The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

The Time Machine book cover
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Critical Overview

(Novels for Students)

Although it sold relatively well when first published, The Time Machine was not widely reviewed. When it was, reviewers often likened it to Jules Verne's adventure stories or Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Over the last century, it has developed a reputation as a science fiction classic. Writers like Isaac Asimov, himself a celebrated writer of science fiction, have praised the novel, noting that Wells "had the trick ... of explaining the impossible with just the right amount of gravity ... to induce the reader to follow along joyously." V. S. Pritchett was even more effusive in his praise, claiming in his essay "The Scientific Romances," "Without question The Time Machine is the best piece of writing. It will take its place among the great stories of our language." Bernard Bergonzi, a Wells scholar who has introduced thousands of new readers to Wells in his books and essays, argues in his essay, "The Time Machine: An Ironic Myth," that the novel has more "romance" than science, and is closer to the romances of nineteenth-century American writers such as Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne than it is to the work of Verne. Robert M. Philmus examines the novel for its capacity to satirize various "present ideals." In his essay "The Logic of 'Prophecy' in The Time Machine," Philmus reviews a number of articles written about The Time Machine before concluding that the Time Traveller's return to the future at the end of the story "reinforces the fiction's claim to integrity." Other critics focus on the novel's action and its ability to entertain. For example, Richard Hauer Costa, author of H.G. Wells, a study of Wells's writing and life, calls the novel "a thrilling story of cosmic adventure."