Mid-life Without the Crisis

It really isn't the destination, but the journey. May be cliche, but it's true.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Time Machine

Let me begin by saying, "Wow!"  I don't think that any book of only 76 pages has ever made me think so much about science and sociology, or caused me to do so much research before.  I could probably write a ton about my thoughts on the book, but instead, I'll try to hold myself back.  (I've included lots of links to related topics, definitions and so on.)

1.  The Science.  Wells manages to be both more broad-minded and less specific on this subject at the same time.  His broad-mindedness played out in his concepts of the 4th dimension.  I loved his explanation of how time is the 4th dimension.  "Can a cube that does not last for any time at all, have a real existence?"  He also explained to his friends that while it was easy to move in the 1st and 2nd dimensions, machinery seemed to be needed to move in the 3rd, so the logical assumption is that one can move in the 4th with the proper machinery, as well.  How neat!  Also, Wells looked so much further ahead than many writers.  One of the best-known novels that looks to a dystopian future is Orwells' 1984, which was written in 1949.  That's only 35 years in his imagined future.  Wells' Traveller, however, goes to the year 802,701.  And then even further to see the Earth dying, roughly 30 million years hence.  That's looking ahead!

Strangely enough, though, Wells is not very specific about the title object.  He tells us that it is made of nickel, ivory and quartz, and possesses levers and screws and a seat.  We know that the 2 levers that move the machine through time can be removed for safety and we can assume what the thing may have looked like, helped in large part by any of the film versions we've seen of it.  However, we don't know how it works.  Wells doesn't try to explain the physics of the thing at all.  I found that to be not at all bothersome, though, as the story is really much more about other things.

2.  Sociology and Fear.  As I stated when I first decided to read this book, I wanted to know what the fears of the author's time would impart to the work.  Wells lived in the midst of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, and the division of classes, and the fear that the division was unhealthy, is clearly seen in the evolution of the two human-race descendants of the future, the Eloi and the Morlocks.  While one may not agree with Wells' socialistic views, nor his ideas of how humanity might evolve, it is still interesting to see how his views fueled his imagination.  A lesser fear, played up in the 2002 film, is the loss of knowledge.  The relatively simple lives of the Eloi and Morlocks seems to have caused them to lose intelligence, which the Traveller notes early on.  Upon finding crumbling books in the museum, he remarks, "the thing that struck me...was the enormous waste of labour." 

3.  Literature and Language.  I truly enjoyed this book on the literary level.  This is the first novel by Wells, and also the first of a sub-genre.  I found words I'd never heard (cicerone, etiolate, halitus, and deliquesce) and had to go look up.  I enjoyed seeing a writer in 1895 use the word "Kodak" to so obviously mean a camera, when I didn't realize the word has such universal usage that early.  Normally, I could finish a book of this length in one sitting, but it took me days to finish because I kept commenting on it to my husband, making notes about my thoughts, and looking up the definitions of words.  A truly enjoyable read.

So what did you think of it?  You can post your comments below, or you can head over to the Facebook page, go to Discussions, and add any thoughts, comments, questions, or links to the thread there.  I look forward to seeing what you think.


avidreader1974 said...

I read the condensed version years ago with Nathanael and much enjoyed it. I like the idea of time being the 4th dimension as well.

It fascinates me that someone from that time can imagine things so far ahead. It's much easier in today's society to think of that stuff because we live in a world of technology. For someone of Wells' time it should be unheard of so it says a lot for the man's imagination. I would love to have met him and hear his thoughts in person.

I look forward to reading the grown up version.

Anonymous said...

I had read this book before at a much younger age, needless to say, I enjoyed it so much more this time around! I found it challenging in the areas that you have already mentioned Judy but also on a "spiritual" level also. I had to keep dragging myself out of my comfortable "God" box to have a completely open mind so that I could get the true "spirit" of this book. I think I was able to accomplish this and that helped me to very much enjoy the book more....

Cheryl J. Cole