Mini Review: The Time Machine by HG Wells

The Time Machine
HG Wells

Public Domain (1888)
112 pages
Science Fiction / Classic

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Anybody that’s been around for a while has a good idea of what The Time Machine is about: an inventor from Victorian days builds a time machine and travels into the future, finding a culture drastically different than his own. It’s far more simplistic than I’d thought as I went into it, but I suppose that makes sense with it being barely over 100 pages. The entire thing is told as a recollection of the time traveler being heard by the narrator, a cynic who thinks it’s all a fancy made-up story. This type of narration creates a disconnect between the action of the story and the audience, so it made it very difficult for me to really get into the story.

Because this is a classic story from the 19th century, I really had to put on my English major hat for certain sections and still had to use the dictionary in my Kindle, but it’s nice to read a challenging book after the fluff of YA I’ve mostly been reading lately. Wells fills the story with a lot of philosophical arguments and ruminations on the future of humanity, and what makes us human. It gets a little heavy at times, considering the action in the story is limited. It definitely has the same slow-burn pace that most stories of that era had, which could make it difficult to modern audiences who haven’t had much exposure to classics.

The best part about reading The Time Machine, other than finally knocking it off my To-Be-Read list, is seeing all the small things that have become staples of the science fiction genre. Wells was probably the first steampunk writer, and a lot of elements – from the reaction and relation to new “alien” races to the type of technology – might even come across as trite these days though it was all brand new back then. It’s fascinating to think how a story that seems so simple to us might have been received as crazy during its own time. It’s nice to finally have The Time Machine first hand in my own literary vocabulary.