Illustrated by artists Ale + Ale, the world of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine is brought vividly to life in this edition from Rockport Publishers’ new Classics Reimagined series. The story, recounted by an unnamed narrator, tells the tale of the Time Traveller, whose invention leads him to the year 802,701 AD. Here he discovers what at first appears to be a paradise in which human-like creatures have forgotten fear and tribulation. But he slowly discovers that the new world has a (quite literal) dark underbelly that feeds on the light, and when his time machine goes missing, he must try to survive and find a way back.
Ale + Ale’s artistic style is described as a “surreal interpretation of reality” in their back-of-the-book bio. This style is particularly effective for The Time Machine, a story that even the narrator isn’t quite sure truly happened. The illustrations have a steampunk style, which any illustrated Wells book would be lost without. In addition, the artists use a variety of clippings and textures in their art to create a decoupage-like style with a distinctly Victorian feel. But my favorite thing about the illustrations is that they aren’t all literal depictions of what’s happening in each scene. Rather, they feel more like artistic renderings of what the world possibly looks like and don’t force one interpretation onto the reader. They suggest rather than force the reader to envision the world’s features and serve to emphasize the mood of the story more than anything else. They truly are “surreal interpretations” of a reality we readers aren’t even sure is real in the first place.
This edition also makes effective use of typographic features throughout the text. Some pages have only a few words on them, but those words are designed in such a way that emphasizes what’s happening in the story. For example, words are designed in a curve while describing the curve of the moon or scattered across the page like stars as the Time Traveller describes the night sky. Significant phrases are often emphasized this way, adding drama to the already dramatic story.
The text is one of my favorite examples of classic science fiction. H.G. Wells was so ahead of his time that you start to ask yourself if he really had invented a time machine. Ale + Ale’s modern illustrations serve to heighten the out-of-time feeling throughout this edition, which elevated the reading experience for me greatly, even though it is a story I already know well.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Rockport Publishers, for review.