The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

Read: 19 January, 2013

The use of describing a fictional land to make a political or philosophical point is nothing knew – after all, that’s how Atlantis got its début. Later, during the Age of Exploration, the explorer’s tale was combined with this fictional land device, giving us books like More’s Utopia and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, in which a seafaring explorer happens upon magical lands – each of which teaches us a lesson about ourselves and our society (and what these could be or become).

In The Time Machine, Wells modernises the premise, giving his protagonist a time machine instead of a ship, and sending him far into the future instead of into uncharted lands.

There’s no question that Wells was consciously creating a story of the Utopia or Gulliver’s Travels type, but he does it with a wink and a nudge. Over and over again, the Time Traveller makes assumptions about the futurescape he explores and what led to it, only to be shown wrong later and have to revise his theories. As usual, he learns that things tend to be a bit more complicated than they may appear at first (or second!) glance. Even at the end, when the Time Traveller is gone and we are left only with his theories and the narrator, the narrator calls the final theories into question yet again, informing us that the Time Traveller had always be prone to arriving at those types of conclusions, reminding us that the Time Traveller – the lens through which we see the future – is flawed and untrustworthy.

I found it to be an interesting read. Certainly, the injection of evolution into the poli-sci-ism of More and Swift gave the genre a neat new dimension. But I found it to be a bit short. I think I would have enjoyed the novel more if the 802,701 C.E. storyline had been a little more condensed, and the Time Traveller had gone to a few more points in history. Then again, I know what Wells was trying to do, and the book is certainly interesting and entertaining enough as is.

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