“To me, the future is still black and blank — is a vast ignorance, lit at a few places by the memory of this story.”
H.G. Wells, The Time Machine
We all know what a time machine is: an apparatus designed to enable one to travel through the dimension of time. The popularity of time machines has earned its place in science fiction. The term “time machine” was coined by H.G. Wells in his The Time Machine — one of the first stories about time travel. However, this book isn’t the typical science fiction story one would expect with hyper-advanced technology, aliens, flying vehicles, etc. Rather, H.G. Wells wrote this as a speculation of the future — a blend of both utopian and dystopian fiction.
The story centers around an eccentric scientist in Victorian England who builds a vehicle which allows the operator to travel throughout time. It was initially disbelieved by the scientist’s guests upon presentation; however, when one day he decided to recall them for dinner, he uses his time machine to travel into the future. He eventually lands in the year 802,701 AD. At first, the scientist is very glad that human suffering and conflicts have been replaced with peace and happiness. Humankind, nevertheless, has evolved into Eloi, a defeatist and nyctophobic race of creatures, and Morlocks, a savage and hellish race of creatures who prey on the Eloi.
H.G. Wells juxtaposed the Eloi and Morlocks for emphasis on a bleak future. He speculated that there would be an utopia where Eloi live in fear, peace, and harmony that is free of government, corruption, social classes, and other social, political, and econimic norms, and a dystopia where Morlocks live in savagery, darkness, and isolation. Rather than exploiting scientific advancements like typical science fiction stories, Wells chose to satirically contrast two evolved races of humankind to symbolize social classes in Victorian England. In addition, he places emphasis on a future earth to be inhabited by bleak and powerless remains of a once-powerful culture — essentially a world dominated by impotent beings as a result of evolution.
I would recommend this book to people who love science fiction. In reality, though, anybody can read The Time Machine. Weighing less than 100 pages, H.G. Wells’s oeuvre is quite slim. The edition which I read was from Penguin Classics. It features a solid introduction, notes to clarify obscure parts of the story, and a biography of Wells. All in all, The Time Machine has earned itself the popularity which it thrives on today.