Thursday, August 30, 2012

Raiding the Stacks: The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

Once again I have decided to visit the (public domain) works of H.G. Wells and will be talking about The Time Machine. I would definitely say that The Time Machine is a landmark story in the history of science fiction because it introduced the idea of time travel and the ability to use a machine to travel forward or backward through time at will. An entire genre of wonderful stories, such as Back to the Future and Doctor Who were only made possible through Wells introducing the idea of a time machine, and I'd hate to live in a world where neither of those bodies of work happened. I highly recommend you read this story, even for nothing more than nerd cred.

One thing that really surprised me about The Time Machine was its relative brevity as a novel. The book is extremely concise, but I don't think it suffers at all because of its brevity. Wells does an excellent job of telling the story in a precise manner and doesn't introduce subjects without adequate explanation. There is definitely an open ended feeling to the conclusion of this story, but it serves as a call to action for the reader in the hope that maybe the future the Time Traveller faced in 807,201 CE can be avoided. I would say that many of my readers could easily finish The Time Machine in a day and I highly recommend you find a copy.

Perhaps the most important thing about The Time Machine is the fact that its overarching message is incredibly relevant to the current economic and social anxieties, despite being written over a hundred years ago. As you probably know, the world of 802,701 CE consists of two races, the Eloi and the Morlocks. The Eloi live on the surface world and enjoy a life of leisure, while the Morlocks live beneath the surface and are responsible for maintaining the Eloi's lifestyle through a lifetime of hard work. What is interesting, though, is that the Eloi are little more than cattle for the Morlocks, and while it may be a good life while you're alive, at the end of the day you're still hamburger. Wells explicitly states that the Morlocks are the eventual descendants of the Have-nots, the oppressed working classes who manned the factories of Wells's era. The Eloi, on the other hand, are the descendants of the elite Haves, who eventually have little more mental facilities than children as a result of their idle lifestyle. In our current era of the 99% vs. 1%, The Time Machine remains a highly relevant social commentary as well as a warning to the 1% that the oppressed masses don't always stay that way.

Overall The Time Machine is a short, very easy read and an excellent commentary on the growing economic gap between the rich and poor. Although written over a century ago, Wells's work has once again become a relevant social commentary on our economic structure. Although it offers no solutions for avoiding the future of 802,701 CE, The Time Machine leaves the reader wondering if perhaps the future can be changed by our actions in the present.

- Kalpar

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