Happy Birthday HG Wells!

The Time Machine by H.G.Wells is not the first time travel novel, and as far as time travel novels go, it doesn’t have much time travel in it. But both he and this novel have opened up the world of time travel. Happy birthday Herbert!

Today, 21 September 2016, marks not only the day before the 2016 autumnal equinox but also the 150th birthday of H. G. Wells.

Author H. G. Wells (Image credit: www.biography.com/people/hg-wells-39224)

Herbert George Wells – or H. G. Wells – is of course the author of The Time Machine, arguably the most famous of time travel novels. It was one of the first novels which brought the concept of time travel to the reader – and it still does today.

But to be honest I’m a little upset because I believe that H.G. Wells is credited with too much when it comes to time travel.

For example, he is often credited with being the first time travel author by writing The Time Machine – but this simply isn’t true! Just like the moonwalk existed before Michael Jackson mastered and performed it for us, time travel existed (in literature) well before H.G. Wells wrote The Time Machine.

Now admittedly it is pretty terrible, but H. G. Wells’own The Chronic Argonauts was written before The Time Machine (some consider it as a prequel, or at least a foundation). And before that is the (bloated) The Clock that Went Backward (Edward Page Mitchell) where the title clearly gives the game away!

Just two examples within the same decade of publication as The Time Machine – a simple internet search I’m sure would throw up many more earlier examples of time travel in fiction, and from even earlier.

And what of The Time Machine itself?

It’s heralded as being the Bible of time travel – the ultimate time travel novel that all other time travel novels should aspire to being.

But I disagree.

The Time Machine book cover
Image source: en.wikipedia.org

Well, it’s OK. I mean, it’s not fantastic as time travel novels go. The Time Traveller goes into the future, meets the Eloi and the Morlocks, and makes a few assumptions about present day sociology. Aside from the description of time being the fourth dimension quote, the actual time travel aspect in The Time Machine is pretty crap; the novel could have started off with “Once upon a time there was a chap living in the future and saw a load of Eloi and Morlocks.”

Take the time travel out of The Time Machine, you’ve still pretty much got the same novel as before – although the title would probably need changing!

But I don’t mean to slag off The Time Machine – or H. G. Wells! After all, the novel has been responsible for bringing many readers into the realm of scifi / time travel, and indeed H. G. Wells has written some brilliant scifi novels in other areas.

And it’s also inspired other authors to write sequels for it. Stephen Baxter, vice-President of the international H. G. Wells Society, wrote The Time Ships which is the official authorised sequel. And I’ve also read Epilogue (Jaime V. Batista) which to my mind is a far superior sequel to The Time Machine than The Time Ships.

(You can read my interview with author Jaime on Time Travel Nexus.)

Another worthy mention is The Map of Time – an extraordinary novel by Felix J. Palma which features H. G. Wells as the main character and either has or has no time travel within it, depending on how you view it! Brilliantly written!

So OK. H. G. Wells isn’t the first time travel author, and on top of that The Time Machine isn’t the best time travel novel, but there’s no denying that H. G. Wells has certainly popularised the genre and inspired many readers and authors alike!

Time is an arbitrary measure when you have a time machine, but all the same I’d like to sending my birthday wishes across time and back to H. G. Wells.

Happy 150th birthday, Herbert! 🙂


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Review: The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma

The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma

Map of Time Book Cover

The first thing which needs to be said about Palma’s Map of Time is that it is a beautifully written piece of literature! This is all the more impressive in that the novel was originally written in Spanish and subsequently translated into English (by Nick Caistor) so perhaps a courteous nod to Nick is in order too!

In short, The Map of Time takes the author H. G. Wells and his novel The Time Machine and spins a romance involving time travel around it.


Distraught to the point of suicide by the murder of his girlfriend, Andrew Harrington is introduced to Gilliam Murray who runs a time travel tourism business. Andrew is informed that only forwards time travel is possible, so going back in time to prevent the murder of his loved one is impossible. A slim possibility of any hope at all in this realm in given in the advice to visit the author H. G. Wells who has published two time travel novels (The Chronic Argonauts and The Time Machine).

The thinking is that by writing such novels, Well’s has mastered time travel and indeed has a working time machine which may be able to help Andrew in revisiting and altering the past.

The theme of romance in this first section is continued in the second which focuses on characters involved in Murray’s time travel tourism business; Claire Haggerty doesn’t fit in with modern day societal conventions falls in love with a man from the future, Captain Derek Shackleton. They meet physically only once, and use letters as a means of communication.

H. G. Wells also has a role here to play in assisting with the letter writing, thus linking this section with the previous.

Wells becomes “the Hero”, i.e. the primary character, in the final section where he is visited, or has communication with, someone from the future. It is through the communication and the visitations that he faces a decision which ultimately decides the fate or future of time travel.

The time travel element.

This is inherently a tricky section to write, given that for the most part there is no actual time travel! In order to avoid spoilers I’ll refer only to the last section of the novel where time travel is more fully realised.

The method of time travel operates through a genetic ability which gets refined through time. Initially time travel occurs involuntarily, though later, as the gene is refined and the ‘user’ becomes more adept at using this skill, time travel is more controlled. These characteristics reminded me of the (non time travel) movie Jumper and Audrey Niffenegger’s time travel novel The Time Traveller’s Wife.

There are lots of time loops, and paradoxes are avoided with parallel universes. In fact, the idea of parallel universes is central to the time travel element in The Map of Time. It is consistent, well thought out and well presented in the in the novel, but personally speaking I find parallel universes an easy escape from time travel paradoxes. And it certainly brought about a very disappointing end to the novel where it served as a mechanism to bring about a happy ending. Or did it?

Writing style

A lot of the novel isn’t really connected with time travel, but at the same time there is frequent use of vocabulary related to time and time travel, and insights given into the author’s thoughts on the subject.

At times it’s like your Grampa reading you a bed time story; friendly and warm, descriptive with a personal insight to an interpretation of events, and a little bit more of a hint that the writer is an all-knowing omnipresent character. In this way, the author becomes almost a character within the novel he is writing!

The average motion through the plot of the novel is linearly forwards, but there are plenty of digressions which seem at first to take a tangent but actually gently circle back to the main story line. Sometimes these read a little discontinuously (especially between each of the 3 sections of the book) but overall it’s fluent, and probably best described as ‘flowery’!

In keeping with the flowery style of writing and story lines, the main character changes quite frequently. I can see that for some readers this might be cause for irritation, but I think it worked well as the characters who, like the tangential sub plots, had a tendency to come back.

The common thread through all of this is H. G. Wells whose role varies from stage extra to key character. I would argue then that H. G. Wells is the central character, in that he is present to some degree in all of the main story lines. Indeed, he is also present in the sequel (The Map of the Sky) which refers to his book The War of the Worlds.

Sadly I was hugely disappointed by the ending which read largely as an introduction to the next book (The Map of the Sky). As far as I can tell from the reviews, the sequel seems to follow pretty much the same pattern as The Map of Time – using H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds as a base in place of The Time Machine.

The Palma’s self publicising aside, things ended happily ever after thanks to a parallel universe, about which I have already hinted of my frustration!

Other notes

I suppose that it is inevitable that similar ideas will ripple across literary fiction, but I did find a number of similarities with ideas and events in The Map of Time with other books:

  • The futuristic idea of automatons fighting humankind ~ the Terminator movies
  • An effort to transport a ‘non time traveller’ through time through physical means (e.g. hugging) ~ Time and Again (Jack Finney)
  • Loss of a limb (or gain, depending how you look at it) ~ The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
  • The elephant in the room of course is H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, but that’s the whole premise of the book. Not quite fan fiction, not quite poetic licence and not an out and out fabrication of historical events, but a very clever clever an original idea!
  • Incidentally, the first time I read The Time Machine I didn’t really enjoy it (actually I’ve tried reading The War of the Worlds (also H.G. Wells) but got so bored with it I gave up), but I am feeling motivated to give it a reread as I feel I’ve got to know [a fictitious version of] the author (and it will prepare me for The Time Ships – the authorised sequel to The Time Machine.)


    The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma is a beautiful time travel novel with very little time travel! That said, there are plenty of methods of time travel presented, although disappointingly (from the time travel perspective) use parallel universes to explain away paradoxes.

    In essence this is a romance novel, but there’s enough science fiction in there to make The Map of Time into something much more special!

    I’m giving this 4/5 stars…which isn’t bad for a time travel novel with actually not that much time travel!

    The Map of Time is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Enjoy!