Jessica's Reviews > The Time Machine

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
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Sep 21, 12

bookshelves: science-fiction

I had forgotten how powerful H. G. Wells is as a writer. The Time Machine, short as it is, packs quite a punch.

Wells' focus is on atmosphere and plot more than on character. Only three people in the book are given names (the narrator and the traveler not among them) and none are developed with any great psychological depth. Insofar as we do get to know him, the Time Traveler is not always an engaging individual. He is clever, and with that, arrogant. He is oddly careless about his time machine, leaving it parked unattended (though at least he does the equivalent of taking the key out of the lock). He retains this excessive confidence in his abilities long after it is apparent to the reader that there actually are dangers in the darkness and he really should not be wandering around during the dark of the moon. It is not he, but Weena, his Eloi companion/pet who pays the price for this overconfidence.

However, it is not the characters that make The Time Machine work. It is the plot, pacing, and atmosphere. The Time Traveler's initial enthusiasm for the "paradise" he has found, his reluctant acknowledgement that perhaps paradise has made people degenerate, and then the slow horror as he realizes that this future England is not, after all, paradise, is masterfully done, and the social commentary on class division very cleverly slipped in and quite chilling. There is, of course, the question of whether or not he is correct in his conclusions: The speculation is careful, and, in the novel's context, convincing, but the Time Traveler has made previous firm, confident, and reasoned conclusions that have turned out to be entirely wrong.

As mentioned earlier, Wells uses names sparingly in The Time Machine instead identifying people by their roles: There's the Time Traveler, the Provincial Mayor, the very young man, and the unnamed narrator. This gives the narrative something of the feeling of a fable. It also adds to the eerie quality of the tale.

All in all, The Time Machine is a clever, concise, carefully crafted tale well worth reading--and rereading.

A note on editions: I read my Dover Thrift edition. It's a nice, compact, easy-to-hold, easy to read version. For those of you who prefer audiobooks, Librivox has four different recordings (All free. If you don't know about Librivox already, go find out! It's awesome!), and for those of you who favor ereaders, Project Gutenberg has multiple formats (also free).

Book review originally written for The Geek Girl Project
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