H.G. Wells was a trailblazer when it came to science fiction, making technological predictions in his writing that turned out to be remarkably close to the truth over a century later. I wish I had even half his gift of foresight; oh, to see the utopian future predicted in my own science fiction novel The Cheesecake Creatures of Waterslide Island.
In Wells’ famous novella, a scientist, known to the reader only as the Time Traveller, creates a machine that grants him the ability to travel through time. You may be thinking: Yeah, yeah, whatever. Haven’t we already exhausted all the possibilities of time travel in the Back to the Future movies? Well, slow down chief. You must remember that this book was first published in 1895. And unlike the Michael J. Fox films, this story takes a serious look at the trajectory of mankind: there is no guarantee of a happy ending, and no comforting Huey Lewis soundtrack. The Time Traveller rides his machine eight hundred thousand years into the future, and discovers humanity has evolved into two distinct races: the Eloi, a small, gentle, childlike group with a mostly carefree existence; and the Morlocks, the ape-like beings who live underground, only emerging above the surface at night to feed upon stray Eloi. The Time Traveller’s machine is taken and hidden from him, and then the story follows his exploration and examination of the future world, his friendship of sorts with one of the Eloi, and the retrieval of his machine. He later travels to view the earth in its last days, before returning to his own time to prepare for an even greater adventure into the future. When he and his machine vanish without return, his friends are left wondering as to his fate.
I was struck by Wells’ imagining (or perhaps hypothesis) of mankind’s future development. The Eloi in particular got me thinking: is our current wealth and ease of life making us weaker? The Eloi were beautiful, and unburdened by work and worries, yet their physical and mental capabilities had diminished to that of children. I fear that the luxuries and technologies of modern life, while certainly making things more comfortable, may also be undoing the strength, nobility and spirit of innovation born from times of trial. Take for instance my recent experience at a local café. After receiving smashed avocado and bacon on toast when I had actually ordered sliced avocado and bacon, along with the added frustration of the restaurant’s free Wi-Fi being temporarily unavailable, I made a justified complaint to a waitress. Well, imagine my surprise when she broke down in tears—at a simple complaint! The manager came out, asking me to lower my voice and refrain from swearing, and then had the gall to suggest my threat of physical violence against a sixteen year old girl on her second day of work was uncalled for. Unbelievable! I tell you, we are turning into a generation of overindulged sissies.
The Time Machine is great science fiction: enchanting, clever and a little scary. 7/10
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