“Morlock Night” Book Review

PrintMorlock Night was released in 1979 and asks the question “What happened after the events of The Time Machine?” H. G. Wells’ classic tale is told through the vehicle of a dinner party being held by a man known only as “the time traveler.” Jeter’s story picks up right as the party has broken up for the night and the guests are wending their dreary ways home through the London fog.

One of the guests, a Mr. Edwin Hocker, shares his walk and his skepticism with another guest, the mysterious Dr. Ambrose. Hocker is appalled by the turn their conversation takes and finally extricates himself from Ambrose’s company only to be thrown into a nightmare version of his beloved London far in the future. In this world he is confronted by a scenario where the Morlocks, our subterranean future selves, have taken control of the time machine and have invaded the year 1892.

Thankfully this future can still be prevented, and with the guidance of Ambrose, who by the way is the wizard Merlin, Hocker and his compatriot from the future, Tafe, are sent on a series of quests. First, the reincarnation of King Arthur needs to be found and freed from Merlin’s nemesis, Merdenne. But the aging king is in failing health, a condition that can only be stopped by the magical sword Excalibur, the power of which has been diminished through the machinations of Merdenne and his use of the Time Machine.

Morlock

The Morlocks as portrayed by the 1960 film adaptation of “The Time Machine.”

But even more dire than the ensuing Morlock invasion is the rift in time itself, which is slowly undoing the universe. If Hocker cannot succeed all is lost for not just the human race, but the entirety of existence.

I always enjoy a story with imagination, and Morlock Night certainly fits the bill. Jeter constructs a story that includes Arthurian folklore, Atlantian technology and the time travel paradox that is seen through the eyes of a Victorian gentleman. There was a lot of flag waving for England, but many of Hocker’s biases about class and gender are confronted and changed, which adds the weight of social commentary to a fun story. On the other hand, I didn’t care for the ending. It felt like Jeter spent so much time building to an epic climax and then just copped out at the end. I’m hoping to get more satisfaction from his other books, Infernal Devices and Fiendish Schemes when I get a hold of them.

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