As I walked I was watching for every impression that could possibly help to explain the condition of ruinous splendour in which I found the world - for ruinous it was. A little way up the hill, for instance, was a great heap of granite, bound together by masses of aluminium, a vast labyrinth of precipitous walls and crumpled heaps, amidst which were thick heaps of very beautiful pagoda-like plants - nettles possibly - but wonderfully tinted with brown about the leaves, and incapable of stinging. It was evidently the derelict remains of some vast structure, to what end built I could not determine. It was here that I was destined, at a later date, to have a very strange experience - the first intimation of a still stranger discovery - but of that I will speak in its proper place.The Time Machine is the story of an unnamed inventor who tells his friends about his adventures travelling in time. Using a time machine of his own making, he travels to the year 802,701, and the world he encounters is completely unlike the one he left behind. I don’t want to give too much away, but London has become a wild garden, and the earth is apparently solely inhabited be a humanoid species, the Eloi.
This was my first time reading Wells’ longer fiction, and, like his short stories, The Time Machine is absolutely gripping. It was first published in 1895, but the writing itself feels very modern. Of course, in other ways it’s very noticeably a late Victorian story. The conception of science, for example, is clearly a Victorian one. And the book deals with themes that were shaking up society at the time, namely evolution and class issues. (I thought it was so interesting that Wells was Thomas Huxley’s student!)
Social class is very much at the heart of this story, but I can’t really explain how without giving too much away. I thought it was interesting how both the class issues Wells brings up and the ones he does not bring up play an important role in the story. *spoilers warning* For example, which of the two species is the most dehumanized? And what does that tells us? *spoilers over*
Another very nineteenth century thing was the fact that The Time Machine is really an adventure-in-an-exotic-place kind of story, but instead of in space, the protagonist travels in time. I’m really not complaining; I like stories of that kind. But of course, that old contrast between “barbarians” and the “civilized gentleman” was very much there.
I guess it’s not a spoiler to say that after the main story, set in 802,701, the Time Traveller travels even further into the future. I think those bits, unsettling though they were, were my absolute favourites.
I also really liked the way the story was framed. The narrator is not the Time Traveller himself, but one of his friends, who also remains unnamed. The Time Traveller tells his tale after dinner one evening and then… well, I won’t tell you what happens, but it’s similar to what I wrote about M.R. James’ ghost stories. The knowledge of the world’s strangeness, of unexplored possibilities, remains. Nothing concrete is discovered, but we get a glimpse.
As you can probably tell by now, I really enjoyed The Time Machine, and I look forward to reading more Wells. The War of the Worlds will probably be my next. Are you a Wells fan? And if so, which one’s your favourite?
You can read The Time Machine online here. You can also read a chapter that was removed from the book here.
Other Blog Reviews:
Becky’s Book Reviews
It's All About Me
Once Upon a Bookshelf
Age 30+... A Lifetime of Books
Reading Comes from Writing
(Let me know if I missed yours.)