Friday, September 06, 2013

Fiction Review: The Time Machine

For the last several years, I have wanted to read more of the classics that I somehow missed in school or since, and that goal fit in perfectly with the Those Books I Should Have Read 2013 Reading Challenge. I also love novels with a time travel plot, so I don’t know how I missed reading H.G. Wells’ classic, The Time Machine, for so long. When I saw a new audio production had been recently released, I knew it was just the thing for me. My husband and I listened to it together over the course of several car trips this summer, and we both thoroughly enjoyed it!

The basic plot of The Time Machine is quite simple. A gentleman scientist living near the turn of the century invents a machine capable of traveling through time with its passenger able to control when it stops. The scientist tests out his invention, moving more than 800,000 years into the future. There he finds the Eloi, a race of small humans, living peacefully and contentedly among meadows, forests, and very old, crumbling buildings. The people live on a simple diet of mostly fruit and seem to have no purpose in life and no challenges to solve, though the scientist later discovers another race, the menacing Morlocks, that live underground and prey on the Eloi at night. The scientist has many adventures and encounters plenty of danger while exploring this world, but he eventually makes it back to his own time.

The whole story is told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator who simply refers to the scientist as the Time Traveller. He’s a frequent guest at the Time Traveller’s home for dinner, where he hears of this fantastic invention and, later, the amazing journey. The rest of the dinner guests think that the Time Traveller has made the whole story up, though the narrator is more inclined to believe him.

I was fascinated by the details of Wells’ imagined far future world. For a time, many future-predicting books presumed that humanity’s ever-advancing technology would someday produce a utopia of sorts. More recently, dystopia is all the rage, with most futuristic novels imagining a devastated and doomed earth, created by man’s ever-increasing greed and consumption. Wells wrote this novel (originally published as a serial) way back in 1895, and the future world he foresaw was one where humans have created such a perfect society that eventually, they evolved to a race that no longer needed intelligence or strength because there were no challenges left to solve (granted, this is 800,000 years into the future, much further than most authors delve). I read that Wells was a socialist, so perhaps this was his view of socialist perfection.

Of course, the novel later reveals that this new world is not as perfect as it first seems. There is plenty of action and suspense here, as the Time Traveller and his Eloi friend, Weena, explore the future world and strive to stay safe from the Morlocks (now I understand why Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory TV show has nightmares about Morlocks!) I enjoyed listening to Wells’ imaginative descriptions and adventures, but what I most liked was the thought-provoking nature of the novel, as I tried to imagine how Wells came to this unusual interpretation of the future. It was fun listening to this classic along with my husband; now I want to see the movie adaptation!

Listening Library

Listen to a sample:

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