The Classic Club announced its Classic Club is doing Spin#11 and I came up with The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Wells has been on my TBR for sometime and I was really happy to finally get the right inspiration to read his work. I got hold of the book and was surprised to see that it was less than a 100 pages; but then most adventure novels of that era were slim reads ( King Soloman’s Mine to cite an example ) and thought it would be an easy read. However I did discover that, do not judge a book by its cover and what appears may not be a true reflection of what is and all those homilies can very much be applied to The Time Machine!
The novel opens with a gathering of gentleman at the Time Travelers house, where the latter introduces them to the Time Machine, which he has invented. To further understand and discuss the machine he has invented, the Time Traveler invites them for dinner next week. The group meets on the appointed day, but there host is missing. While they are about to finish the dinner, the Time Traveler finally staggers in with torn clothes and a bruised appearance and declares that he had traveled to AD 802,701 and narrates to story of the future of the earth. He tells them of two races that inhabit the future earth, the beautiful, simple childlike Eloi and the dark and ape like creatures that stay in the subterranean regions of the earth, called Morlocks. He tells the group how he had found himself stranded in the future and how his time machine had been hidden away and he shares his efforts to befriend these creatures and his efforts to finally get back to his own era, and the tragedy that was the price for this tryst.
The novel is for sure a Victorian adventure tale, very much in spirit of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, King Soloman’s Mine and such like. It is in essence as stiff upper lip as it gets as the British narrator assess his situation and takes action that would for sure impress Her Majesty, the Great Queen Victoria. In terms of plot construction, the story is very linear and it follows the usual pattern of introduction, discovery, crisis and the end. However the concept of Time Machine in 1894 was in itself an originality and an innovation that H.G.Wells richly deserves all the credit. The concept of Time Travel though something bandied about very commonly today, was unique concept, when Wells wrote his novella. There is much to be said about the author’s imagination as creates a world of Eloi and Morlocks as well the variations of earth in future that the time traveler stops at before finally reaching back to his own time. There is a sense of dread and darkness and fear in the narrative as well as a distinctly humane tone as the author gently tells us that the creatures of the future are the culmination of all the actions of the man, partly good and partly bad. The only problem is the boyish adventure tone in which the hustle and bustle of Great Britain meets the dysptopian world. The very English prep school narration seems incongruous with the dark and creepy future world. There are times when the plot sags and there is just too much of discovering this and discovering that….one of the main reasons, why the book lay on my bedside for more than a month after the initial pages had been read!
Overall, its a good novel, but not a great literature. It deserves it cult status because of the uniqueness of the concepts rather than any literary brilliance.