Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Book Review: The Time Machine

THE TIME MACHINE: The mere fact that a time travel story has been written in 1895 is amazing in itself.

Time travel is pretty much a cliché concept not just in modern science fiction, but also in romance, fantasy, and other genres. It is not really an original theme. However, what makes H.G. Wells’s time travel story very creative, maybe even innovative, is the fact that it has been published in 1895, an era where such a notion is rather absurd.

The story begins with an intellectual argument involving space and time, which suggest concepts that are very interesting to investigate. Even though the story doesn’t present an early conflict, it still remains interesting because of this intelligent conversation, which, after all, doesn’t last very long, for the protagonist proceeds to narrate his escapade in time. In other words, the time travel story is written not in real-time, but is narrated by the protagonist as a past experience.

The narration is very descriptive. It gives the reader a clear image of the future landscape, where the protagonist has leapt quite blindly. The lush imagery makes the story very enjoyable even though it lacks a distinct conflict. After all, as long as the story is developing, a rising conflict isn’t really a necessity to rouse interest. This establishment has been used to introduce the Eloi, an elfin species -- and it is one with a very intriguing origin, for reasons I will not mention here. The only real conflict arises when the time machine has been held into custody by the Morlocks, a species who lurk under the deep tunnels. As our protagonist tries to get his time machine back, he discovers truths that have a very prophetic nature regarding humanity’s future -- and now he is not sure if the place is paradise or dystopia.

The pacing of the story, overall, is very rhythmic. And the only part that is quite out of place in terms of pace is how the time machine has been retrieved. I couldn’t help but feel that this conflict has been solved prematurely, considering all the establishing and the raising of the tension that have occurred. Aside from this, I find the writing style to be fairly problematic, for, even though it has its own style, it lacks a certain magic that can drive the reader forward. The prose is just too bland and uninspired.

But these do not make the book bad. The story in itself is intriguing enough to make up for these flaws. And what makes the story even more intriguing is how it ends. Despite the story’s themes of negativity regarding humankind’s future, it wraps up with a spark of hope -- and, somehow, this has a cathartic effect on the reader.

What makes The Time Machine an amazing book is its ability to give us a glimpse of humanity’s possible future. However, if this book has been published in our new age, where time travel and dystopian futures are not farfetched, it will have no significant impact whatsoever. The real power of this book lies in its age, for it is truly brilliant to realize that it is a perspective from the nineteenth century.

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