Thursday, November 25, 2010

Catching up with Classics – The Time Machine

I enjoy reading sci-fi, so it came as a bit of a shock when I realized I’d never actually read anything by a writer who many consider one of the father’s of science fiction: H.G. Wells. Ok, I believe I did read the radio play adaptation by or Orsen Welles of the classic novel “The War of the Worlds”, but I’ve never actually read anything by the man himself.

So I decided to try “The Time Machine”. I wasn’t very long and I figured if I couldn’t get into the style then I wouldn’t have to try too hard to finish it. My only experience with the story is the classic George Pal film from 1960. When I was a kid I used to watch this one my with my dad, who probably enjoyed it in his youth. I remembered the basics, how he traveled into the future and met the blonde folks and the ugly underground dwellers. But aside from that, I was a newbie.

The first part of the book threw me off, mostly because the time traveler starts speaking about math right off the bat. Being a writer I have issues wrapping my head around conceptual math, so I was a bit nervous about the rest of the book. But after explaining the basic principle of why time travel should work, we jump into the story.

I enjoyed it quite a bit. Wells does a good job of creating a story that revolves around the idea of mankind in the far future but splitting into two very different paths. At first you aren’t even sure that these are both decedents of man, more like alien beings that ended up taking over. But when the truth is revealed the horror of it is pretty interesting.

Would sci-fi be the same without this novel? Hard to say. Time travel stories abound now, especially in shows like “Star Trek” and “Stargate”. When they are told well, they can be very entertaining, like the “Back to the Future” trilogy. But Wells does something that you don’t see very often, use time travel to comment on humankind. Where are we going and how will we get there? Will we like what we see? To Wells, the future wasn’t shiny and exciting, but disturbing and bleak. He wanted us to see that social ills could develop into a horror story. While some view this as simplistic, I think that Wells did a good job at creating an entertaining story that made you think -something that the best sci-fi authors (like Asimov) strive for.

What did you think of “The Time Mahine”? Did you see any versions in TV or film that you enjoyed? Do you have a favorite time travel adventure story?

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