The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells, was published 121 years ago in 1895. And yet, ingress77 and I somehow managed to completely coincidentally read it the exact same time. I only mention this, because 1) I found this amusing, and 2) to get in front of any juicy Cannonball scandal. I specifically did not read the other review, so any similarities are purely due to ingress77 traveling forward in time by a few weeks and plagiarizing my review (in what was really one of the lamest uses of time travel ever). Or I suppose it more likely could just be a coincidence. I’ll let the reader decide.
The book opens with our unnamed narrator attending a dinner party hosted by our protagonist, who is only referred to as “The Time Traveller.” Very little description is given for either the machine or the user. The only clues you have to go on are some mentions of crystal, brass, ivory, and that our hero looks like a Jack Russell Terrier.
The Time Traveller explains his theory of breaking the 4th dimension, and even provides a small scale example of his machine. He invites his guest back the following night for dinner, and eventually stumbles into the room in tattered clothes and with bloody feet. After cleaning and changing clothes, he joins his guests and relates his tale of travelling to the future. The remaining bulk of the book is told through him speaking.
He travels to the distant future, the year 802,701 where he happens upon our distant descendants, the Eloi. They are a peaceful group who are excited at his arrival, but quickly lose interest in him.
Things happen, he discovers his time machine has been taken away, he befriends Weena after saving her from drowning because the other Eloi just straight up don’t give a f!@&, they go to the remains of an ancient museum, he discovers a separate race of people, the Morlocks, who live below ground, finds out the Eloi are terrified of the dark and Morlocks, he visits their lairs, there is more drama, yada yada yada, blah blah blah. A tale as old as time itself.
The representation of the Eloi as a carefree race who are content to bask in the sun or run about with flower leis is in stark contrast with the Morlocks, who have evolved to live in the darkness of the underworld. Wells was surely using this as some sort of commentary on social class and socialism in general. I’m not great at reading between the lines, so you’ll have to figure that message out for yourself.
As far as the story goes, it is incredibly gripping, and the shortness of the book (the linked version is 115 pages) makes this a very quick read. By having this take place so far into the future, Wells has managed to make this a timeless classic. Basically, he avoids the “Back to the Future II Problem” by not painting a future where we are eventually disappointed by the notable lack of hoverboards, flying cars, or, most disappointingly, a distinct lack of Huey Lewis as a part of the cultural zeitgeist.
As a final thought, I’ve always appreciated how Wells ended his story. It is very open-ended and leaves the reader to imagine what became of The Time Traveller. It is the sort of ending where in today’s culture, there would already be a sequel in the works. Instead it’s just open. I love that.