The accidental time machine (Joe Haldeman, 2007)


The accidental time machine, by Joe Haldeman (2007).

Score: Meh.

In this novel, sleazy, over-caffeinated research assistant Matthew Fuller builds a time machine, while trying to actually make a graviton calibrator, that sends itself and anything touching it with a conducting material into the future, for a period that’s twelve times longer each time he presses the button. Sadly, being irredeemably stupid despite having a degree in physics, he decides it’s a good idea to start travelling forward and forward in time, being perfectly aware that there is no way he knows of that will allow him to travel backwards in time.

From The forever war we already know that Haldeman likes to toy with how humanity will fare in very long time spans. It’s quite bold, but it also means you’re likely to fail miserably. The alienating feeling is quite well achieved, though. We also know that Haldeman dislikes religion and he can be really heavy-handed about it. Here is one example.

The passage with the Christian theocracy reminds of A canticle for Leibowitz, only much less subtle and clever. It’s like he almost wants to blame everything bad that ever happened to religion… calm down, man, I don’t like religion either but when you paint things like that you look like a zealot. The next jump to the wealthy and complacent society ruled by machines is quite cliché-ridden as well. Like capitalism can ever work that way, even regulated by machines.

It’s true that having the machine only travel forward saves you a lot of trouble as a writer, but it’s also quite boring. There were only two ways it could end and the one that didn’t happen was even more boring. The development was not very entertaining either, mostly because of the nonsensically long time spans travelled by the characters. Finished it mostly because I want to do some research on time travel stories and because it wasn’t that long, but I don’t think it’s going to be worth your while.

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