This novel was brought to us by a man who wrote his own epitaph: “God damn you all, I told you so.”

General Information

Title: The Time Machine

Author: H.G. Wells

Original Publication Date: 1895

(Copyright expired: purchase info omitted because cheap copies are available from several publishers.)

Premise

A man builds a time machine and travels to 802,701, a year in which mankind has evolved into the ultimate ruling class and slave races.

High Point

Reading his description of time as a dimension a full ten years before Einstein published his theory. It’s a beautiful example of why science fiction deserves serious attention.

Low Point

The Time Traveller’s reaction to Weena’s experience in the woods.

The Scores

This has some very original elements. It’s not the first time travel story, but it’s the first hard sf attempt I know of. It’s also a very early dystopia, and the explanation of time as a dimension shows some very deep thought from scientific and story-telling perspectives. I give it 5 out of 6.

The imagery is an odd mix. The worlds of the future, general Eloi and Morlock physiology, and geography are well described, but the individual characters lack definition. The main character doesn’t even have a name! I give it 4 out of 6.

The story has a weak and convenient ending, but it was otherwise well done. It was primarily a vessel for social commentary, as we’ve learned to expect from Wells. I give it 4 out of 6.

The characterization is a bit weak. The narrator and the Time Traveler are the only two that seem like complete characters, but neither is very deep. Weena is one of the only two characters with names. I give it 3 out of 6.

The emotional response is uneven. The Morlock meals, and the shift from the utopian story to the dystopia were both effective. The Time Traveler’s surprisingly uncaring reaction to Weena’s experience in the woods is rather jarring. I give it 4 out of 6.

The editing is nicely done. It covers what’s needed, and is far less preachy than it could have been. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, despite its flaws, it’s still a classic of early science fiction, and stands up well outside the genre, too. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, The Time Machine receives 30 out of 42.