Thought-provoking speculation about the future of humanity
Content warning Not sure why I'm putting a spoiler alert on a book that's more than a century old, but hey, you might not have seen either of the movies, and even if you did, they might not have made it clear what was going on with the Morlocks and Eloi.
I remember watching the 1960 movie of The Time Machine many times on TV when I was growing up. But somehow I never quite got around to reading the book until now.
It's a bit dry by modern standards, but the framing sequence does draw you in, and of course once he starts telling the story of his trip 800,000 years into the future, there's a wealth of speculation. The narrator self-conciously admits that he's drawing inferences on what's going on beyond what he sees, that the short week he had in that time isn't enough for him to be sure he really understands.
There's a bit of adventure, a bit of travelogue, a side trip to the last days of Earth before the expanding red giant sun swallows it up. But time travel isn't really the point. It's just the mechanism to comment on 19th century western society.
Eat the Rich:
The division between labor and capital, or working class and aristocracy, has become full-on speciation. Humanity has split into the beautiful, childlike, idle Eloi and the monstrous, brutal Morlocks who maintain the vast underground machines that provide the Eloi everything they need.
Ironically, the socialist Wells sets up his protagonist and his audience to have more in common with the Eloi than the Morlocks. The time traveler is upper class, has servants, and has the money and time to spend years tinkering with inventions. His friends gather for formal dinner parties, though they're mostly professionals rather than idlers. He pities the Eloi for their complete uselessness, identifies with them as they look more like today's humans, and of course has nothing to fear from them. The Morlocks look more monstrous to him, and you get the impression that even if they weren't attacking the Eloi at night and stealing the time machine, he'd still be horrified rather than pity their fate.
(Interesting side note: the description of the Morlocks in the book is awfully similar to the way Weta Digital designed Gollum. And yet Bilbo and Frodo both found it in their hearts to pity him.)
It's a cautionary tale of what happens when you treat whole classes as subhuman, and still insist that they do all the work for you.