The Time Machine
H. G. Wells
One of the older sci-fi novels still read today, this short book (which has almost nothing to do with the recent movie of the same name) is not overly impressive. The time-travel motif is certainly a common one in modern fiction, and this treatment of it is simplistic and not very scientific. The book revolves around the adventures of The Time Traveler, who tells his story to a group of disbelieving friends, providing bracket-matter for the bulk of the tale. The Time Traveler travels to the distant future, where human beings have evolved into two separate species, the Eloi and the Morlocks. These races represent the future of the leisure and working classes; the former lives above ground and the latter in caverns below ground, where they have lost all ability to see. The Eloi seem carefree and innocent, but they have lost almost all intellectual capacity, and are in truth ruled by their fear of the depraved Morlocks, who provide clothing and housing for them, then practice cannibalism upon them. After adventures with the Eloi and the Morlocks, The Time Traveler goes further into the future, seeing nearly the end of the earth, when almost all life has become extinct and everything worthwhile has faded away into hopeless, dismal destruction.
As an adventure story the book is all right, I suppose, although certainly nothing impressive, especially compared to the complexity of much modern sci-fi. The thinly-veiled social commentary, besides seeming slightly dated, annoyed me quite a bit. But my main problem morally was the book’s whole outlook on the world — it assumes not only evolution, but evolution unguided by any purpose, and humans as a fading race, fading beyond recognition in this future era after the glorious apex of their civilization. Christianity holds that humanity has both a purpose and an inherent dignity. This book lacks substantial hope. It’s probably too short and straightforward to be harmful, but in its worldview, it’s not uplifting. And it’s not that well-written, either — adequate, certainly, but not impressive.