Making time for time travel

Latest review from our Virtual Wellbeing Reading Group

Well they say reading broadens the mind but with The Time Machine we were flung further than any of us had every travelled before into the future, first to the year 802,701, and then another 30 million years.

For some of us it was their first H.G. Wells, others had previously read The War of the Worlds and The Shape of Things to Come. As the first novel of H.G. Wells the general opinion was that The Time Machine was ok, but The War of the Worlds had more shock value. Like The Great Gatsby, we were all relieved our trip into the future wasn’t any longer.

Despite feeling a little ‘meh’ about the book there was plenty to discuss. Wells’ political views about class division and society were evident with his distinction between the peaceful, community living Eloi and the feral, underground dwelling Morlocks. As readers we are meant to fear and dislike the Morlocks but we all preferred their industriousness to the insipid Eloi.

None of us warmed to the main character, the Time Traveller without a name. We felt he was ill-prepared for his travels, naïve and made some glaring mistakes. We couldn’t forgive his abandonment of Weena, and one of us said they would have fallen asleep whilst he described his journey in intricate detail. We also thought the Time Traveller struck lucky a few times – amazing what can be saved by a box of matches!

We decided the world described by Wells in 802,701 wasn’t plausible. We wondered if it would be as verdant or that the landscape around the Thames would still be recognisable. However there was much relief that the museums of Kensington would survive!

By contrast we felt the next destination of the Time Traveller 30 Million years forward was more believable as a planet at the end of its existence and the sun diminishing in strength. However some felt this part of the book didn’t add anything to the story and had been squeezed in at the end for dramatic effect, others felt it had a cinematic, blockbuster feel – almost as if it had been written for film. Our focus then turned to films about time travel or set in the future – 12 Monkeys, Interstellar, Gravity and of course Back to the Future. We also wondered about the ethics of time travel if it would ever become possible.

We might have been more impressed by The Time Machine if reading it back at the time of publication but on balance we were pleased to have taken time out to read and chat about it. As well as the plot we seemed to discuss life, the universe and everything – even giant crustaceans!

Don’t worry if you are not a sci-fi fan as for our next Wellbeing Reading Group book we are swapping classics for something written more recently with Michelle Paver’s Wakenhyrst (2019). Instead of firing into the future we are instead going back the Edwardian era with this gothic thriller set in the Suffolk fens:

‘It’s a ghost story to put beside the classics of an earlier era … Compelling’ – Evening Standard.

‘Original and engrossing … Paver masterfully blends together two narratives … Spanning fen devils, mystics and the lot of women in Edwardian England’ – The Observer.

Wakenhyrst is available for all GEH colleagues to download for free here:

Our next meeting is 12.30 on 2/9/20 and it’s virtual again via MS Teams.

Hope you enjoy Wakenhyrst, have a great August, take care and see you in September!