The Time Machine

H. G. Wells
The Time Machine Cover

Eat the Rich


(a.k.a. The Communist Manifesto, Part II: Eat the Rich) (sort of. just go with me on this one.)

With The Time Ships shimmying up my TBR, it was about time I committed to finishing the 1895 classic, The Time Machine. Years back, I decided to sample some pre-20th sci-fi classics and, along with Mary Shelley and Jules Verne, H. G. Wells joined my reading list. At least for a few pages.

Then I decided to read another Verne, instead.

As with a lot of the early genre writers, old Herbie G has this issue with trusting the reader to suspend disbelief, so his narrator spends a large chunk of the book setting up the premise for the story, rather than just starting the story with an omniscient third party. The first quarter of the novella centers on Unnamed Protagonist explaining the story to his friends (one dude happens to be a writer): explaining the time machine, demonstrating the time machine, coming back from a time trip and explaining his tale over a proper gentleman's feast. Lots of explaining.

That's The Time Machine part. It's incredibly boring. I never got past that part the first time. I thought the whole book was going to be like that.

But finally, Unnamed Narrator launches into his tale of time travel to the year 802,701, where he meets the sweet, innocent Eloi and the evil, mutant Morlocks - a social structure that turns out to be a clearly delineated extrapolation of what Wells expects from the social evolution of industrial capitalism, where humanity splits into two genetic branches: one adapted to the dark underground and machine work (the Morlocks), and the other living above ground and surviving off the labor of those below (the Eloi). Both peoples have degenerated into beasts of low intelligence whose capitalist roles are ingrained, although, by the year 802,701, the Morlocks have adapted well enough to subvert the system, benefiting from the Elois' low intelligence by preying upon them at night.

Had I known that The Time Machine was going to turn out like that, I would've kept reading my first time around. It's not really about the stupid, boring time machine, after all.

I highly recommend the narration by George Eustice to get you through the dry parts.