The Time Machine - H.G. Wells - New
The book's protagonist is a scientist and amateur inventor living in London who is never named; he is identified simply as The Time Traveller. Having demonstrated to friends using a miniature model that time is a fourth dimension, and that a suitable apparatus can move back and forth in this fourth dimension, he builds a full-scale model capable of carrying himself. He sets off on a journey into the future.
His journey takes him to the year A.D. 802,701, where he finds an apparently peaceful and pastoral society. Upon arrival, he meets a small human people who name themselves the Eloi. The Eloi live in small communities within large and futuristic yet dilapidated buildings, doing no work and eating a frugivorous diet. The land around London has become an untended garden filled with unusual fruiting and flowering plants. The landscape is dotted with large and dilapidated structures, all clearly no longer used save as sleeping areas for the Eloi. There is no evidence of active agriculture or technology, of both of which the Eloi seem incapable.
The Time Traveller is greeted with curiosity and without fear by the Eloi, who seem only vaguely surprised and curious by his appearance and lose interest rapidly. He disables the time machine and follows them to their commune and consumes a meal of fruit while trying to communicate with them. This proves somewhat ineffectual, as their unknown language and low intelligence hinders the Time Traveller from gaining any useful information. With a slight sense of disdain for his hosts' lack of curiosity and attention to him, the Time Traveller decides to explore the local area.
As he explores this landscape, the Time Traveller comments on the factors that have resulted in the Eloi's physical condition and society. He supposes that the lack of intelligence and vitality of the Eloi are the logical result of humankind's past struggle to transform and subjugate nature through technology, politics, art and creativity. With the realisation of this goal, the Eloi had devolved.
With no further need for technology, agriculture, or innovations to improve life, they became unimaginative and incurious about the world. With no work to do, they became physically weak and small in stature. Males, generally being breadwinners and workers in former times, have particularly degenerated in physique, explaining the lack of dimorphism between the sexes. The Time Traveller supposes that preventive medicine has been achieved, as he saw no sign of disease amongst his hosts. With no work to do and no hardships to overcome, society became non-hierarchical and non-cooperative, with no defined leaders or social classes.
The fact that there was no hardship or inequalities in societies meant there was no war and crime. Art and sophisticated culture, often driven by problems and aspirations or a catalyst for solutions and new developments, had waned, as no problems existed and there were no conceivable improvements for humanity. He accounted for their relatively small numbers as being due to the implementation of some form of birth control to eliminate the problems of overpopulation. The abandoned structures around him would suggest that prior to these achievements, the population had been larger and more productive, toiling to find the solution that would make the new utopia a reality.
As the sun sets, the Time Traveller muses on where he will sleep. Retracing his steps back to the building where he had eaten with the Eloi, he suddenly realizes that the time machine is missing. He panics and desperately searches for the vehicle. At first, he suspects that the Eloi have moved it to their shelter. He doubts the Eloi would be capable or inclined to do this, but nonetheless rushes back to the shelter and demands to know where his machine is. The Eloi are confused and a little frightened by this. Realising the Eloi don't understand him and he is damaging his position with them, he continues his search in desperation during the night before relenting and falling into an uneasy sleep.
The Utopian existence of the Eloi turns out to be deceptive. The Traveller soon discovers that the class structure of his own time has in fact persisted, and the human race has diverged into two branches. The wealthy, leisured classes appear to have devolved into the ineffectual, not very bright Eloi he has already seen; but the downtrodden working classes have evolved into the bestial Morlocks, cannibal hominids resembling human spiders, who toil underground maintaining the machinery that keep the Eloi — their flocks — docile and plentiful. Both species, having adapted to their routines, are of distinctly sub-human intelligence.
After further adventures, the Traveller manages to get to his machine, reactivate it as the Morlocks battle him for it, and escape them. He then travels into the far future, roughly 30 million years from his own time.
There he sees the last few living things on a dying Earth, the rotation of which has ceased with the site of London viewing a baleful, red sun stuck at the setting position. In his trip forward, he had seen the red sun flare up brightly twice, as if Mercury and then Venus had fallen into it. Menacing reddish crab-like creatures slowly wander the blood-red beaches, and the world is covered in "intensely green vegetation." He continues to make short jumps through time, seeing the red giant of a sun grow redder and dimmer. Finally, the world begins to go dark as snowflakes begin to fall, and all silence falls upon Earth. In the very end of the Earth, all life has ceased, other than the lichens that still grow on rocks, and a kraken-like creature, roughly the size of a football, that slowly moves onto shore.
Feeling giddy and nauseated about the return journey before him, he nevertheless boards his machine and puts it into reverse, arriving back in his laboratory just three hours after he originally left. Entering the dining room, he begins recounting what has just happened to his disbelieving friends and associates, bringing the story back full circle to his entrance in chapter 2. The following day, the unnamed narrator returns to the Time Traveller's house. There, he finds the Time Traveller ready to leave again, this time taking a small knapsack and a camera. Although he promises the narrator he will return in half an hour, three years pass and the Time Traveller still remains missing. What happened to him, and where he ultimately ventured, remains a mystery.
About the Author H.G. Wells
Herbert George Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946),better known as H. G. Wells, was an English writer best remembered today for the science fiction novels he published between 1895 and 1901: The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, The Sleeper Awakes, and The First Men in the Moon. Wells and Jules Verne are each sometimes referred to as "The Father of Science Fiction". He was an outspoken socialist and a pacifist; his later works becoming increasingly political and didactic. His middle period novels (1900-1920) were more realistic; they covered lower middle class life (The History of Mr Polly) and the 'New Woman' and the Suffragettes (Ann Veronica). He was a prolific writer in many genres, including contemporary novels, history, and social commentary.
Wells's first non-fiction bestseller was Anticipations (1901). When originally serialised in a magazine it was subtitled, "An Experiment in Prophecy", and is considered his most explicitly futuristic work. Anticipating what the world would be like in the year 2000, the book is interesting both for its hits (trains and cars resulting in the dispersion of population from cities to suburbs; moral restrictions declining as men and women seek greater sexual freedom; the defeat of German militarism, and the existence of a European Union) and its misses (he did not expect successful aircraft before 1950, and averred that "my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocate its crew and founder at sea").
His early novels, called "scientific romances", invented a number of themes now classic in science fiction in such works as The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, When the Sleeper Wakes, and The First Men in the Moon (all except When the Sleeper Wakes have been made into films). He also wrote other, non-fantastic novels which have received critical acclaim, including Kipps and the satire on Edwardian advertising, Tono-Bungay. Wells wrote several dozen short stories and novellas, the best known of which is "The Country of the Blind" (1904).
Though Tono-Bungay was not a science-fiction novel, radioactive decay plays a small but consequential role in it. Radioactive decay plays a much larger role in The World Set Free (1914). This book contains what is surely his biggest prophetic "hit." Scientists of the day were well aware that the natural decay of radium releases energy at a slow rate over thousands of years. The rate of release is too slow to have practical utility, but the total amount released is huge. Wells' novel revolves around an (unspecified) invention that accelerates the process of radioactive decay, producing bombs that explode with no more than the force of ordinary high explosive— but which "continue to explode" for days on end. "Nothing could have been more obvious to the people of the earlier twentieth century," he wrote, "than the rapidity with which war was becoming impossible... [but] they did not see it until the atomic bombs burst in their fumbling hands." Leó Szilárd acknowledged that the book inspired him to theorise the nuclear chain reaction.
Wells also wrote nonfiction. His bestselling two-volume work, The Outline of History (1920), began a new era of popularised world history. It received a mixed critical response from professional historians. Many other authors followed with 'Outlines' of their own in other subjects. Wells reprised his Outline in 1922 with a much shorter popular work, A Short History of the World, and two long efforts, The Science of Life (1930) and The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (1931). The 'Outlines' became sufficiently common for James Thurber to parody the trend in his humorous essay, "An Outline of Scientists" — indeed, Wells's Outline of History remains in print with a new 2005 edition, while A Short History of the World has been recently reedited (2006). From quite early in his career, he sought a better way to organise society, and wrote a number of Utopian novels. Usually starting with the world rushing to catastrophe, until people realise a better way of living: whether by mysterious gases from a comet causing people to behave rationally (In the Days of the Comet (1906)), or a world council of scientists taking over, as in The Shape of Things to Come (1933, which he later adapted for the 1936 Alexander Korda film, Things to Come). This depicted, all too accurately, the impending World War, with cities being destroyed by aerial bombs. He also portrayed the rise of fascist dictators in The Autocracy of Mr Parham (1930) and The Holy Terror (1939), though in the former novel, the tale is revealed at the last to have been Mr Parham's dream vision.
H. G. Wells in 1943
Wells contemplates the ideas of nature versus nurture and questions humanity in books such as The Island of Doctor Moreau. Not all his scientific romances ended in a happy Utopia, and in fact, Wells also wrote the first dystopia novel, When the Sleeper Wakes (1899, rewritten as The Sleeper Awakes, 1910), which pictures a future society where the classes have become more and more separated, leading to a revolt of the masses against the rulers. The Island of Doctor Moreau is even darker. The narrator, having been trapped on an island of animals vivisected (unsuccessfully) into human beings, eventually returns to England; like Gulliver on his return from the Houyhnhnms, he finds himself unable to shake off the perceptions of his fellow humans as barely civilised beasts, slowly reverting back to their animal natures. Wells also wrote the preface for the first edition of W. N. P. Barbellion's diaries, The Journal of a Disappointed Man, published in 1919. Since "Barbellion" was the real author's pen name, many reviewers believed Wells to have been the true author of the Journal; Wells always denied this, despite being full of praise for the diaries, but the rumours persisted until Barbellion's death later that year.
In 1927, Florence Deeks sued Wells for plagiarism, claiming that he had stolen much of the content of The Outline of History from a work, The Web, she had submitted to the Canadian Macmillan Company, but who held onto the manuscript for eight months before rejecting it. Despite numerous similarities in phrasing and factual errors, the court found Wells not guilty. In 1934 Wells predicted that another world war would begin in 1940, a prediction which ultimately came true. In 1936, before the Royal Institution, Wells called for the compilation of a constantly growing and changing World Encyclopedia, to be reviewed by outstanding authorities and made accessible to every human being. In 1938, he published a collection of essays on the future organisation of knowledge and education, World Brain, including the essay, "The Idea of a Permanent World Encyclopaedia."
Near the end of the second World War, Allied forces discovered that the SS had compiled lists of intellectuals and politicians slated for immediate execution upon the invasion of England in the abandoned Operation Sea Lion. The name "H. G. Wells" appeared high on the list for the "crime" of being a socialist. Wells, as president of the International PEN (Poets, Essayists, Novelists), had already angered the Nazis by overseeing the expulsion of the German PEN club from the international body in 1934 following the German PEN's refusal to admit non-Aryan writers to its membership.
The Time Machine - H.G. Wells - New
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