annotation by Philip Barragán
In his first novella, Wells introduces the reader to a time machine capable of carrying the passenger to the distant past or future. The Time Machine: An Invention is a premier speculative fiction novella that examines human nature and evolution of the human species through the unnamed protagonist, the Time Traveler.
In the story, the Time Traveler travels to the future in the year 798,000 where he encounters two species of human beings; the Eloi and the Morlocks. One species, a simple minded childlike people live above ground playing in the sun while their counterparts, the Morlocks, live underground while making the clothes and providing food for them by leaving it on the tables of the Eloi in the middle of the night. Additionally, the Morlocks use the Eloi as their cattle and their food source.
Many literary critics have viewed the two species as a representation of English society; the lower class and the upper class. Others have viewed the story as a commentary on technology from a Victorian frame of reference. And yet others view the novel as one of the premier Steampunk novels, a genre that embraces the concept and value of steam-powered machinery versus electronic machinery.
Wells has described the novel as an “undergraduate” level work in his commentary on his younger writing. However, the novel stands on its own merit. The language is smart and inviting while the dialogue is realistic and engaging. The descriptions are lush yet not overdone providing the reader with a vivid picture of his futuristic world. And the plot is interesting and surprising without being trite or preachy.
As a writer, I felt inspired by The Time Machine. As an example of the truth in fiction, it can be read on many levels. In the middle of the story, I looked-up from the pages and realized Wells was telling me things about his thoughts about humanity, whispering in my ear about his hopes, fears and hope (or lack thereof) for humanity.
Speculative fiction often portrays the worst case scenario that an author can possibly imagine. It makes the point, even for those who need to be pounded on the head a few times. Do you get it? Don’t you get it yet? And whether it’s subtle or on the nose, Spec Fic takes us down that path of asking “what if.” And maybe all fiction asks that question from a storyteller’s point of view. But in the worlds of Spec Fic, the canvas allows the writer to stretch his imagination and use broad, deep strokes; sometimes out of this world and out of this time, but the genre can handle it.
The Time Machine: An Invention is a worthwhile read that borders on the boundary of science fiction and speculative fiction. It is a brief read that packs a lot of story into a mere one hundred pages while giving the reader a lot to think about. Even after one hundred years, The Time Machine: An Invention holds its own among many stories that have tried to capture the essence of H.G. Wells first novella.