Jun 3, 2016

The Time Machine

by H.G. Wells

This was a strange view of the far, distant future. It's projected from the Victorian era, where an eminent scientist announces to his friends and colleagues that he has built a machine which can travel through time. They are skeptical and the first chapter of the book is a detailed discussion between them about the nature of time and space, physical matter etc- a lot of it over my head, frankly. At the end of the discussion the Time Traveller (as he is identified throughout the novella) announces that he is going to experiment with his machine. When all the men arrive for a dinner party the following week, the Time Traveller arrives late for the meal, looking disheveled and shaken. He relates a detailed story about where he has been- to the year 800,701 and beyond.

It is a very strange report that he makes. The world he visited is practically unrecognizable. The people he encounters are small, mild-mannered and apparently unintelligent. They seem to live at ease in a world without disease, animals or any conflict. Of course he can't understand their language, and his first attempts at understanding the situation turn out to be greatly mistaken. He's only there for eight days but soon finds out that there is another population living underground- that, in effect, the human race evolved into two very distinct groups. Alarmingly, the Time Traveller discovers that his machine is missing- and he thinks that the underground people have stolen it...

I can't think of another story or premise that shows mankind becoming less advanced in the future. The idea that Wells posited of human abilities becoming atrophied and the entire population slowly falling into decline made sense when finally explained, but I also found it odd. And although the book is quite short, it feels very dense- full of ideas and theories and speculations.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5       122 pages, 1895

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bermudaonion said...

My son loved that book.

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

Haven't yet read a word by HG Wells! But you're right, I don't think I've ever seen a scifi book that has human abilities regressing. The closest I've seen was Canticle for Leibowitz, which has technology regressing at various points in time. But the humans are still just as good.

Cath said...

I don't know... when you consider how many people these days seem to go out of their way to avoid thinking for themselves, it's not that hard to see us regressing. Machines taking over. Hopefully it's highly improbable but...

Anonymous said...

I've long felt that time-travel books like this one should be read like Gulliver's Travels in that they are really comments on the author's own time. I imagine Well probably thought many of the people in his own age were already heading in a downward direction.

Jeane said...

Actually, I had the author's timeframe in mind during most of the reading. I kept thinking about it (nicely reinforced by things like exclamations on how men were limited in motion by gravity- flight wasn't invented yet). Thus analyzing the framework kind of formalized the reading experience for me- I wasn't able to just get lost in the imaginative things the story presented, because I kept thinking too much about where it came from. I probably would have enjoyed it more otherwise.

carol said...

This is one I always feel like I should read, but haven't yet. Of course, sci-fi is a genre I have to go out of my way to read, not one I'm naturally drawn to.