Support Books Under the Bridge

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Time Machine

Recommended: The Time Machine (H. G. Wells)

H. G. Wells was one of the founding titans of science-fiction, a novelist whose works have inspired, directly and indirectly, a large portion of the works that have followed. Like the best - or perhaps just the luckiest - science-fiction authors, Mr. Wells was ahead of contemporary science; the Time Traveller's explanations of the mechanism of travel spookily remind one of Einstein's theory of special relativity.

The Time Machine is a very short, simple novel. It does not contain the detailed plot we expect in a modern work, but it is a better novel this way. It invites you to think, and not merely to experience. I feel myself as a member of the dinner party when the Time Traveller tells his story. Can I trust him? Do I believe what he says? Is that indeed what the future holds in store? If it is, is it good, or inevitable? Even the Time Traveller's explanations invite disagreement and provide food for thought.

Most futuristic science-fiction is not written as a prediction of the future. The author will take some concept, toy with it, and say, "What if..." (Ursula K. Le Guin comes to mind as an obvious example.) Mr. Wells tries to predict the future, but asks the reader to make his own predictions as well. You'll likely disagree with Mr. Wells ideas, who was after all writing at the close of the Victorian era, but I hope you'll enjoy your chance to argue through his case.

Mr. Wells is best known for The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds. All three are excellent books, and certainly the latter two will garner their own recommendations here in due time. The Island of Dr. Moreau is also very good, but alas not as well known. His other works I leave to interested fans to ferret out for themselves (The Food of the Gods is one of my favorites of his, but you might find Rule Number One to apply).

No comments: