Geoffrey Fox's Reviews > The Time Machine

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
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In his London bachelor quarters, a well-to-do amateur inventor and mechanics enthusiast astounds his friends with a tiny working model of what he describes as a time machine, which when a little lever is adjusted slightly, vanishes — into the future, according to the host. A week later, some of these same friends and others return for a second dinner, but when the host returns late, he looks haggard and his clothes are torn. He has, he tells them, journeyed on his machine (the full-sized model, like a stationary bicycle with special levers) far into the future — to 802,701 AD — when London no longer exists but in its place are strange ruins inhabited by a gentle, listless, indolent race of little people called the Eloi, who do no work and seem to make no special effort at all but are well-clothed and fed. He eventually discovers that underground lives another race of much more enterprising and savage little people, the Morlocks, who presumably manufacture the clothing and other necessities of the Eloi and ghost-like emerge at night to snatch some of them to carry back underground and cook and eat them. Such is the distant future of the division of London's social classes, the ever more indolent and incapable aristocracy and upper bourgeoisie, and the ever more savage laboring poor on whom they come to depend. This is not the first time-travel fantasy (see Wikipedia Time Travel in Fiction) nor even the first to claim a mechanical conveyance, but is the one that has inspired more imitators. The characters are exceedingly simple, the dialogue is completely monotone and the physical descriptions are also very simple, but the one thing this little book has going for it is its stimulating concept, time travel.

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Reading Progress

February 19, 2012 – Shelved
Started Reading
February 20, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by Dirk (new)

Dirk One of the most interesting things to me about The Time Machine is that as far as I can discover it is the 1st time travel story in human literature. There is an argument for a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, but it is framed as a dream. How is it that in 3000+ years of recorded literature it was never done before?

Geoffrey Fox Really? I'm surprised. Didn't anyone imagine traveling into the past before that? I guess not, unless we consider the encounters with ghosts in the Underworld (Virgil, Dante) or the bedroom (Dickens in "A Christmas Carol"), which is a kind of time travel. I'll try to write a brief review of this very brief book, maybe tomorrow. Our reading club is now reading a novel largely inspired by it, El mapa del tiempo by Palma, which is why I just re-read Wells' story.

Geoffrey Fox I just looked this up. See the heading "Early stories featuring time travel" going back to the Mahabharatha and Talmud.

Closer to home, there's Rip Van Winkle, but the Wikipedia article has more interesting examples, including a British 12th century tale, etc.

message 4: by Dirk (new)

Dirk Fascinating. Most of the early material is one variation or another on the notion that someone who stays 7 days and fairyland, passes 7 years on earth etc. That is a little different from what's going on in Wells where our hero can move from point to point in time that will. It leaves out one of the most amazing science fiction stories I know, by EM Forster (of all people) called The Machine Stops. Written in 1909, that is before not only computers that most of what we would call technology, it takes place in a future world where people live in little pods and a world mechanism supplies their needs. They communicate by device that greatly resembles an iPad.

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