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The Accidental Time Machine

3.67  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,031 Ratings  ·  620 Reviews
Joe Haldeman "has quietly become one of the most important science fiction writers of our time" (Rocky Mountain News). Now he delivers a provocative novel of a man who stumbles upon the discovery of a lifetime-or many lifetimes.

Grad-school dropout Matt Fuller is toiling as a lowly research assistant at MIT when, while measuring subtle quantum forces that relate to time c
Hardcover, 278 pages
Published August 7th 2007 by Ace
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The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerOutlander by Diana GabaldonThe Time Machine by H.G. Wells11/22/63 by Stephen KingTimeline by Michael Crichton
Best Time Travel Fiction
40th out of 1,208 books — 3,897 voters
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger11/22/63 by Stephen KingOutlander by Diana GabaldonThe Time Machine by H.G. WellsReplay by Ken Grimwood
The Best Time Travel Books of All Time
27th out of 431 books — 1,066 voters

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Community Reviews

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Shannon (Giraffe Days)
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
**Review may contain some minor spoilers**

The Accidental Time Machine came at a right time in my life. No, I am not having any “pre” mid-life crisis (not yet, at least); it’s just that that for the past dozen or so days, I was experiencing some serious reading withdrawal. I would pick up a book thinking that finally I have found the right one, read a couple of chapters, and then with a big sigh, put it back on the shelf. I couldn’t continue even if I found a book interesting. This happened at le
Jun 12, 2009 Sandi rated it really liked it
The Accidental Time Machine is the kind of old-fashioned science fiction I loved growing up. It's got a brevity and tone that's very much like Bradbury or Asimov. I've always been a sucker for time travel stories and this one didn't disappoint. There was a lot of detail left out that other author probably would have included, but that was fine with me. In current books, authors have a tendency to spell everything out for the reader. Haldeman doesn't do that. As a result, the reader has to use hi ...more
Apr 04, 2013 Jon added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jon by: SciFi & Fantasy Book Club June 2009
Jun 18, 2009 Libby rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 09, 2015 Andy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi, time-travel
I have fairly specific requirements for time travel stories. However they treat time travel, it has to make sense to me. This book did, which is the main reason it got 5 stars. The plot is actually fairly simplistic, and there are really only 2-3 characters none of whom are very deep or rich. But it was quite entertaining. The story follows Matt into the distance future, one leap at a time in a way that reminded me quite a bit of Marooned in Realtime (another favorite).
I flew through this book. It gets going on page one and doesn't stop for a moment. It's non-stop fun, it's unexpected, and it's just fantastic story telling.

The name tells you everything you need to know about the story, but not how enjoyable it is! Life is fleeting. Also it isn't. There are a number of iterations of humanity all of which seem as likely as the last. Makes you wonder where we'll be as a society in however many years time...

Big thumbs up. Lots of enjoyment in this one.
A couple of years ago, I pounded the Goodreads pavement pretty hard searching for pretty much any time-travel book I could find to add to my ever-growing to-read list (a list which has, to my horror, since surpassed 1,500 books–for every book I periodically cull, ten more pop up in its place). The Accidental Time Machine was one of the books I found. I’d heard of Joe Haldeman because his Forever War series is a classic of the military sci-fi genre, although I have yet to read it. I wish I had st ...more
**A spoiler or two follow, but nothing that will wreck The Accidental Time Machine. At least I don't think they will.**

The Accidental Time Machine is a pretty disappointing piece of Sci-Fi, but then my expectations were probably too high.

I've heard great things about Joe Haldeman over the years, particularly about his Hugo Award Winning book The Forever War, so I was expecting The Accidental Time Machine to be entertaining and hoping it would be compelling.

It was neither.

Before I go on, thoug
Dec 18, 2007 Karina rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This was light reading; I have finished it in one day. I'm still not all clear on the detail how the protagonist bails himself out of prison, and it's bothering me. So I guess the conclusion isn't all that neat as in The Door Into Summer where the story goes full circle. Still there was a happy ending for the protagonist apparently. I kind of wish I'd finished reading Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid since this book mentions Godel and strange loops, which I only have a basic understa ...more
May 09, 2008 Ryan rated it liked it
Recommended to Ryan by: library display
Oh the fun you can have with time travel. I would say this was a slightly above average sci-fi exploration of the space-time continuum, although I thought it borrowed a little too heavily from H.G. Wells' classic. The periodic regression of civilization and the eventual extinction of life on Earth just didn't strike me as that creative. I would have also like to see more on the inherent paradoxes of time travel instead of the clumsy interpersonal relationships he spends so much time on. I don't ...more
Kelly H. (Maybedog)
I love Joe Haldeman. His books are very readable, interesting, and move forward at a reasonable speed. The ideas are interesting and thought-provoking, his characters realistic, fallible, but likable anyway. This book is no exception. I liked the main character, understood his motivations, and the plot moved along at a good clip. I read the book at one sitting. The plot was interesting: would you use a time machine if you could only go forward, even to save your hide? The future was not what I e ...more
Nov 25, 2009 Jackie rated it liked it
This is the first book I've read by this author and I found it an easy, interesting read.
I've got the dreaded bronchitis yet again, so I was grateful to have a book I didn't have to think too hard about. What I liked best about this is that while the scientific theory could be a possibility to time travel, the author didn't go all physics teacher on me. Wrote what it was but I didn't have to get mind-bendy to comprehend it. The story was more about the person(s) involved and the journey, not so
Beth A.
May 29, 2009 Beth A. rated it liked it
Recommended to Beth A. by: SciFi Fantasy Book Club
Shelves: sci-fi
I got caught in this story immediately, it had an interesting premise, and it flowed quickly. It was entertaining enough to keep me up late even though I was very tired and had a long drive the next day. The characters were believable even if some of their circumstances required a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. I liked the ending, too.

Note: This book contains some themes that reflect negatively on religion, also occasional foul language, drug use, and not-too-explicit mention of por
Aug 05, 2009 Richard rated it liked it
Recommended to Richard by: SciFi & Fantasy Group 2009-06 SciFi Selection
This was the SciFi selection for the Goodreads SciFi and Fantasy Book Club for the month of June 2009. Visit this link to see all of the discussions, group member reviews, etc.

This is old school science fiction. Very clever, nicely thought-out hard-scifi plausibility, and very light on character development.

The plot is a classic voyage-and-return in which our likable but flawed protagonist is more-or-less forced far from home, undergoes struggles, and — perhaps — finds his way home. Along the wa
May 05, 2012 J.P. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
This just borrowed too much from previous writings for me. It's simular to H.G. Wells The Time Machine and the plot is also akin to the author's best work The Forever War. Beware, spoilers ahead....there are a few nice twists here. The user can go only forward, in increasing amounts of years and he doesn't return to where he started out from. At first, this works pretty well. He gets into awkward situations and manages to get out of them by activating the time machine and making another jump. Bu ...more
Jul 26, 2012 JodiP rated it did not like it
Shelves: sci-fi
I listened to this book, and that may have been a big part of the problem. I had so loved Forever War, and had high expectations for this. However, I really disliked the reader: he seemed like a laconic 15-year-old and had a very wooden style of reading. I don't think Haldeman did a good job with the main character, Matt, either. He seemed so sophomoric. Also, it's 2008: can we get a woman heroine or not? How would this had been different if the matt character and the professor had been women? W ...more
Oct 23, 2014 Jim rated it liked it
Recommended to Jim by: Jackie G.
It was an interesting time travel book, as engaging as any of his books are; well written & quite readable. The main character was likable & often fun. The end was unexpected, but not as filling as I hoped it would be. Haldeman lays out some interesting scenarios about our possible future(s) along the way. I found them all very well done.
Kate Sherrod
Jul 25, 2009 Kate Sherrod rated it really liked it
This book often threatened to tip into the territory of David Gerrold's wondrous The Man Who Folded Himself but never quite made that trip. It would have been fine with me if it had, but one of those is probably enough.

What we have here instead is a playful use of a not-quite-MacGuffin (as Haldeman explains in his author's note, a scientific paper was quite recently published in which his graviton/string theory conceit is explored as serious science) to explore a few possible futures for its pro
Dan Absalonson
May 08, 2013 Dan Absalonson rated it it was ok
This book had some very interesting ideas in it, but it was boring. Maybe it's just that I'm not as into hard science fiction like this if it is indeed hard SF. There was a lot of scientific jargon in this book that some readers may find delightful, just not me. I think the main reason I almost didn't finish it is that I could care less what happened to the main character. Nothing about him made me interested in him, or made me like him. He's just kind of a loser who accidentally discovered a ti ...more
Jun 20, 2012 Denny rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I loved the first 80% of this book. So what an amazing letdown the end is. A Deus Ex Machina solution that's never explained, mysteries presented in the book that are never addressed, and characters that seem awfully blase about rather significant events. And so many other issues, but I don't want to get into spoiler territory. I have read books with weak endings, but this almost feels like Haldeman got bored with writing the book and just decided to wrap it all up quickly. I can't think of anot ...more
Aug 25, 2008 Nate rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: that guy over there
Another compulsively readable title from Joe Haldeman. Think The Forever War in terms of scope & central character focus. The hero is pretty much instantly likable and it has a nice denouement at the end.

It'll be a quick read for you--finished it in one day, but that shouldn't detract from the fact that it moves swiftly, through time no less! Pa-ching!

I agree that the introduction of a deus ex machina towards the end leaves more questions than answers, but overall it was a great read for a
This Is Not The Michael You're Looking For
A light book about time travel gone awry, I never really warmed up to the story. It starts out interestingly enough, but then somehow meanders along its way, more or less like the main character who is remarkably flat for all that happens. Lightly amusing without being particularly funny, it's an easy read, but left me somewhat unsatisfied in the end. While the very ending of the book (essentially the epilogue, although not labeled as such) was very well done, I didn't particularly understand th ...more
Jamie Collins
This was pretty good - Haldeman is a great storyteller, and his characters are always likeable.

Maybe it's because I recently watched the time travel movie Primer, but the invention/discovery of the time machine seemed a little trite (this box was designed to do x, but it's actually a time machine!) The time travel itself was very interesting, and different from anything I've read.

The book might be considered post-apocalyptic, as the time traveler discovers a future world in which he is terribly
Mar 05, 2016 Natira rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
Mich hat dieser Roman von Joe Haldemann leider enttäuscht zurückgelassen. Ich mochte zwar die Art qund Weise, wie die Zeitreise hier stattfindet, und fand auch grundsätzlich die Ziele interessant. Jedoch fiel der Spannungsbogen für mich zum Ende hin ab, das Ende selbst fühlte sich wie ein Annex im Sinne "was dann noch geschah" an, und dann ist da natürlich noch der Protagonist Matt, der sich meiner Ansicht nach nicht wie ein ca. 27jähriger Lehr-Assisstent und Doktorand am MIT benimmt und sic
Mar 10, 2008 Eric rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Sci fi fans who have not read a time travel book recently
Recommended to Eric by: NPR
Shelves: science-fiction
This book was a good read. The pacing and characterization were enjoyable. Nevertheless, there were some problems with it.

It was a "time travelogue." The main character went skipping through the time stream, stopping here and there to experience the earth at that time. There is nothing particularly wrong with that, but it was less satisfying than a book based on a specific goal or plot.

The mechanism behind the time machine was also less than satisfactory to me.
Jul 09, 2014 Harry007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
This book is supposed to be an exciting adventure, but I only had mild enjoyment from it. There's a type of sci-fi I don't like: where the author tries to get away with limited narrative detail and hardly any characterisation. That's what happens here, and I found it unsatisfying. I immediately felt the whole story was rushed, not that I was reading through it overly fast, but because it wasn't a very rich narrative. It felt like I was jumping between scenes too quickly - possibly because there ...more
Paul Weimer
Feb 08, 2009 Paul Weimer rated it it was ok
The Accidental Time Machine, by Joe Haldeman.

Coincidentally, I was recently talking about a Poul Anderson short story, "Flight to Forever", which has some resemblance to this novel.

The basic premise is similar with some twists. Matt, a grad student at MIT, accidental invents the eponymous time machine. Its only a one way device, and the "jumps" are logarithmically longer and longer, and so his journey quickly becomes a one way trip to the future, looking for a way to reverse the process and ret
Jun 01, 2009 Daniel rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
B.C. Young
Mar 04, 2011 B.C. Young rated it really liked it
The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman tells the story of Matt Fuller. As a lab assistant at MIT, he accidentally discovers a time machine – thus the name of the book. The discovery takes him on a journey that spans thousands upon thousands of years, where he comes in contact with different civilizations in the future. But his one goal is to finally go home, or I should say, to his time period.

The Good: If you are like me, and you like time travel stories, then you should enjoy this book ve
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Brother of Jack C. Haldeman II

Haldeman is the author of 20 novels and five collections. The Forever War won the Nebula, Hugo and Ditmar Awards for best science fiction novel in 1975. Other notable titles include Camouflage, The Accidental Time Machine and Marsbound as well as the short works "Graves," "Tricentennial" and "The Hemingway Hoax." Starbound is scheduled for a January release. SFWA pres
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