I am so glad that I am going back and re-reading H.G. Wells. I enjoyed reading him in high school, but, no offense to my younger self, I only appreciated Wells on one level. Just like I was blown away by my re-read of "The Island of Dr. Moreau," this book was just as stunning, although not as deeply disturbing. If you have not read Moreau, stop reading this review and go read it. We'll talk when you get back.
In Moreau, Wells explores the nature of man, his place in the scheme of things, as well as man's supposed moral nature set against the amorality of science. Clearly an example of Einstein's famous fear that "our technology has surpassed our humanity." Equally disturbing is the idea that the concept and identity of God clearly is a function of your own personal point of reference and a position ready to be filled by whomever has the power to take it.
In The Time Machine, Wells tackles society, economic realities, and evolution and presents a plausible and terrifying scenario. On one level we have a great sci-fi adventure about the evil and monstrous Moorlocks and the sheep-like but sympathetic Eloi. That is what I read as a kid. However on my re-read I was fascinated when I learned who these races represent and I really can't argue with his theories. I don't want to give anything away, because I HATE spoilers, but I will say that this novel is a social commentary on a level with anything written by Dickens and although I always enjoyed Wells as a masterful and creative story-teller, I now recognize Wells as a great thinker as well. I bought the Delphi edition of his complete works because I want to read everything the man wrote and spend some time with his work.
Then, as a sort of ad-on set piece at the end, Wells' scientist sets his time machine's dial to the distant future to observe, first hand, the end of the world. So logical that a scientist would do this, it fits perfectly into the story and shows how great a storyteller Wells was. However, this scene goes way beyond mere story-telling. I read this section several times. We have read this type of scene before but I will argue that it has never been done anywhere nearly as well as this. Chilling, creepy, unnerving, dark beyond description----absolutely brilliant. This set of scenes put this book onto my all time favorite shelf.