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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Time Machine — Book Review

It takes a lot to make the subject of time travel dull. The possibilities of such an innovation are endless and incredibly fascinating. Even a debate over the ethics of time travel offers many interesting avenues. Yet, H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine was a bit of a chore to get through.

The Time Traveler, the only name we’re given for the protagonist, investigates our world thousands of years into the future, and finds the human race has divided into two species — the Morlocks and the Eloi. The surface-dwelling Elois appear to live a life of ease, while the Morlocks are sentenced to a life of toil under the surface. Apparently doing the “dirty work” that allows the Morlocks to live responsibility-free, the Morlocks seem to be on the verge of rebellion.

Clearly Wells’ work is fertile material for essays on social structures, race and class relations, and the dangers of the direction of society. In fact, the stripped-down version of society that he suggests may be on the horizon practically begs to be analyzed. But, for the casual reader, there’s just not a whole lot here.

The device of the Time Traveler telling his adventure to a small group of acquaintances, most of whom have equally “fablesque” names, made it difficult to settle in as a reader. The preamble of sorts to the Traveler’s tail suggested a small, intimate group that was about to be regaled by a fascinating story. But then the text of his story read like a typical narrative, and the occasional reminder that it was being told to a group was awkward. Possibly this is a product of my generation losing the ability to listen, but I just didn’t feel anyone would verbally tell a story in this manner.

The tale itself never really pulled me in. The ideas suggested within the story are very interesting, and the Traveler’s brief trip to the end of time offered plenty of things to ponder. Yet, there wasn’t enough suspense or character development around the ideas to make the reader want to read this particular story of time travel.

The Time Machine might be worthwhile for the true fan of science fiction, but others might find it a bit dull.

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