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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Time Machine - A Book Report

I recently read "The Time Machine", a science fiction written by H. G Wells. A multi-talented English writer, H.G. Wells (1866-1943),  is famous as the father of  science fiction along with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback. His futuristic 32,000 word novella,  The Time Machine, was first printed in 1895 in the Pall Mall Gazette as a serial publication. The main theme of this story is the mind-boggling , hitherto impossible , concept of  time travel, which H.G Wells had touched upon several years earlier in a short story, "The Chronic Argonauts". However, the idea of using a tangible machine for time travel was brand new.
The story is started by an unintroduced narrator, who happens to be a guest at a weekly dinner party of a well-to-do scientist, living in Richmond, Surrey. The narrator  was witnessing the sudden arrival of the host at the dining room door, in a dishevelled haggard state, bearing upon his countenance the most unmistakable expression of suffering and pain .  While the scientist excused himself to tidy up and return, the narrator continued to recount the previous week's after-dinner conversations. That night the scientist, referred to, never by name but as the Time  Traveller,  logically argued with his dinner guests that "time" was just a fourth dimension, pretty much similar to the other three dimensions. Height , width and depth allow us to travel through it in any direction. The only difference about the fourth dimension, in his opinion, was that our consciousness was always moving with time in the forward direction. His explanation was followed by his admission of secretly working on a machine that allowed a person to travel through time in the past and future. He even demonstrated the workings of a miniature model of that machine and had it "dissolve" into a different time, in front of all his skeptic guests. Then to prove his point, he led them to his laboratory where he showed his full size Time Machine, which still needed quite a bit of finishing touches but closely resembled the model, that had just disappeared.
Eventually, in the "present" time, the Time Traveller returned to the dining room, tidy but still tired. He was able to postone answering the questions of his curious puzzled guests on the condition that they would hear his story after his has had some " peptone in his stomach". After dinner, the Time Traveller became the new narrator of the story. He  gathered with his guests to reminisce his experiences over the past eight days. The whole story is written in the first person. I found this style very interesting, as the perspective and character of the narrators changed but the powerful pronoun "I" remained unchanged throughout the length of the story. It made the weirdest and the unbelievable descriptions sound true and plausible.
The scientist was in his laboratory that morning when the finishing touches were imparted to the incredible contraption. With tremendous pent up emotions , "like someone about to commit suicide", he pulled the lever to start and immediately pulled the lever to stop. For a moment he led himself to believe that nothing changed as he was still in his laboratory. But the unmistakable proof was there on the wall -- the hands of the clock had moved five hours.

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