologue. - While the story is an amazing classic, the conflict and mystery isn't introduced until several chapters in. - As with most older books, the language use and writing style of the time period are sometimes confusing.
The Bottom Line
The Time Machine is a timeless sci-fi that helped pave the way for the genre's popularity. It's an amazing short story that everyone should read at least once in their life.