The Sci Fi Audio Files: Reviews of audio adaptations of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror works. Note that these reviews may contain spoilers.
By John J. Joex
Book Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 Stars
Audio Book Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Synopsis: This H.G. Wells classic follows an inventor from the late 19th century who creates a time machine and uses it to travel far into the future to the year 802,701. There he meets up with childlike humans known as the Eloi who live a life of leisure but who seem to have lost any capacity for personal attachment or any spirit of engagement. At first he thinks this peaceful, content society may have resulted in the human race conquering its environment and therefore no longer needing to concern themselves with things that may cause anguish, distress, or a threat to their persons. But then he discovers that a subterranean race of devolved humans known as the Morlocks lives in the tunnels beneath the ground and he surmises a much more sinister explanation for the state of affairs of the human race.
Review/Commentary: I got my start in Science Fiction and Fantasy literature with the classics. Among the first books I recall reading (not including juvenile fiction) were those written by the early masters like Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and H.G. Wells. And while I don’t recall if The Time Machine was my first Wells novel (I seem to remember reading The Island of Doctor Moreau before that), I definitely got around to it sooner rather than later. And while War of the Worlds still stands as my favorite Wells novel (and one of my all-time favorites among all authors), The Time Machine probably comes in as a close second.
The novel acted as a social satire and comment on an English society that Wells felt had become increasingly stratified as the wealthy grew further apart from the downtrodden working class (certainly no similarities to modern day society . . . ). Then he added the vicious twist in which the elite humans grew to such a state of laziness and dependence on those who worked for them that the tide turned in a matter of speaking (read the book for the full, grisly explanation). The time traveler (who is never given a name in the book) deduces this through a series of observations of the people of this advanced age and he asserts several hypotheses at various points during his stay in this future time that ultimately lead to his final conclusion.
If you have never read the book but have seen George Pal’s excellent big screen adaptation from 1960 staring Rod Taylor, the movie follows pretty closely to the spirit of the story, though with less emphasis on the social satire and with a few revisions to help it play better to theater-goers. But the movie does unfortunately lack the ending passage from the book. This comes after the time traveler barely escapes from the time period of the Morlocks and the Eloi and he goes even further into the future to watch as the Earth dies. Wells’ description of the waning Earth in its last days is both eerie and desolate and gives me the chills every time I read it (I’ve revisited this novel at least four times now). It definitely provides an engaging, contemplative epilogue to the larger book.
Comments on the Audiobook: The audiobook version that I listened to (there are several) is narrated by Scott Brick who has quite a few genre audio adaptations to his name. His proper British voice fits quite well with a book written by a 19th century author from England. This one is a relatively quick listen at under four hours because the original novel was fairly brief as well. But it is definitely worth your time to take the journey into the future with one of the earliest and all-time great authors of Science Fiction. There is a free version of The Time Machine available from Librivox.org (read by volunteer readers) at this link. The version that I listened to by Scott Brick, along with several other professional adaptations, is widely available from the usual audiobook sources: Audible.com, eMusic.com, and BooksFree.com.