The Accidental Time Machine

Posted by : atcampbell | On : August 16, 2009

The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman

This meeting was held at ArmadilloCon.  We had eleven attendees, include two first-timers and a former regular visiting from out of town. All of us had read Haldeman before. We all started and finished this book.

One person felt that the book’s opening with Matt, the perennial graduate student, was spot on. Matt was typically spending more time on lab work than his research. This reader felt that Matt jumped too quickly to the realization that his invention was a time machine.  The “only jumping forward” nature of the machine allowed the author to avoid time travel paradoxes.  And this reader found the book’s ending was clever in a surprise development between the protagonist and his thesis advisor.

Another commented that the MIT campus is almost a character in the book. Much of the action is set there, and the evolution of the campus is used as a touchstone for the progress of time.  This reader wished the book had more science, and wanted the main character to be more inquisitive. He was surprised that the author tackled religion in this story.

Yet another liked the book. She said she usually likes time travel stories. She thought the book’s robot religious figure was a nice touch. She appreciated how the protagonist’s traveling companion, Martha, got smarter and more educated as the book developed.

One person liked this book’s novel approach of time travel intervals increasing logarithmically. She felt this gave the story dramatic tension.  She liked the use of a bank vault as transportation, and was surprised how everything wrapped up at the end.

One person felt this book read like a rewrite of H. G. Wells. He found the protagonist less interesting than usual for Haldeman. Matt wasn’t particularly brilliant, but things just kept happening to him.

Another felt it was Haldeman’s best book in years. She was initially put off by the main character, but felt he got nicer and more respectable.

One reader simply is not a fan of time travel stories. He liked this book’s academic setting and good writing, but just found the story not to his taste.

The reader who recommended this book felt it was one of Haldeman’s best. He thought it was clear that the author endeavored to write a novel that worked within modern physics.  He found the prose was impeccable.

Overall we liked this book a great deal, and it was a fun discussion. After the meeting, most of us went to Howard Waldrop’s closing reading at ArmadilloCon.

—A. T. Campbell, III