These past few days I have been reading a collection of science fiction stories by H.G. Wells.
So far I have completed two, and am on to the third one. The first one is The Time Machine, which is what I will be reviewing today.
I must say that these are rather curious stories.
I had heard that Wells’ science fiction novels were classics and some of the best, and I wanted to read them; so when I saw a six-in-one hardback edition of his novels for $15, I bought it.
And at first I was not very impressed.
The Time Machine began well; describing a mysterious, hectic experimentalist in the late 1800s who was attempting to create a time machine. This man tries to explain his theories to a small audience (which doesn’t, of course, always understand him), and then shows them his new time machine. He then goes on an adventure in his machine to test it, and tells of his journey upon his return.
The beginning of the book and its premise were interesting and rather likable. I would also say that the style of this book, and the style of C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet trilogy, are very similar. Perhaps Lewis based his book’s style off of Wells’.
However, while I did enjoy Out of the Silent Planet–even though it takes a little bit to get into–this book just didn’t seem as good. When the Time Traveler travels 800,000 years into the future, he enters into a future earth where the “upper world” is beautiful, but the humans have mentally degraded to the extent that they can barely speak, and have the demeanor and attitude of cute puppies. The society is apparently socialistic–everyone has equal housing (which though they were mansions, are now ruins) and clothing. But there is no form of government or creativity in this society; just these small, chittering creatures, dancing in the daylight in their nice robes and doing nothing else except eat and sleep.
In the “lower world” is an extensive tunnel system of servant-like creatures, who are another form of degraded humanity; but this time they look like white, furless monkeys, who have even less of the mental ability than the “upper-world” creatures. These “white monkeys” live in the dark, are mostly blind, and have turned to the cannibalism of their upper-world fellows, as their underworld food supply had been used up.
Wells certainly writes these creatures well; making you sympathetic to the small, delicate upper-world creatures, and fearful of the dark and the accompanying blind under-world creatures. He communicates this fear very well, even though he never clearly states the fear. It is through the empathetic fear of the upper world creatures and the terror of the time traveler’s experience with the lower creatures that the reader feels this fear.
However, I did not connect with this story, and it was outright strange and weird to me. Yes, science fiction will have–and is free to have–weird and disgusting elements in it, but this book was a little too weird for my taste, and a little too dry or over-descriptive. And the ending was abrupt–a simple mention that the time machine broke during a second attempt at time traveling, and the traveler hasn’t been seen for the past 3 years; presumably trapped in whatever time he traveled to.
As for the historical element–while this book seemed to be set in the late 1800s or early 1900s in London, it never said so. It is left to the reader to guess. I liked the slightly historic atmosphere, but I can not say if it is accurate or realistic (as again I don’t know its setting). If you are a history person, please read the book and tell me what you think!
So overall, I would rate this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. While the fear and mystery elements were well-written, it was too dry, too weird, and had too abrupt of an ending for my taste.
(Also, why does all science fiction have to go forward thousands of years into a depraved and degraded society? I’m not asking for a perfect society, but I’d like something unique. Maybe a future where everything’s the same. Maybe a science fiction novel that goes back in time. Maybe something that’s not all about aliens.)
Even though this book wasn’t personally my favorite, I recommend that you pick it up and try it out. Perhaps you end up enjoying it, or coming out with a new perspective. Leave your thoughts on the book (and/or this review) in the comments below!
Have you read The Time Traveler or another book by H.G. Wells? What was your favorite book by him? Do you have a favorite science fiction book/series? Let me know in the comments or via email!
Have a good week, and God bless!
2 thoughts on “A Book Review: The Time Traveler”
I believe this book got turned into a movie? Because I’ve watched something eerily similar to what you’re describing. The book sounds rather dry, something I have a problem with. I most likely won’t read it, so thanks for the review!
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Interesting. I’ll have to look that up.
And yes—while most classics are “dry” and can get away with it, this one just didn’t “click” with me.
I will admit, like all classics it has areas and topics that are still applicable. But drawing those topics out and discussing them might be one of the few bright things that I would enjoy about the book.
It’s still a good book, though. I’ll probably reread it in the future to see if my opinion has changed on it.