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The Time Ships

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There is a secret passage through time...and it leads all the way to the end of Eternity. But the journey has a terrible cost. It alters not only the future but the "present" in which we live.

A century after the publication of H. G. Wells' immortal The Time Machine, Stephen Baxter, today's most acclaimed new "hard SF" author, and the acknowledged Clarke, returns to the distant conflict between the Eloi and the Morlocks in a story that is at once an exciting expansion, and a radical departure based on the astonishing new understandings of quantum physics.

520 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1995

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About the author

Stephen Baxter

393 books2,288 followers
Stephen Baxter is a trained engineer with degrees from Cambridge (mathematics) and Southampton Universities (doctorate in aeroengineering research). Baxter is the winner of the British Science Fiction Award and the Locus Award, as well as being a nominee for an Arthur C. Clarke Award, most recently for Manifold: Time. His novel Voyage won the Sidewise Award for Best Alternate History Novel of the Year; he also won the John W. Campbell Award and the Philip K. Dick Award for his novel The Time Ships. He is currently working on his next novel, a collaboration with Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Mr. Baxter lives in Prestwood, England.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 379 reviews
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,227 reviews1,061 followers
March 31, 2023
In 1995, a hundred years after H.G. Wells's novel "The Time Machine", the Wells' estate authorised an official sequel by Stephen Baxter. The Time Ships went on to win several prestigious SF awards, including the British Science Fiction award for that year. It is an ambitious project and an exciting read in its own right.

The novel starts where the original left off, in 1891, with "the Time Traveller" preparing to return to the year 802,701 to save Weena, the young female Eloi who died in the fire with the Morlocks, a fact for which he had felt guilty and responsible ever since.

We learn that the time machine had been constructed from quartz, and fuelled by a radioactive substance called "Plattnerite", which had been given to the traveller by an unknown and mysterious benefactor, twenty years earlier. Incidentally, Stephen Baxter has coined this word using the name of a character in one of Wells's short stories entitled "The Plattner Story". Published in a collection in 1897, the story is about a school teacher, "Gottfried Plattner" who chemically analyses a green powder of uncertain origin which had been given him by his students. When lit, the powder violently launches him into a mysterious parallel dimension, where he is observed by mute "Watchers of the Living". There are further references to these beings later in this novel.

With the aid of the Plattnerite, the Time Traveller sets off into the future and stops in 657,208 , when the daytime sky has gone permanently dark. At this point there is an unexpected twist in the tale,

There are a lot of definitions and explanations relating to quantum physics, which the reader assumes to be either theoretical or even pseudoscience. It is tempting to wonder whether H. G. Wells himself would have written this sort of hard SF, had he had access to the scientific advancements of the next hunded years. It is certainly consistent with the style of his SF novels and stories.This part of the book is full of wit and gentle humour. It is very much in keeping with Wells's writing style, and the stiffness and pomposity of Edwardian characters is well conveyed, amusing both the viewpoint character, reverting backwards from his point in time, and the readers, from ours.

In this section of the book, Gödel comes across almost as a mouthpiece for H. G. Wells, as Baxter makes him a prescient character describing what society would be like after the war. This is a very bleak and pessimistic view, which seems to be similar to Wells's own.

This is another example of Baxter's theorising and literary references. In our world the bomb would be an atomic bomb, with its nuclear energy produced by uranium. In this novel the science is slightly different. The suggestion is that the universe of the Time Traveller is not ours, but a slightly different one, consistent with H. G. Wells's novels. In Wells's world, nuclear energy is produced from a material called carolinum, which allows Plattnerite to be produced relatively easily. These Carolinum bombs, contrary to A-bombs, continue to detonate for years with an eerie purple glow. The name "carolinum", and the reference to continuous detonation are both based on Wells's novel, which he called "The World Set Free". Prophetically, he wrote it in 1913, and in it H. G. Wells predicted nuclear weapons of a more destructive and uncontrollable sort than the world has yet seen.

Stephen Baxter has written a hugely ambitious sequel, which succeeds on just about every level. It captures the voice and style of H.G. Wells, as well as being an absorbing and exciting read on its own. The characters are engaging throughout, and the development of the Morlocks provide a very neat twist on the original. References to Wells's other works, mean that the novel is even more enjoyable.
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews780 followers
August 8, 2015
Taking on the task of writing a sequel to H.G. Wells’ classic The Time Machine must have been like painting a target on his back. Having read Baxter’s Xeelee Omnibus I was very curious if Baxter can pull it off as the Xeelee books are very hard sci-fi with some very complicated scientific expositions (half of which went well over my head). His prose style in those books is readable but not so high on literary merit. In contrast The Time Machine is a beautifully written and fairly straight forward sci-fi adventure. Baxter’s The Time Ships does seem to be quite popular among his books so I was intrigued to find out how he managed to make a success of it.

The Time Ships continues directly from the end of The Time Machine where the unnamed protagonist has recently returned to 1891 from his adventures in the far future where he battled Morlocks, witnessed the end of the world, almost get eaten by weird giant crabtrocities etc. After a few days home it occurs to him to go back to the future to rescue Weena, the little Eloi girl who befriended him and was carried off by Morlocks for her troubles. This is the initial premise to the start of a truly epic adventure in time and space in both past and future directions this time.

One missed opportunity about Wells’ The Time Machine is that the “timey wimey” paradox is not featured in the book, the story feels kind of linear in spite of the journey to the future and the return journey at the end. The science fiction genre, which Wells has helped to give birth to, has developed very far since Wells’ time, and Baxter has taken full advantage of that subsequent development. It is as if Baxter has turbo charged the original book, or - perhaps more accurately - strapped a FTL drive to it. From the Edwardian settings Baxter goes on to incorporate post-humanism, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, parallel universes, space elevators and many other modern sci-fi concepts. The Time Ships does not read like a sequel that Wells may have written it himself. It reads more like fan fiction written by a scientist and eminent sci-fi author. Fortunately this time Baxter’s science (mostly) did not go over my head, I certainly find The Time Ships more accessible than his Xeelee books. The plot is completely unpredictable and the occasional illustrations are wonderful, there is even a great anti-war message. Baxter also makes the time machine itself more believable:
“Well, then, this is the essence of my Time Machine,’ I concluded. ‘The machine twists Space and Time around itself, thus mutating Time into a Spatial Dimension – and then one may proceed, into past or future, as easy as riding a bicycle!”

“We cannot help but interact with History, you and I. With every breath we take, every tree you cut down, every animal we kill, we create a new world in the Multiplicity of Worlds. That is all. It is unavoidable.”
Nicely put! Stephen Baxter’s faux-Wellsian prose is a valiant effort though he does not really have Wells’ finesse with the language. He certain overuses exclamation marks in his narratives and dialogue, a habit which I find quite jarring. He did quite well with the character development though, at least with the two central character, the Time Traveler and his Morlock friend Nebogipfel (no, I won’t elaborate on the “Morlock friend” part). The Time Traveller seems to be more badass and pugnacious than I remember from the Wells book. Baxter has the advantage of modern science knowledge which he applied cleverly to the story.

In spite of some stylistic flaws I would rate this book at 5 stars because I had 5 stars worth of entertainment out of it. By far the best Stephen Baxter book I ever read and it has made me a regular customer of his.
Profile Image for Xabi1990.
1,971 reviews849 followers
August 3, 2021
Pág. 224, 40% y abandonado.
Por Dios y por la Virgen, qué aburrimiento.

Dicen que es steampunk, género por el que siento aprecio. Que lo digan, pero de momento solo parcialmente época victoriana y el vapor, poco o nada.

El autor es matemático e ingeniero, y parece ser que eso le ha llevado a más explicaciones de las que me gustan. Se enzarza con las paradojas temporales que sí posibles o no y lo soluciona con el tema de universos múltiples/paralelos. Pues vale.

El autor es inglés. El pobre no tiene la culpa, pero no me matan los autores ingleses. Pocos triunfan conmigo. Y es que se enrolla con las localizaciones de Londón y me sobran.

El libros es una continuación autorizada de La máquina del tiempo de Wells. Pues bien, como presentación no está mal, pero el desarrollo aburre.

Y he aguantado esas 200 págs. Y ya. Y mira que quería que me gustara por todo lo anterior (salvo la pertenencia a Albión) y porque siempre que empiezo CF recuerdo el “sense of wonder” que me asaltaba en mis lejanos comienzos con la CF y me gustaría que volviera, pero es difícil (leed Projecto Hail Mary de Weir, que ese sí lo consigue)

Pues eso, que lo aprecies si podéis (otros del autor tampoco han triunfado conmigo, por cierto)
Profile Image for Raed.
254 reviews56 followers
January 23, 2023
I love The Time Machine. It’s the grandfather of time travel stories, and still one of the best. H.G. Wells’ classic story tells of a nameless Time Traveller who takes a quick jaunt to the future to prove a scientific point, and then returns home to tell the tale

The Time Ships is a book crammed with ideas, essential for the hard sf reader, complete enough as a novel to satisfy those beyond the subgenre. Towards the end it falters a little, it stops being the story of the people and becomes the story of the ideas - a big, wild tumble of speculative physics

Behind the 10 miles of physics and philosophy this book is a love story:

I was a murderer of the future: I had taken on, I realized, more powers than God himself. By my twisting-up of the workings of History, I had wiped over billions of unborn lives—lives that would now never come to be. And I realized now that I could never retrieve Weena.

The Time Traveller reached the end and the beginning of Multiplicity, not for the big picture of his species or his life or his power, just to save Weena : a creature that gave him Unconditional Platonic love...

Profile Image for bsc.
94 reviews33 followers
February 7, 2009
Baxter did a great job capturing the feel and style of The Time Machine. What he didn't capture of H.G.'s brevity. There are some truly fascinating ideas in this book. The problem is that there's too many ideas. The result of this was a longing for the book's satisfying but predictable conclusion.
Profile Image for RJ - Slayer of Trolls.
765 reviews179 followers
April 8, 2023
This canonical sequel to H.G. Wells' enduring Science-Fiction novella about an inventor who travels into Earth's distant future to explore humanity's legacy was authorized by Wells' estate and the H.G. Wells Society and published in 1995, the 100th anniversary of the original publication of The Time Machine. Baxter, a hard sci-fi author who considers himself heavily influenced by Wells and who would become Vice President of the H.G. Wells Society in 2006, was a natural choice to write the sequel; he would later write The Massacre of Mankind in 2017, an authorized sequel published for the 120th anniversary of The War of the Worlds's original publication. The Time Ships opens just after the original story ends, with our inventor preparing to revisit the future Earth of the Eloi and the Morlocks in search of his beloved Weena, but the story quickly expands beyond a simple linear sequel into an exploration of many different facets of time travel (alternate history, multiple universes, etc.) and other hard sci-fi topics (Dyson spheres, Von Neumann self-replicating space exploration craft, etc.) with many, many loving touches included for Wells fans (land ironclads from the short story of the same name, the name "Nebogipfel" from the story "The Chronic Argonauts" which foreshadowed The Time Machine, etc.). Like many hard sci-fi novels, the characters and the story take a back seat to exploring the ideas, which gets tedious at times, particularly since Baxter successfully apes Wells' rambling Victorian prose which might not be overly compelling to a modern reader, and the book's scope is so vast that 520 pages of tiny-point type can be exhausting by the end, but that detracts only slightly from Baxter's grand accomplishment.
Profile Image for fromcouchtomoon.
311 reviews64 followers
September 20, 2015
Cool because it's a sequel to The Time Machine; dull because it's written like a sequel to The Time Machine. A slow start that grows from intriguing to dull and back again, but Baxter's Hard SF misses the boat, er, ship, rather, when he mostly neglects Wells' primary social concerns for engineering sensawunda. Also, Morlocks probably don't call themselves Morlocks.
Profile Image for Brian Clegg.
Author 203 books2,568 followers
January 23, 2023
There has been a long tradition of writing sequels or variants of H. G. Wells classics - think, for example, of Christopher Priest's mashup of The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds in The Space Machine. This 1995 novel from Stephen Baxter is, in one sense, a straight sequel to The Time Machine, picking up immediately after the time traveller returns to the 'present' of 1891. If I'm honest, The Time Machine is my least favourite of Wells' SF novels. Although the early chat about time as a fourth dimension was distinctly visionary, I find the actual adventure in the distant future heavy going. There are still elements of that in this sequel - but there's no doubt that Stephen Baxter managed to go way beyond Wells' original vision.

Firstly, Baxter invokes the Many Worlds hypothesis, to enable time travel without paradoxes, which intriguingly means that every journey through time potentially produces a totally different future. Then he brings in other concepts from Wells' writing, notably his books covering modern warfare and presaging a sort of atomic bomb (though, as described in Wells' The World Set Free, very different from the real thing). Time travel is envisaged of a way of fighting a war... and then totally transforms the history of humanity and its successors.

Towards the end it all goes a little over the top. Early in his career, Baxter was involved with Arthur C. Clarke and we get some parallels with the star child sequence in 2001, combined with echoes of the ending of James Blish's Cities in Flight books. When we arrive at such lofty, heavyweight concepts it can be easy to lose any sense of engaging storytelling, especially combined with the cod Victorian writing style. There's a quote from New Scientist on the back of my copy that says that Baxter 'joins [the] exclusive ranks [of those who write] science fiction in which the science is right'. There is certainly a fair dollop of speculative physics here, but we sometimes get it in exchange for great writing. And there is one bit of dodgy history of science, where the time traveller talks knowledgeably about radium some eight years before it was named.

However, despite sometimes getting a little bogged down, there is no doubt this is a novel with both a fantastic span and a whole collection of excellent ideas. Time travel is great in theory as a storyline, but it's rare that time travel fiction really explores it implications. Baxter does this in some depth - and it's impressive stuff.
Profile Image for Max.
1,170 reviews7 followers
June 8, 2012
While I felt as if The Time Machine was somewhat too short, this novel was almost certainly too long. Baxter did do a good job of presenting this as a sequel to The Time Machine. However, as a few other reviews note, the Time Traveler does not make for a compelling protagonist. The Dyson Sphere and Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics were interesting elements to include, although I've seen both elsewhere, and handled much better. Some of the histories were interesting, and the alternate World War I would be a brilliant setting for a novel or series of novels. However, the second half of the book is paced rather poorly. The time spent in the Paleocene is largely a recapitulation of "random guy stuck on an island" stories with a Morlock thrown in. Even worse, the time spent on the "White Earth" is just unutterably dull. It is full of far too much exposition and absolutely no depiction of the intriguing post-human future. The subsequent introduction of the titular Time Ships leads to another rather uninteresting stretch. The trip back through time to the dawn of the universe is alright, but all the subsequent action is explained poorly, and not in a good way. I am sometimes okay with sufficiently unexplained or complex endings, if they provoke thought. This, on the other hand, was nonsensical dribble. The Watchers are barely explained and in the end prove to be almost completely superfluous. Thus, I would say it is best to read the first few sections if you wish to read any of this at all, and then set the book aside. Trust me, you will not miss very much.
Profile Image for Leslie.
2,662 reviews202 followers
April 27, 2018
This 'sequel' to H.G. Wells' The Time Machine was well done. Baxter starts off very much in Wells' style but while maintaining the fundamentals of the Time Traveler's character, he swiftly brings the story out of Wells' philosophical dystopian mode into the (equally philosophically tinged) modern idea of multiplicity resulting from quantum mechanics.

Some of the various histories were just as horrifying as the original world of the Eloi and Morlocks & some were Utopian though challenging to our ideas of what is important/right.

I particularly liked the fact that A wonderful centennial tribute to Wells!
Profile Image for Nicholas Whyte.
4,627 reviews177 followers
September 1, 2019

This is a sequel to The Time Machine, authorised as such by the H.G. Wells estate. (I've had more dealings with the estates of deceased writers in the last week than I can remember from my whole life before the Worldcon.) I have previously mentioned that I always appreciate the breadth and scope of Baxter's vision - the commitment to sensawunda if you like - but that he doesn't always succeed in communicating it in a human way to me. I thought this book ticked the right boxes. The Time Traveller of Wells' novel tries to return to the year 802,701 and save Weena, but gets caught up in the parallel universes of the Many Worlds theory, and visits a number of very well depicted possible futures and pasts along with a friendly Morlock called Nebogipfel. Particularly vivid passages are set in a war-torn London of 1938, where the exiled Kurt Gödel is helping the British government, and a Paleocene setting where they become involved in setting up a wildly premature human colony in the past. Other bits are a little duller, but the overall plot of time paradoxes, which seems in danger of veering out of control at one point, is wrapped up very satisfactorily. Apparently there are lots of references to other H.G. Wells stories as well, which I missed due to not being in that fandom. Overall I enjoyed it.

Profile Image for Erik.
17 reviews2 followers
August 5, 2011
Baxter takes the classic HG Wells novela and expands it in new and interesting ways, while still being faithful to the original piece. Here the Time Traveler is more thoughtful and more scientifically minded than he was in "The Time Machine," but the characterization is the same.

His journey starts where the first book ends and is split up into seven smaller "books" within the more than five-hundred page paperback. Each book takes the the Time Traveller from a child-like understanding of time, to a sad adulthood where time travel causes only bad futures, and back again to a hopeful place of maturity and wonder.

It is not an easy book to start and delves into a lot of scientific digressions that even ardent science fiction fans might not be used to. In between the theoretical monologues (and eventually, dialogues) is a pensive character piece that questions the nature of reality, infinity and eternity.

While challenging and a bit hard to read at points, "The Times Ships" is a novel that is exciting, heart breaking and demands to be finished.
Profile Image for Peter.
150 reviews3 followers
November 23, 2014
Yeah. Well, I finished it but I'm not sure why.

I love the work of H.G. Wells and I was interested in a book beginning at the point where Wells' The Time Machine left off. After all, there have been many such works and most of the have been interesting and a couple of have been downright brilliant.

Baxter got the "voice" of the times just right but, he didn't quite capture Wells. Wells wrote story which had interesting and original thought experiments for the times.

Wells at his wordiest cannot begin to approach the word bloat infecting Baxter's novel. I desperately looked for anything at all, a la Wells, but failed to find any. What I found was an endlessly repetitive pseudo-explanation of time travel couched in 20th C scientific theory. That, and endless descriptive passages. True, Baxter does descr4iption very well; he even does rationalization of the scientifically impossible well enough to make the impossible seem merely improbable.

But, if you are also looking for story, with believable characters, you would do well to look elsewhere.
Profile Image for GreyAtlas.
531 reviews16 followers
June 15, 2016
I wanted to like this book, truly I did. But I just can't. I really liked the original Time Machine by H.G. Wells, so I thought I would like this one. I read the first 1/4 of this book and then skipped to the ending. It was good until *spoiler* they went back in time to see the narrators former self. The part I loved about the original Time Machine is that the world of the Morlocks and Eloi is believable, at least to me. This book by Baxter crosses from science fiction to fantasy, and had SO MUCH unnecessary shit in it, and I nearly stopped reading it. The ending was okay, but the book had the feel of that movie, Interstellar. The style that Baxter writes in is decent, pretty descriptive. I liked the first part of the book where he became captured by *spoiler* the new Morlocks of the future. But then, shit hits the fan, and the book just fails. It was a good attempt, but overall, just boring and unbelievable.
Profile Image for prcardi.
538 reviews74 followers
September 2, 2018
Storyline: 2/5
Characters: 4/5
Writing Style: 3/5
World: 3/5

An authorized sequel written on the centennial of what is perhaps the foundational science fiction book - how does one review such a thing? You could ask if it pays proper homage to the original, if it adequately captures the tone of the first, or perhaps if it builds on and betters what was originally there. And I'll address all of those in the process of this review. My overriding concern, however, when I started reading this, was whether or not this needed to be situated in the same world as H.G. Wells's The Time Machine. Was this a story that could have just as easily been told without reference to 1891 London, Morlocks or Eloi? Was Baxter using the centennial and reference to the original as an excuse to sell what would otherwise have been an unrelated book? And the answer to those questions is a decided "No." The Time Ships is very much a sequel to The Time Machine but not a sequel that Wells could ever have written. That, in fact, was one of the definitive characteristics of this telling. Baxter wants to show readers how humanity has progressed in the hundred years since the 1895 Time Machine was originally published. And what Baxter can conceive now in contemporary times, was inconceivable in the 19th century.

The book starts off in homage. Wells's prose is obviously and laboriously emulated and the character of the Time Traveler excellently captured. The writing style, however, was there but for the transition, to help us readers make the shift from Wells to Baxter. It doesn't take many chapters for Wells's prose to disappear and for Baxter's to dominate. It made for a lazy homage and does not throw Baxter into a positive light. One of the - if not the - primary marks of the original Time Machine was the prose, and the most that can be said for Baxter's writing is that it demonstrates how even a capable writer pales in comparison to a truly gifted one. The Time Ships is more successful, however, with the narrator. Here, too, this is probably not properly termed "homage" since Baxter is doing far more than venerating Wells. In fact, there is a certain disparaging taking place here - not slighting Wells personally, but slighting the 19th century humanity that could come up with the character of the Time Traveler. For Baxter knows something that appears to have eluded Wells. Wells's Time Traveler was never as noble, as honorable, as open-minded as Wells thought him to be. Wells's Time Traveler was a man of his own time, and Wells only scratched the surface of what that really meant. Baxter, however, can see the 1895 Time Traveler for all his flaws and most importantly, in a way that Wells's never could have: from the viewpoint of the end of the 20th century. What Baxter decides to do with the Time Traveler is the real heart of the book. Baxter is going to make him confront his assumptions and prejudices. The Time Traveler is going to have to truly see what a "man out of time" would have to be. There's other aspects to enjoy as well. Baxter has grand ambitions with technology and physics, incorporating some of the more elaborate and sensational theoretical possibilities into a very readable hard science fiction novel. And he stays true to the theme of the original - what would you discover if you traveled through time and how would you make sense of it? All this is done, as it was in the original, through the actions and perspectives of the Time Traveler.

Somehow, despite having 416 more pages to develop the story, I found that I didn't enjoy the plot of this one anymore than I had the 104-page precursor. That, in part, has to do with the goals of both authors, entertaining plotting not high among them. Both Wells and Baxter want to look at humanity. The irony with Baxter's twist on Wells's Time Traveler is that Baxter is no more freed from his time than was Wells was his. What results, then, is a main character every bit as trapped by a particular (and limited) worldview. To be able to see that in Wells's Time Traveler is evidence of how a book can achieve more than it intended - the Time Traveler being much more complicated (and flawed) than Wells intended. One gets to see the same thing here as well, only this time the Time Traveler reveals to us the assumptions and ideals of a modern day scientist - valuing neutrality and objectivity above all else. By the end of this story I thought that time travel and Baxter's vision of humanity were horrors, and I don't think we were supposed to leave with those impressions. Still, it is a remarkable book, an ambitious one, but not an overly entertaining one. I might have enjoyed the hard science fiction elements more in 1995. Though Baxter does a fairly good job integrating a mind-bending science fiction possibility , it is not so novel or strange to me anymore, and veteran science fiction readers reading this anew today will probably not find it as fresh and inventive as it was twenty years ago.
Profile Image for Wayne Fenlon.
Author 5 books58 followers
May 31, 2021
Thoroughly enjoyed this authorised sequel to The Time Machine. Stephen Baxter really captured the original feel while also pulling in today's science into the mix. Some of this was way beyond me, but it didn't spoil the time I had. Really glad I read this one. Loved the different take on the Morlocks.

Solid 4 stars.
Profile Image for Thom.
1,566 reviews47 followers
November 17, 2018
Narrative exposition is the insertion of important background information within a story. This story (an authorized by the Wells estate sequel to The Time Machine) is nearly all exposition, and much the worse for it. If you haven't read the original, do so - but skip this.

Yes, there is some action in this story, or rather should I say stories. Contained in this long volume are several stories strung together into one narrative. None of the brevity of the original. Herein you may find:

- Enemy Mine, where the Morlock is more civilized than the Human
- Robinson Crusoe, stranded this time in the Paleocene (with the Morlock as Friday?)
- The Prisoner, striving to break free from one prison and falling into another
- a far future run by nanobots (and yet another prison)
- Back to the Future, where interference changes the future, wait no, is required for the future

All with suitable exposition on Dyson sphere's, survival, and quantum mechanics.

There are three theories of time travel where the past is involved, and Wells never chose which one belonged to his story (set in the far future). Baxter seems to have decided to use all three, which makes life that much more confusing for the reader - nothing a little more exposition can't fix!

When I started writing this review, I was thinking 2 stars - but I seem to have talked myself into a lower rating. Sorry Stephen, this book just wasn't for me, and I can't recommend it.

3 Theories of Time Travel poster
Profile Image for David.
108 reviews5 followers
March 10, 2010
Don't be fooled by the doofy title; this book is a marvellously reimagined "sequel" to HG Wells' classic THE TIME MACHINE. As much as Wells' book was social allegory for the issues of his day, THE TIME SHIPS plumbs some of the questions of 21st century man through the lens of Wells' 19th century hero. I am so impressed with how Baxter uses those Victorian values and perceptions as a lens to grapple with very modern issues...the narrator comes off as remarkably cosmopolitan, open-minded and intelligent despite the limitations of his cultural sphere. The final leg of the book gets a little too "acid trippy" for me (well, the line between "acid trip" and quantum mechanics is always a thin one), and the book is weakest when Baxter tries to showcase his knowledge of abstruse cosmological/astrophysical theory...but despite these flaws, the book is one I couldn't put down, and would recommend to anyone who has read the TIME MACHINE (while you COULD read this book as a standalone, the book vastly rewards a knowledge of Wells' tale).
Profile Image for Stig Edvartsen.
441 reviews19 followers
August 26, 2017

Conflicted about this one. On one hand it really captures the tone and language from the original, but on the other hand it is....umm...kinda dull. I was never invested in what happened to the protagonist. Much in the same way he didn't seem to see the characters around him as people.

Profile Image for Dustin.
439 reviews153 followers
Want to read
December 31, 2019

Sometime in my youth (mid--late 90's,) I recall starting this, but for whatever reason, I never finished it. And now, of course, I no longer own a copy. Thankfully, e-books are much more affordable than physical editions.
Profile Image for Michael.
815 reviews81 followers
March 3, 2016
This was a very unique reading experience, in the fact that Stephen Baxter wrote this as a kind of sequel to H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, and adapted the style and speech mannerisms of that older work in order to enforce the illusion. It was well done, but that might not be for everyone because it is actually like reading an historical book, with its historical sensibilities, and use of "men" everywhere to denote humans, and exclamation points to express emotion, etc. It does create a lot of interesting ironies, having someone of a previous era explore future possibilities past even our modern era, and seeing their reactions, and wondering if our reactions would be all that different. Further, it did seem that the original story provided an interesting starting off point for the exploration of more modern ideas about time travel.

As a story, the plot takes a lot of lengthy detours, and I found it a bit long-winded, and lost steam in a lot of places. Based on story alone I probably would only rate it 3 stars, but the feat Mr. Baxter has accomplished in writing this from the point of view of the time traveler in The Time Machine, plus, some pretty amazing and thought-provoking ideas scattered at important climaxes in the book, brought it up to 4 stars for me. I would recommend it for those interested in time travel, in particular those fans of H.G. Wells' classic work. I would not recommend it to those whose excitement is based on the title, or the cover (at least on my paperback copy) which shows luminous futuristic ships in space, because if you think this book will read like that, you will be sorely disappointed. Again, think of the original classic story, with some modern twists, and that is a much better starting place for your expectations.
Profile Image for Pseudonymous d'Elder.
139 reviews8 followers
April 7, 2023
“The Arrow of Time Wounds All.”

In 1891, the time traveler from the original Time Machine returned from his voyage to the year A.D.802,701 just long enough to pick up a few candles, some matches, a change a clothes, grab his Kodak box camera, and briefly relate his adventures to a certain unnamed writer friend who had been waiting for him. Then he jumps back into his time machine and heads back to the future to save his love, the sylph-like Weena. He never returns.

This second novel starts out in the same place, but the traveler soon learns that there are much scarier things in the universe than the chthonian human descendents called Morlocks who eat their pretty delicious, fruitarian human cousins known as Eloi: he realizes that his time machine is changing history and expunging the existence of billions or trillions of future people. Talk about cancel culture.

Wells moralizes and preaches a bit in the original novel by comparing the predator/prey relationship between the Morlocks and Eloi as prophetic of what will happen if the hard working laborers in 19th century England ever get the upper hand on England’s effete, vapid, and dissipated upper classes

Even now, does not an East-end worker live in such artificial conditions as practically to be cut off from the natural surface of the earth?

Stephen Baxter does quite a bit of his own moralizing and societal naval-gazing in The Time Ships, mainly about war and the human capacity for violence. His characters also spend quite a bit time discussing scientific theories from the 20th and 21st century: i.e., relativity, quantum mechanics, and the theoretical existence of an infinite number of parallel universes.

Despite all the talk in the novel, I enjoyed it big time. 4 Stars
If you remember only one thing from this review, let it be this:
Time Flies Like an Arrow, but Fruit Flies Like a Banana. ―Groucho Marx
Profile Image for Paul Wandason.
57 reviews6 followers
July 22, 2014
The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter is pretty poor as a sequel to the original "The Time Machine" by H. G. Wells. This is mostly because the the Time Traveller displayed very different characteristics in each book, and the underlying messages and meanings in the original were not followed through. Indeed, the only ties between the two books were contrived references at the start of the novel and the Time Traveller’s attempt to rescue Weena at the end.


As a novel in its own right, this is brilliant! Yes, it is clearly Baxter-esque with his Baxterisms of astro-engineering and Watchers etc.(and ideas nicked from other books), but there is some great science, and of course, elements of time travel.

Whilst multiple and alternate universes are core to this novel, it didn't strike me as an easy get out of jail free card as used in several other time travel novels (e.g. The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma). Actually, the idea was followed through really nicely and was internally logical and consistent with a brilliant ‘application’ at the time-space singularity at the beginning of time.
The main character is a complete and utter pillock which for made for me some pretty angry reading (I must admit that in the first person I was reading Baxter as the Time Traveller) but at the same time I think it helped to nurture a real fondness for Nebogipfel through whom Baxter expresses his fascinating insights.

Although this novel deserves 0/5 stars as a sequel to the original "The Time Machine", I’m giving The Time Ships a full 5 stars as a time travel novel in its own right.
October 31, 2014
I picked up Time Ships mainly because I enjoy works by Stephen Baxter. I had no idea he was such a Wells enthusiast. Apparently Baxter is the Vice-President of the international H. G. Wells Society. I didn't know this when I bought the book, but it's an authorized (by the Wells estate) sequel to the H.G. Wells classic "The Time Machine".

The book is simply remarkable. Baxter really captured Wells use of language and vocabulary and the general tone of 1895. You would swear Wells himself had created this novel. I was so much in awe of the style and language for the first half of the book that not much else mattered.

Trying to introduce quantum theory in the voice of H.G. Wells is no small feat but Baxter pulls it off. It's also satisfying to see a few of the loose ends from The Time Machine tied up even if it's not by H.G. himself.

Baxter introduces some new characters - a very intelligent Morlok for one. He makes each new character someone we can care about and introduces several interesting story lines. Baxter even introduces a few complete alternate histories of England, the earth and even the universe.

The best part of the book was still the style of H.G. Wells. Sadly language and style can only carry a book so far. By the end the book did tend to drag. A pleasure to read but also a pleasure when I was finished.

All in all, this one still earns a very well deserved 4/5 as a remarkable work from one of the greatest of his genre.
Profile Image for Jordi Balcells.
Author 19 books108 followers
December 28, 2014
Continuación "apócrifa" de La máquina del tiempo, de H.G. Wells, me recuerda a las idas de olla metafísicas de Arthur C. Clarke con su saga Odisea.
El viajero, con cada nueva visita al pasado o al futuro, cambia su línea espacio-temporal y se desespera porque cree que con ello niega la existencia de todos aquellos atrapados en una realidad que ya no existe. Como buen autor hard, Baxter no se corta un pelo con la física, hasta tal punto que hacia el final del libro parece más bien metafísica, ya que está a años luz (jaja) de nuestro punto de vista y comprensión del cosmos. El penúltimo capítulo es un viaje a los límites de la inteligencia y la existencia humana.
Debido a la estructuración en sublibros / líneas argumentales, se hace un poco largo y da la impresión de que Baxter tenía suficiente material como para hacer una trilogía sin despeinarse.
Aparte de esto, es una verdadera joyita. Lectura muy recomendable, pero con paciencia, que esto no es para novatos en la ciencia ficción.
Profile Image for David Ramirer.
Author 7 books28 followers
July 16, 2013
hier ist stephen baxter ein meisterwerk gelungen, indem er den roman "die zeitmaschine" von h.g. wells als steilvorlage in einen direktpass ins gegenüberliegende tor verwandelt hat. spannend und fesselnd von der ersten seite an verbindet baxter gewohnt bizarre zukunftsvisionen mit vielen paradoxas, die die idee des zeitreisens mit sich bringt. am ende wird es sehr abgedreht, obgleich alles logisch im rahmen bleibt und immer noch ein wissenschaftliches fundament hat: ein kunststück, das nur stephen baxter so elegant vorzuführen vermag. ist in meinen augen daher ein standardwerk über zeitreisen, das ich jedem, der dieses thema mag, nur empfehlen kann.
Profile Image for Howardstein.
52 reviews6 followers
July 7, 2020
I can't complain, it was very insightful and not like fantasy. It's what I expect from sci fi. Glad to have read this as a sequel to The Time Machine written 100 years ago, it really explored the ideas and universe much more, and after reading the Time Ships I was convinced that the Time Machine had been an incomplete book. It had more potential and this book actualized it. Not all of the parts are riveting to read and I could go with skipping some of the boring descriptions and narration of insignificant things, so that's why I lean towards 4.7 stars, and I rounded up not just because of math but because the book compensated with the story.
Profile Image for Fred Hughes.
732 reviews47 followers
December 30, 2017
A thrilling adventure through time form the perspective of H.G. Wells.

Continuing on from the original premise of the time machine Well's sets out again into the future only to find that things have changed from his first venture, Why would history change ?

Soon he is on multiple time journeys eventually travelling back to the beginning of time.

Great read. Highly recommended
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