Welcome back! Today, I’m reviewing The Time Machine by HG Wells, a classic for sure! This one had been on my TBR for a long time, and I have a feeling that at some point I’d read the first section, as it seemed pretty familiar. I’m not sure when that was, or if I imagined it though. I chose this for my June TBR (and then ended up reading most of it in July…) because, well, it had been on my TBR far too long, and I have a lovely Norton Critical Edition.
If you’re looking for a classic that can double as a quick read, then this is definitely one that should be going on your TBR. It’s only about 70 pages, and my edition has about three times as much material about the text on top of that, which is great if you’re studying it, or just interested in Wells. Science fiction was one of the genres I wanted to read more of this year, and I’ve said that a lot lately, which is great because it means I’ve been reading a lot of science fiction lately!
As a science fiction book, this pretty much has it all. Obviously, it has time travel. It has monsters (sort of), and futuristic humans, and a Doctor-Who-esque mystery. Honestly, if you’re a fan of Doctor Who, then this is probably your kind of book. I could imagine the plot of this being adapted to be an episode of Doctor Who!
Throughout this book, only a couple of characters are named. There’s a mention of Hillyer, who’s exact identity is not really discernible (and nor does this matter), and Weena, the future-human the Time Traveller befriends on his trip to the future. Everyone else is identified purely by their occupation, making the characters essentially archetypes. I find the idea of archetypes really interesting, but as most of the characters are merely coincidental, the audience to the Time Traveller’s story, this idea wasn’t built upon too much. In a sense this is a shame, because that’s the kind of thing I would enjoy, but equally, I don’t think it was needed for this story, and nor do I feel as though it would have fitted in the story. This is very much the Time Traveller’s narrative. Our narrator is but a vessel through which we are able to access the Time Traveller. These framed narrative style novels – or novels where the narrator tells a story belonging to a person far more interesting than they – are very common in early examples of the novel (18th and 19th C), as well as more modern classics (think The Great Gatsby), and are a way of telling a story that I really enjoy. It seems to make the incredible credible: we aren’t being told of these exploits by the protagonists, but rather hearing it second-hand, through the eyes of their audience, so surely the story is legitimate?
The majority of this book, then, details the Time Traveller’s adventure into the future. Whilst in the future, he encounters what is assumed to be the future of the human race. These future humans are portrayed in a very childlike manner: they are small, seem to be innocent, and their use of language is far more primitive than our own. The Time Traveller’s attitude towards them did come across as rather patronising, and he claims to have taken on a fatherly role among their society, offering them protection, all the the while more interested in protecting his own interests (reclaiming the stolen Time Machine) than actually protecting the people who have come to trust him. I found the Time Traveller rather disagreeable, and I have to say I wouldn’t be trusting him to go back in time and not screw anything up!
This book was a quick and fairly easy read, and with a fast-paced, engaging plot, I would recommend this to anyone who finds the slower pace of many classics off-putting. While I did enjoy this, it wasn’t my favourite book, simply because I do prefer the slower pace and the more character-focused books! This is definitely a book that’s well worth a read, however, regardless of your usual preferences. The last few books I’ve read have really opened my mind to science fiction, and it’s definitely a genre that I’ll be trying to incorporate more into my reading in future.
Overall, I recommend The Time Machine to any reader, but particularly those looking for an accessible way into classics. The writing style of Wells is very easy to follow, and it flows beautifully, so I promise the book will fly by! The setting Wells creates in The Time Machine is really vivid, and I had a gorgeous vision in my mind of this green, beautiful futuristic world, with the clear rivers and rolling hills just completing the vision.
Have you read anything by HG Wells? Or, can you recommend me any science fiction? Let’s chat in the comments!