I’ve started buying books again lately. There’s something so much more satisfying about owning a book and reading it at your own pace, compared to having 3 weeks to blast through something before returning it. But, if I bought all the books I want to read, I’d be in serious debt and have to live in a fort made from them.
So, to the library I must go.
This month, as I have new books to read already, I picked up a relatively short novel that I’ve been meaning to get a hold of for years; The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.
When I was “revising” for my GCSE’s (well over a decade ago), I would spend my mornings watching whatever classics were showing on TCM. This was how I was introduced to many of my favourite films (I Was a Male War Bride, Funny Girl, Rear Window) and where I stumbled upon the movie, based on the book. I immediately loved it.
Based on this, I had high hopes for the 99 page epic.
The Time Machine is the first hand account of a time traveller’s journey 800,000 years in to the future, when the earth is dying and two races dominate the planet; the Eloi and the Morlocks. Basically, the time traveller buggers around in the future, tells his story to a few friends, then does one and is never heard from again.
First published in 1895, the concepts are dated, but this was to be expected. However, it’s not as out of touch as one might think. The idea of the humanoid Morlocks, hunting a less evolved race, is something we’ve seen in Planet of the Apes already – only, with a species we recognise. Evolution is inevitable and it doesn’t feel so far-fetched that humans will eventually be wiped out by something much more advanced. But I imagine it would take longer than 800,000 years to even begin.
To borrow the phrase from Ex Machina director, Alex Garland, the idea of time travel is “10 minutes from now”. In that, if a huge company announced they’d created a time machine, we’d be surprised but not that surprised. Yet, for the 1800s, its was a pretty out-there idea.
I found the language and writing style a bit of a chore. I’ve read many novels from the Victorian era but there is something about Wells’ writing that made it much more time-consuming to grasp than say, Charlotte Bronte or George Eliot. I’m not sure why. The sentences and paragraphs are constructed in a readable way and it makes sense to me – however, I kept having to go back and re-read certain lines to make sure that I had taken them in. It quickly became annoying. As well as this, some of the words Wells uses are no longer commonplace, or are obsolete in modern society, which only added to any brief confusions. For example, this is the very first line of the book:
“The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us”
I literally had to stop and think about this one. I’d never once heard those two words. Expounding is to present and explain. Recondite means a little known subject. This is a round about way of saying the Time Traveller was explaining something they didn’t quite understand.
The characters also did little to interest me. The nameless time traveller was a bore and Weena, the lovely Eloi, is typically one-dimensional. Which is hardly a surprise given the time. Women were hardly an afterthought in many works of the era, and this was no exception to the rule. The Morlocks were the most interesting aspect of this book, but even they did little to hold my attention.
No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t garner any real enthusiasm when it came to reading The Time Machine and it was a real pity, considering how long I’d been waiting. I finished it in just over a week, with what felt like a ton of perseverance. I didn’t really enjoy it, but it wasn’t a bad book. It’s just not for me.