About the Book
When a Victorian scientist propels himself into the year 802,701 AD, he is initially delighted to find that suffering has been replaced by beauty, contentment and peace.
Entranced at first by the Eloi, an elfin species descended from man, he soon realises that this beautiful people are simply remnants of a once-great culture – now weak and childishly afraid of the dark. But they have every reason to be afraid: in deep tunnels beneath their paradise lurks another race descended from humanity – the sinister Morlocks.
And when the scientist’s time machine vanishes, it becomes clear he must search these tunnels, if he is ever to return to his own era.
Format: Audiobook (3h 22m) Publisher: Ladbroke Audio
Publication date: 6th February 2017  Genre: Classics, Science Fiction
The Time Machine is a story I realised I knew mainly from the 1960 film version starring Rod Taylor. I was interested, therefore, to see how much of the original book made it through the adaptation process. The answer is a surprising amount.
Although in the book the lead character is never named but instead referred to throughout as ‘the Time Traveller’, in both versions he gives an account of his experiences to a group of (mostly disbelieving) friends gathered for a weekly dinner. He describes how, far from the utopia hoped for, in the time period to which he travelled humankind has evolved into two distinct races: the degenerate, underground-dwelling Morlocks; and the indolent, rather childlike, surface-dwelling Eloi.
In the film there is no discussion about how the change in society might have come about but in the book the Time Traveller gives a lot of thought to the cause of such a marked stratification of society. His initial theory positions the Eloi as the superior, aristocratic race given they live a life of leisure, engaging in no work to feed or clothe themselves. The Morlocks on the other hand are the workers toiling beneath the surface. This probably reflects Wells’s own socialist views and life experiences. It was common at the end of the 19th century for workers to live ‘below stairs’ or work in basements and the idea of the ‘haves’ exploiting the ‘have nots’ easily transfer to the book.
However, the Time Traveller becomes perplexed and a little frustrated by the passivity and lack of curiosity of the Eloi. In his view, humanity cannot make progress or innovate without struggle. In addition, the Eloi seem to have little care for one another or any fear of danger – until nightfall, that is. The reason for the latter gradually becomes apparent and eventually the awful truth of the relationship between the two races is revealed.
In the book, the Eloi are described as short, pale, and elfin-like whereas in the film they are blonde and beautiful. The Weena of the book, the only member of the Eloi who engages with the Time Traveller, is definitely not the glamorous character played by Yvette Mimieux in the film. In fact, the Time Traveller’s relationship with the childlike Weena in the book felt a little uncomfortable. The Morlocks in the book are albino and spider-like and I found the scenes in which they appear much scarier than I remember from watching the film.
Events towards the end of The Time Machine mean it is left to the reader to imagine what direction – past or future – the Time Traveller’s adventures will take him and when, or if, he might return to his own time. In the film, it seems fairly obvious.
There are aspects of The Time Machine that now seem distinctly prophetic. For example, the Time Traveller notes the temperature in the future is much higher than in his own century. When he ventures even further ahead in time, what he sees is a vision of a dying Sun and apocalyptic climate change. (The film version sees the Time Traveller witnessing events in the much more immediate future.)
It’s amazing to think how many of the concepts associated with time travel in modern fiction and film are owed to The Time Machine, a book written in 1895. It’s a testament to the fertile imagination of H.G. Wells.
The audiobook version I listened to was narrated by John Banks who did a good job throughout but especially in communicating the Time Traveller’s sense of fear in some of the more dramatic scenes.
In three words: Inventive, thought-provoking, chilling
Try something similar: The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
About the Author
Herbert George Wells was a novelist, teacher, historian and journalist, who has become known as the “father of science fiction.” His works have been adapted countless times, and provided the basis for many literary and theatrical productions.
About the Narrator
John Banks is one of the UK’s most prolific audiobook narrators, working for the likes of Big Finish, Audible, Random House and Games Workshop. He is a true multi-voice, creating everything from monsters to marauding aliens. He is also an accomplished stage and TV actor.