Sunday, December 18, 2011

The accidental time machine

Joe Haldeman
Ace, 2007 (my copy is from Ace, 2008)
Size: Short (my copy has 257 pages)
Theme: Time travel
Narrative: third-person
Main character: Matt Fuller
Recommended minimum age: Teenager
Would purchase as a gift to any sci-fi reader: YES

This book explores the interesting concept of a graduate student who stumbles upon a particularly curious feature in a lab equipment he is assembling. Every time the reset button in the machine is pressed, it travels in time. However, he has no control over the time jumps, and is unable to understand or explain the mechanisms behind the phenomena. Unsurprisingly, he will get in considerable trouble, both in the near and in the far future. As he experiments time travel, he is thrown into different societies and has to deal with peculiar characters. Maybe the future does not always hold exactly what you would expect…

The novel is very straightforward, and easy to read. The author does not attempt to provide a comprehensive explanation for the physics behind time travel (which usually would mean either totally wrong or at least flawed science, and which can become very annoying). It is much more of an adventure story than your traditional time travel novel. Being very short, you won’t get bored throughout, but on the other hand many potential side-stories are barely scratched and shallow characters are introduced only to be quickly discarded. Having spent considerable time at MIT and Boston, I was able to follow the references to buildings and locations, but I felt that most readers will find those parts either boring or undecipherable. Still, the novel was quite enjoyable.

*** Spoiler Alert ***
(Warning: the following text contains information that may hamper/ruin how much you enjoy the book):

As Matt goes further and further into the future with Martha and the artificial intelligence La, he continues being contacted in dreams by the future entities. Following their advice, they end up on Earth, in a far off future with no humans in sight. The future entities set La off toward her goal of traveling to the end of time, and send Matt and Martha back in time, although with a minor offset. We learn in the end that Professor Marsh is actually Matt’s descendant.

1 comment:

  1. my friend told me about this book that it's very interesting. will borrow this from her and read it. thanks for this review