Book Review: The Time Machine

The Time Machine (1895) is a science fiction novella by H.G. Wells and is about, oddly enough, a Time Machine.

The novella has a frame narrative and an embedded narrative; the Time Traveller (yes, that is the only name he’s given) hosts a dinner party, inviting a variety of guests to tell them about his journeys through time. The embedded narrative then begins, as the Time Traveller retells what has happened to him.

The opening frame narrative was quite dull, as the dinner guests discuss space, time, mathematics, and psychology. This was not the gripping and dramatic opening I had been hoping for.

Once the Time Traveller arrives and begins to tell his story though, things liven up. He’s eccentric and clever, which I suppose is now the blueprint for other fictional time travellers like Doctor Who.

The Time Traveller travels to Earth, A.D. 802,701, where he meets the Eloi, a species of adults that have child-like language and small attention spans because they have achieved and acquired everything possible, so there is no need for work or intelligence. This is an interesting social commentary: is it better to have everything in life but be forever bored, or to have work and goals to achieve within your lifetime?

There is a second species on Earth too – the Morlocks – who are underworld, carnivorous creatures who prey on the vulnerable Eloi in the dark. The scenes with the Morlocks were a little scary, in a similar way to the vicious Martian attacks upon mankind in Wells’ later novel War of the Worlds. These two opposing species prompt lots of interesting questions and were obvious symbols of good versus bad, upper-class versus lower-class, and so on.

The Time Machine is an incredibly creative work of fiction and good fun to read. Like War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells has provided a social commentary on the society at the time, which is in some ways still applicable today. However, I didn’t find this book quite as engaging as War of the Worlds, which was slightly disappointing, given how many praise it for being one of the first proper works of science fiction.

In many ways, The Time Machine is a science fiction story because of its focus on time, space, physics and aliens. However, it’s also incredibly similar to utopian or dystopian novels such as Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726). It’s funny how so many novels supposedly predict the future, whilst only commenting on the present.

– Judith

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Book Review: We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea

‘Nobody had meant to go to sea, but here they were, and an unknown land ahead of them’

We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea is the seventh novel in the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome. There are 12 books in the series in total.

We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea focuses on just the Walker children: John, Susan, Titty, and Roger. They are staying at Pin Mill, in south Suffolk, with their mother and youngest sister, Bridget, as they await for the return of their father from overseas. The children befriend Jim Brading, who invites them for a trip aboard his boat, Goblin. Their mother only allows them aboard on the condition that they promise to stay within the estuary and do not go to sea. Evidently, this promise is broken.

I started reading We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea whilst on holiday at Poole Quay, so the descriptions of boats, harbours and foghorns felt quite apt. However, I couldn’t, and didn’t, understand all the technical sailing terms Ransome includes. Even with the little diagrams provided, I just wasn’t interested in the technicalities of sailing a boat.

The title obviously reveals the premise of the book, and one chapter is even called Nothing Can Possibly Happen, which is ironic.

We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea is probably one of the scariest books of the Swallows and Amazons series I’ve read. 4 children become stranded at sea, get caught in the middle of a storm, and Ransome describes it in vivid detail. I’d be terrified!

This chaos leads to some new character development, as John has to take on new responsibilities in order to keep everybody safe, and Susan’s confidence as the mother figure shatters due to the fear and guilt of breaking a promise and being lost at sea.

Fortunately, all is not lost. Despite it’s scarier scenes, We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea is still fun and has plenty of humour, particularly from Roger. There are also some rather ridiculous plot moments, as the children end up somewhere so bizarre that their mother doesn’t believe them!

Whilst a rather dramatic story, We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea is another enjoyable children’s book in Arthur Ransome’s series and all is cheerfully resolved by the ending anyway.

– Judith

Book Review: The Wizard of Oz

Image via Parabola Magazine.

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum is a fun children’s book about Dorothy, a young girl swept away to the magical land of Oz by a cyclone. Dorothy meets and befriends the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion and together the group travel to meet Oz, the great wizard, to ask him for help.

Despite seeing the famous film adaptation of The Wizard Of Oz, I’d never actually read the book. Subsequently, it was surprising to see how many adventurous things Dorothy and her friends do that were omitted from the film.

I thought the story itself was fun, and I liked the vivid, colourful descriptions Baum used throughout.

The characters are also good role models for children, as the focus of the book is learning to be kind, brave, generous and loving.

The narrative style was quite short and blunt – Dorothy did this, Dorothy did that – which seemed a little simplistic, although I suppose children are the true target audience, not me.

I quite liked the unofficial film sequel, Return to Oz, which is based on The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma Of Oz – later stories in Baum’s series, so I may read those at some point.

Whilst I liked The Wizard of Oz as an adult, but I think this series would be enjoyed most by children.

– Judith