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 very much. The approach to the time travel is simple, and the future outcomes are a fun affair. Unlike most books that focus on an eventual outcome for the human race, The Accidental Time Machine (by the way, I love that it is just one word away from being called The Time Machine), shows what happens to the human race in many different time periods in the future. It’s a delightful romp into impossibility, and just the sort of thing that any time travel fan will enjoy.
The Bad: The book runs at a good, fun pace at the outset. It’s enjoyable to see what Matt Fuller does upon his discover of the machine. However, about forty percent of the way through the book, it does tend to drag a little bit. It doesn’t start picking up again until you are nearly seventy percent of the way through. It felt like this part of the book could have easily been condensed, but I’d imagine the author was looking to not make the book too short.
The Ugly: I was hard pressed to find anything about the book that was ugly. I thought maybe it was the religious/anti-religious angle the book took. But, like all great science fiction that tackles religion, the author leaves the belief or non-belief in God ambiguous being as careful as possible not to step on anyone’s toes. But maybe just slightly towards those who do have a faith. Had it leaned too much in one direction, this would have been ugly. But I can easily say there was nothing about the book that made me feel this way.
Overall, I really liked The Accidental Time Machine. It’s a delightful adventure in time travel and made me wonder what I would do if I accidentally discovered a time machine. Then again, I always wonder that, even without this book.