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    As with many of Wells's science fiction books, this one is also a strong social commentary. Published in 1895 in book form (it previously appeared in serialized issues in The New Review ), it has been one of his most well-known and popular stories throughout its history. It has been made into both theater movies and television movies, radio broadcast adaptations and comic books, plus has inspired numerous other writers on the subject of time travel.
    The book begins as the narrator along with other friends of various professions, meet for a weekly dinner at the home of the Time Traveller. He is thrilled to introduce a little machine that he claims will travel backward or forward into time. He begins by explaining that time is the fourth dimension, then sets off the little device which disappears in a wink. The others are skeptical and think it's a trick. He then shows them a full-size version with a seat and levers, and explains that he intends to use it.
    The next week, a group again gathers at the Time Traveller's house for dinner. Instructions had been given for the visitors to eat at seven o'clock, even if the Time Traveller isn't there, and as they begin, he finally arrives in a terrible mess. Excusing himself to bathe and dress, he returns and proceeds to gorge himself with food and wine. Soon after, he calms down, lights a cigar, and is able to tell the story of his incredible journey into the year 802,701.
    His first impressions are vastly different from what was expected. Rather than finding a highly evolved, extremely intelligent and developed human in this far future, what meets him are small, frail but beautiful little creatures, pale and pink but dressed in pretty and colorful clothing. They remind him of Dresden china. They seem to have no fear, and laugh at everything. Their language has devolved into something the Time Traveller cannot understand, and they are dull and lacking in intelligence. They eat only fruit, which is large and abundant, and they haven't much energy. They begin to explore the Time Machine, and the Time Traveller quickly remembers to remove the levers that control it.
    Though the scenery is beautiful, the buildings are in a serious state of decay. The huge flowers, which the little people constantly gather for themselves and him are huge, some a foot in diameter, and unrecognizable. There are giant overgrown rhododendrons and other bushes tangled around the building which he is led to enter. They come to a vast hall with low tables filled with luscious fruits, where they seat themselves on cushions and begin to eat. He notices that the hall was once richly decorated, but is now dilapidated, with broken windows and thick dust. After the meal, the Time Traveller attempts to learn their language, but find that the little people, like small children, have a short attention span and soon tire of him. He discovers that these are the Eloi.
    After eating, he goes out to explore, and comes upon more ruins, and meets more laughing little people. Here he notices a strange construction that appears to be wells under cupolas. And while there are lots of large, palace-like buildings, he sees no sign of individual houses. He begins to form his initial opinions on the state of humanity in the year 802,701.
    Though the outer world seems to be in decay, there is no sign of pestilence, disease, or even weeds among the overgrown fruiting and flowering plants. He notices no aged or infirm people and few children, and it appears to him at this stage that there is no longer fear or stress. He assumes that humanity has reached its golden age, conquering all the world's ills, and now, with nothing to strive for, it is in its decline:

"I thought of the physical slightness of the people, their lack of intelligence and those big abundant ruins, and it strengthened my belief in a perfect conquest of Nature. For after the battle comes Quiet. Humanity had been strong, energetic, and intelligent, and had used all its abundant vitality to alter the conditions under which it lived. And now came the reaction of the altered conditions."

    But all is not as it seems, and he soon discovers to his horror that the Time Machine is gone. He rushes back to where it was left, but finds that none of the Eloi are willing to help him find it. In fact, they shun his questioning, and exhibit the first expressions of fear since he arrived. His guess is that the Eloi have hidden it inside the bronze sphinx, whose panels he tries desperately to open.
    The next day he is calmer and begins to explore even more, especially the well-like structures. He finds, to his astonishment, that they are openings to the underground, where machinery is running. It is also soon after that he makes a friend. He observes the Eloi bathing in the river, and though it is gentle flowing, one weak woman is washed away. No one takes any notice of her screams, so the Time Traveller rushes in and rescues her. Her name is Weena, and she becomes his constant, childlike companion. He also learns that the Eloi all sleep together because they are terrified of the dark. And to his horror, he discovers the reason.
    During his several days spent with the Eloi, he catches glimpses of white figures flitting about in the dark. He now knows that much of his original theory about the future of humanity was incorrect. In fact, humanity split off between the Haves and the Have-Nots, the aristocracy and the laborers. And it is the devolved laborers that inhabit the underground, running the machinery. He climbs down into one of the well structures, and is attacked by ape-like, predatory, white beings with large eyes, like creatures that spend their lives in the darkness of caves or beneath the sea. He lights a match and they flee, but soon come back. He is terrified when he is down to his last matches, and, though he dares not even think it, he also knows that the meat he sees them eating is the flesh of Eloi. They are the Morlocks, and he manages to escape. He now traces this split in humanity even to his present age in London:

"Evidently, I thought, this tendency had increased till Industry had gradually lost its birthright in the sky. I mean that it had gone deeper and deeper into larger and ever larger underground factories, spending a still-increasing amount of its time therein, till, in the end—!"
"The Great Triumph of Humanity I had dreamed of took a different shape in my mind. It had been no such triumph of moral education and co-operation as I had imagined."

    This all came as shock and disappointment to him. When he set off on this journey, he didn't think to bring any supplies, like medicine, cigars, or his Kodak. Now he must scramble to get what he needs, namely fire and weapons and a means to enter the panels of the sphinx. And in the course of his planning, he understand the fear of darkness experienced by the Eloi. While it appeared at first that the Eloi are keeping the Morlocks to do their labor, in fact, the Morlocks are breeding the Eloi as food.

"But clearly the old order was already in part reversed. The Nemesis of the delicate ones was creeping on apace."
"Then I tried to preserve myself from the horror that was coming upon me, by regarding it as a rigorous punishment of human selfishness. Man had been content to live in ease and delight upon the labours of his fellow-man, had taken Necessity as his watchword and excuse, and in the fulness of time Necessity had come home to him."

    The Time Traveller does find his machine when the Morlocks open the panel to trick him in. But he quickly disappears into the far future, where he witnesses the dying sun, and a nearly dead earth, inhabited by monstrous red crabs.

    As in most books by Wells, you may be assured of having a lot to think about and of being affected and influenced for a long time by his ideas and revelations. And sometimes these are simple, so much so that we pay little attention. Here is one that stopped me in my tracks. The Time Traveller, in his musings while in 802,701, thinks about the movement of the cosmos.

"I thought of the great processional cycle that the pole of the earth describes. Only forty times had that silent revolution occurred during all the years that I had traversed."

    We think of everything about space as being vast—in the millions, billions—but when you think about the brevity of life and how fast changes have come, it is mind boggling. Just look at all that has happened since, for instance, 1960. In that period of time, the earth has only circled the sun 54 times! That's a pretty small number, cosmically speaking. It puts things in perspective!

    This is a really great book. If you love H. G. Wells, and I hope you do, The Time Machine is one of his best and a masterwork of science fiction.


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