In case you hadn’t realised, it’s 70 years since the death of HG Wells, which means (in the UK at least) his works are now out of copyright. Cue any number of HG Wells books, T-shirts, audios and no doubt some television later this year. Pan MacMillan has joined the crowd with a re-issue of one of his most influential works – The Time Machine.
To differentiate themselves in what might be a crowded market, this edition is a pocket-sized hardback, complete with gold-edged pages and a dashing, slightly steampunk cover. There’s also a nine-page essay from Dr. Mark Bould, giving some context on Wells and an analysis of the story of Time Machine. It’s a nice touch and helps make this edition feel like something special.
As to the text itself, the actual manuscript fills a mere 109 pages, and there’s a lesson here for modern writers of sprawling trilogies. The story is familiar, surely, to all fans of science-fiction, yet how many of us focus on the narrative as presented in the 1960 George Pal film? We have the Victorian dinner party, the arcane machine, the Eloi and the Morlocks. There’s the romance with Weena and the sense of both an adventure and a speculative essay on the future of the human race. It’s all told in the first person, and despite being written in 1985 is still accessible to a modern reader.
The actual story is much, much darker and moves beyond the tidy ending into a foray into the furthest depths of the Earth’s future history. Wells’ writing is unfussy and powerful and this is as good a time as any to remind yourself of just why he is such a major figure in literary history.
If you’ve never read The Time Machine, or haven’t since last century (!), this edition provides as good an excuse as any to make amends. Failing that, it’s an early purchase for this year’s Christmas stockings!
THE TIME MACHINE / AUTHOR: HG WELLS / PUBLISHER: PAN MACMILLAN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW