More Sequels to The Time Machine

For my 41st birthday I received a splendid copy of Time Machine II, among other things. I quite appreciate this; it’s long out of print and seems to command something of a premium online. It’s also a very enjoyable novel.

This seems to be a sequel to an earlier film adaptation from the same author, George Pal, rather than a sequel to H.G. Wells’s novel. But the differences are minor. Overall it’s well plotted and well written, with something of a wrenching ending which is mildly thought provoking and at all events an audacious curveball to throw at the reader.

Time Machine II probably ranks among my favorite three or four of the various sequels to The Time Machine which I have read so far.

Of others which I have read in the four years since my first post about this minor hobby:

  • The Space Machine by Christopher Priest is a good novel, though it has more connections with War of the Worlds than with The Time Machine.
  • Morlock Night by K.W. Jeter also involves little time travel, no Time Traveler, and even the Morlocks are fairly replaceable and undefined baddies—but they play that role in an Arthurian steampunk story which is quite entertaining.
  • Given their mutual presence in 1890s London, someone had to bring together Sherlock Holmes and the Time Traveler eventually. “The Richmond Enigma” by John DeChancie, published in the 1995 anthology Sherlock Holmes in Orbit, does so. The story is something of an also-ran among many better works in the anthology. It offers little beyond a by-the-numbers acting-out of its central meetup. The most imaginative feature is a brief coda, which adds value to the story, but in something of a tacked-on fashion.
  • Wikipedia does not yet list the above short story, but it does list a kind of “bonus scene” added to an Illustrated Classics adaptation by Shirley Bogart. For what it’s worth, I came across a copy of this at the Bookshop in Lakewood so I have read it as well.

Having read 10 of these derivative works, now, are there any general statements which come to mind?

Let’s see, Morlocks seem to be nearly as interesting to authors as the time machine itself. They feature in at least half of these stories, and apparently in others which I have not yet read, as well. They feature in two stories from which the Time Traveler himself is absent.

Even though the Eloi get much more space in the original novel, they seem to interest other authors considerably less, with the exception of Weena. A persistent desire seems to exist to give the Time Traveler another chance with his doomed admirer of the future; this is natural enough I suppose, since it’s time travel, but I have to say that multiple authors’ proposal that the Time Traveler had a sexual relationship with Weena is a little unsettling. In the original story, Weena seems childlike in both physical and intellectual development, so it would be a real stretch to imagine consent here. It’s also unconvincing that human and Eloi, separated by 800,000 years, could reproduce.

Nearly every author who picks up the story of the Time Traveler starts from the premise that he returned to the distant future of 802,701, though. The ending of the original story does not give any clear indication of when the Time Traveler intended to go for proof of time travel. Yet I suppose that this preference, too, is natural enough: the distant futures described in The Time Machine are unique to it, whereas there’s little incentive to write a journey into the past as a Time Machine sequel.

Most elements in the original story, other than the denizens of 802,701, seem to offer more work than opportunity for a writer. The story, like most stories of Sherlock Holmes, is told through an intermediary. This has created something of a smaller version of “the game” played in many derivative works about Holmes: what backstory about a rediscovered manuscript shall the author concoct to frame his or her primary story?

Unlike Holmes, though, the Time Traveler is also a much less completely developed character. His unknown name is just the most prominent example of this.

I suppose it’s a testament to the story, and to Wells’s larger reputation, that such a relative plethora of authors have been drawn nonetheless to speculate on the unresolved fate of the Time Traveler, as well as the natures of Eloi and Morlock.

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation