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This review is from: The Time Machine (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
The 1890s were haunted by the flip-side of Darwinism - the notion that the evolution of mankind may not always follow an upward curve and that, at some point, as a species mankind would regress, degenerate, and collapse back into something altogether less impressive than the heroic, upstanding ladies and gentlemen of the Victorian era. Wells, in The Time Machine, taps into these concerns and via a rather natty piece of narrative trickery puts forward what is almost a fable about the possible ultimate destination of the human race.
The time traveller (he is never named) accelerates his machine far into the future (the year 802, 701 AD to be precise) and finds himself among the Eloi, an elfin, beautiful, delicate and rather feminine species. The Eloi live above ground and seem to like nothing more than lounging about in the sunlight and generally not doing anything. The time traveller finds them rather charming, although his attempts to communicate with them result in failure. Later in the story he encounters an altogether more sinister species, the Morlocks, nasty, brutish, living underground and only emerging at night. Even worse the Morlocks seem to prey - in a very literal sense - upon the Eloi. Needless to say adventure ensues....
Wells, via his time traveller, puts forward some notions about the respective origins of the Eloi and the Morlocks. The former represent the aristocracy flung far into the future, grown weak, idle and decadent. They are beautiful, but of no real worth to anyone, not even to themselves. The Morlocks represent the masses, the working classes, excluded from education and relying upon their brute strength in order to survive. They feed and cloth the Eloi, but they reap a terrible price in return.
It is, especially when you think of it in the context of the time in which it was written, all rather clever. Wells was able to create what was a good adventure yarn on one level work on a far deeper plain of meaning by tapping in to the concerns of the age. The time machine itself is beautifully described and it's a lovely idea but it is perhaps Wells's thoughts on the ultimate destination of mankind which give the story its lasting resonance. It's well worth reading, and not just because it is, in many ways, the grand daddy of a whole branch of science fiction.