After seeing two movie versions of H. G. Well’s classic The Time Machine (the 1960 production with Rod Taylor and the not-so-grand 2002 version with Guy Pierce and Orlando Jones), I thought it was time to read the real thing. As usual the book far exceeded the films.
The movies stick to the first adventure the time traveler (not named in the book) experiences when he travels 800,000 years into the future to what appears like an idyllic future. Where the original work has him traveling directly there, the movies have him stop along the way in the near future before continuing on.
The people he meets, supposedly our distant descendants nearly a million years from now, are primitive in their simplistic lives but life in a blissful peace, not working or conducting any type of commerce or business. Not even farming, because animals have disappeared. The time traveler begins to realize that despite the Utopian feel of the future, something else lurks in the darkness.
He discovers another race of beings that live underground in a series of tunnels, away from the light. The beautiful inhabitants aboveground fear the hideous creatures beneath who only come out at night but for what purpose?
The movies end with a showdown between the time traveler and the mole people as he tries to rescue Weena, the young woman he befriends and retrieve his stolen time machine. But in the book, the traveler escapes alone, traveling even further ahead in time. He sees the earth under a huge red sun, seemingly devoid of human life but inhabited by strange creatures. Here the book becomes fast-paced as the traveler describes his experiences and observations of near the end of the earth’s life.
H. G. Wells does more than tell a great story. He actually makes the reader think. Gasp. What will the earth be like hundreds of thousands of years from now? He certainly paints a different picture of a post-apocalyptic future where the world is almost Eden-like with a savage flaw.
Wells depicts a scene where modern day conveniences no longer exist, aren’t needed. Scary and provocative at the same time. The future dwellers don’t need them but have they sacrificed their intelligence as well. They are curious about the traveler but soon lose interest, as children might. Their actions and mannerisms suggest no more thought than basic instincts, to eat and sleep.
The story is told as the time traveler recounts his adventures to the main character upon returning to the present and his report takes up much of the novel. Although written over a century ago, Wells’ prose takes the reader into a future, vivid and alive, without the benefit of a time machine.