What a fantastic book this is, managing to unfold a gripping and hugely imaginative plot whilst introducing some great ideas about the dangers of technological advance.
The story is pretty straightforward. An inventor and experimenter creates a time machine and travels forward tens of thousands of years. When he arrives he discovers the apparent humans – the Eloi – inhabiting the planet are small and foolish. After some time there his time machine disappears, and at that point he discovers underground-dwelling creatures, Morlocks, that seem to have stolen his machine and pose a danger to the Aloi. He befriends a female Eloi – Weena – and then embarks of the discovery of his machine, a struggle against the Morlocks and a return to Victorian Britain.
The plot is good but even better are two ideas that the narrator – the story is told in first person by the narrator – raises.
One is a pretty Marxist take on a dystopian future – he wonders if the Morlocks are the workers, forced to live and toil underground for the ruling Eloi class.
And he wonders this because of a second more interesting theory he proposes: that the Eloi are future humans; they are lacking in intellect and skills because technology has developed so fully that they no longer have any need to do or think anything for themselves and so have degenerated into a race of simpletons. It’s a great idea, and one that is surely more relevant than ever in a world where robotics, automation, AI and technological capabilities are taking away the need for human agency more and more.