Sean O'Brien's Reviews > The Accidental Time Machine

The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman
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's review
Jul 15, 2012

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This recent novel by longtime science fiction veteran Joe Haldeman is a bit of a departure for him, at lease for those of us who know him from The Forever War. In The Accidental Time Machine, Haldeman proposes a rather simple plot device to explore various future Earths.

Matt Fuller is this novel's Gulliver or Rip Van Winkle or other fish-out-of-water character. Unlike some stock narrators, Fuller is a fairly well-established character, charming without being dashing, and the reader does come to genuinely care about him. The (plot) device that allows him to travel into the future takes him farther and farther, and we encounter the effects of first societal then biological evolution on Earth.

The story is not particularly conflict-driven until the introduction of a malevolent computer late in the narrative, and while the A.I. is interesting, the conflict there doesn't feel quite as organic as it might. I don't want to question Haldeman's decisions, but the central conflict in the plot doesn't seem to be character-driven or important. Also, the trips to the future become less and less substantive, and the worlds encountered become less and less interesting as we go farther and farther.

The book is a very quck read (I think I finished it in two days) which is both a strength and a weakness. Haldeman is always fun to read, but this one almost seemed too lighthearted.

Still, if you're looking for a relatively light and pleasant read that takes some new approaches to time travel, pick up The Accidental Time Machine.

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