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The Time Machine
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The Time Machine

The Time Machine is a novel by H. G. Wells, first published in 1895, later made into two films of the same name. This book is generally credited with the introduction of time travel using a time machine.

Warning: Plot details follow.

Table of contents
1 The Book
2 Film versions
3 Sequels by other authors
4 External links
5 Sequel

The Book

Wells had considered the notion of time travel before, in an earlier (but unpublished) story titled The Chronic Argonauts. He had thought of using some of this material in a series of articles in the Pall Mall Gazette, until the publisher asked him if he could instead do a serial novel on the same theme; Wells readily agreed, and was paid 100 pounds on its publication in 1896.

The novel's protagonist is an amateur scientist simply called the Time Traveller (we never learn his real name, though, tantalizingly, he remarks that he wrote it in the dust in an abandoned museum in the distant future.) Having demonstrated to friends that time is a fourth dimension, and that suitable apparatus can move back and forth in this fourth dimension, he constructs a larger machine capable of carrying himself, and sets off.

His journey forward in time takes him to the year 802701 AD where he finds an apparently peaceful, pastoral, Daoist future, filled with happy, simple folk who call themselves the Eloi. This appearance turns out to be deceptive. The Traveller soon discovers that the class structure of his own time has in fact persisted, and the human race has diverged into two branches. The wealthy, leisure classes appear to have evolved into the ineffectual, not very bright Eloi he has already seen; but the once-downtrodden working classes have evolved into the bestial Morlocks-- cannibal hominids resembling albino apes, who toil underground maintaining the machinery that keep the Eloi--their flocks--docile and plentiful. Both species, having adapted to their routines, are of distinctly sub-human intelligence.

Soon after his arrival he rescues Weena, a female Eloi he found drowning in a river. Much to his surprise she is grateful to him and insists on following him. After some adventures and the eventual death of Weena at the hands of the Morlocks, the narrator returns to his machine and travels into the far future. There he sees the last few living things on a dying Earth, before returning to his time to tell his story to friends. Then he attempts to time travel again and disappears forever into time.

The story reflects Wells' political views; he was a committed communist, and the narrator reasons that the state he sees is the outcome of capitalist class structures. The novel may also have influenced the movie Metropolis.

The Time Machine is in the public domain in the United States, Canada, and Australia, but does not enter the public domain in the European Union until January 1, 2017 (1946 death of author + 70 years + end of calendar year).

The text of the novel is available here.

Film versions

George Pal (who also made a famous "modernized" version of Wells' The War of the Worlds) filmed The Time Machine 1960. This is more of an adventure film than the book was; also the division of humankind results from mutations induced by a nuclear war during the twentieth century, and the Eloi speak English. The film was remade in 2002, starring Guy Pearce and Jeremy Irons and directed by Wells' great-grandson Simon Wells, with an even more revised plot. It garnered dismal reviews and was not very successful.

The earlier film is noted for its then-novel use of time lapse photographic effects to show the world around the Time Traveller changing at breakneck speed as he travels through time.

Sequels by other authors

Well's novel has become one of the cornerstones of science-fiction literature. As a result, it has spawned many offspring. Books expanding on Wells' story include:

Just to entangle reality and fiction further, H. G. Wells also appears as a character, aboard his own time machine in 1979 film Time After Time and the 1990s television series The New Adventures of Superman.

External links

Sequel

Stephen Baxter wrote an authorized sequel to The Time Machine entitled The Time Ships