|Submitted by Pete |
(Oct 27, 2005)
This rather short novel, just 102 pages in my edition, is so well known does it need a review?
I think so, there must be many people alive today who have only seen the various movie versions which do not in any way capture the sense of wonder that old HG managed to instil into this wonderful story. Perhaps after wading through this review, they may want to read the original.
I first read it almost 40 years ago and I have re-read it many times since. It is not as if I have little else to read, my collection stands at about 3,000 books to say nothing of SF magazines and I keep finding new authors that I want to read and re-read, so please do not think I am stuck in a rut.
The story has all the ingredients of a good yarn, it involves a lost device that no one can duplicate, a journey into the complete unknown, with unexpected discoveries of vast scope, love interest, an implacable enemy, loss and a mysterious ending.
Although written in Victorian times it is still very readable, the language is not too stilted and the ideas he coined have never really aged and are used again and again.
The Time Traveller, who is never named, shows his friends a model of what he claims is a time machine. He starts the model and it vanishes, apparently moving endlessly into the future. The next time we see the Time Traveller, he arrives late and in a dishevelled state to a dinner party he had arranged with his friends and on arrival, and only after eating like a starved animal, tells them a fantastic story.
He has built a full scale version of the time machine and claims he has just returned from the future. His tale involves travelling to a far future where mankind has split into two distinct species, the gentle leisured Eloi and the grotesque Morlocks, who prey on the Eloi after dark. The Eloi are degenerate but pleasant, friendly and child-like. The Morlocks are elusive, ugly and secretive. They live in an unlighted underground warren and kill the Eloi for food. They steal the time machine and so the Time traveller goes into their underground warren and after a fight in the darkness recovers the machine. A female Eloi he had befriended named Weena (purely platonic of course, this was written in Victorian times) is captured and he loses her to the Morlocks but he is able to escape into time himself using the recovered machine.
In his haste to get away, he accidentally travels to the far far future and finds the Earth barely habitable with a swollen dim red giant for the sun with strange creatures evolved into ominous and dimly seen forms in the feeble sunlight. He returns back to his own time and relates this to his friends who are sceptical. For proof he shows them a flower (in winter) that no one recognises. Determined to rescue Weena, he rests, re-equips himself and sets off on the machine but never returns.
There are so many things about this story that I have never lost, for instance the atmosphere created by the abandoned museum he finds and does not have the opportunity to explore. With all its future wonders and hint of strange and incomprehensible machines, it leaves the reader wanting to know more. What could you find in a place like that?
The landscape is littered with ruined and abandoned architectural marvels we never get to explore, and when he arrives at the aged and near dead Earth in the really distant future, here is another understated event with just enough detail to leave you hungry for more. He has created a whole new world with an entirely new ecology, tidally locked to face the sun with one hemisphere forever in sunlight and the other in perpetual dark. What mysteries are here? We never find out, the Time traveller is alarmed by one of the creatures coming towards him and he flees into time again, this time to return home and relate his story.
Because he never returns from his second trip the reader must speculate as to what happened. Did he reach Weena? Was he successful and settled down with her in the future, helping the Eloi to defend themselves against the Morlocks? Was he killed by the Morlocks? Did his machine break down and leave him stranded somewhere? It is no wonder so many authors have tried to write a sequel. Any story that can leave you with all these questions is no bad thing, a pat ending sometimes spoils a good story. So well done HG, a really gripping story with lots still going for it.