Title: The Accidental Time Machine
Author: Joe Haldeman
Genre: Science Fiction
The Accidental Time Machine is the story of Matt Fuller, a MIT Grad Student who is failing out of his doctoral program and working as a lab assistant. While completing some routine work, he discovers one of his calibrators disappears for exactly one second. Through a series of experiments, Matt figures out the machine seems to be travelling into the future. When he finally decides to send himself through time, it triggers a series of events that leaves Matt on the run through time itself. But when can he stop running
I loved Haldeman’s attention to detail in this book. It’s got the specifics needed to leave it feeling like a hard science fiction book. Yet, the same attention to detail also made the characters and story line so alive it balances the technical to give readers an exciting story.
I also loved how Haldeman imagined the future. Many futuristic sci-fi books tend to show this pattern of society growing ever more technologically advanced. Haldeman does this, but also mixes in “what if” scenarios where technology seems to have completely collapsed and society has gone back in time. This blend kept me guessing at what Matt would find next on his time travels.
Finally, I loved the way Haldeman’s character building. Matt had a wonderful presentation as a washed-out grad student stuck in a rut until the time machine came along. Then, the characters he meets along his time travelling journey were all distinct, believable, and fit their respective time periods beautifully. This made it even better when they were pulled out of their time periods on Matt’s journey.
The beginning felt a little slow to me. It felt like Haldeman was trying to build up some of the science and get to where the time travel was more than a few minutes long. And maybe it’s just me, but I felt like some of that could have been condensed a little more to get to the good parts faster.
The only other con I have is that there were times Haldeman’s attention to detail seemed a bit too much. Like in the beginning where the story lingered on Matt’s life prior to everything happening. The amount of detail with Matt’s experimental substance use seemed a bit much to me. I felt like this smoothed out some as the pace of the story picked up, which was appreciated.
I would absolutely say if you like science fiction, and particularly science fiction that leans toward hard science, check this book out. Time travel, mysteries, paradoxes and more fill the pages with a great adventure.