Joe Haldeman


The Accidental Time Machine


Another discovery on my journey through joint Hugo/Nebula winners. This book felt so old-school to me: take an idea and wrap a novel around it. In the classic short stories of the fifties and sixties the idea was easily the main character, with everyone else in supporting roles. That’s still here, but it is a novel, and SF writers are more aware of how thin their characters may be, so there is more of an attempt to build them. That being said, the boy/girl subplot is dated rather than nuanced – but there is something sentimentally enjoyable about how the boy hero comes into contact with the naively sexual girl, much as she is more daydream than individual. Haldeman has a go at showing how he gets where the kids are, man, referencing, for example, digital porn – but, charmingly, the roles they actually play could have come straight from a black and white movie.


Whatever, the idea is a cool one, and Haldeman has fun with it. There’s an enjoyable recklessness as we’re hurled through a geometric progression in time – each jump in years at least doubling the last. Haldeman doesn’t worry about details in painstakingly painting each new era, rather he just plays with some ideas and then moves on. This is what it is – if you’re after rigorous and challenging look elsewhere. If you’re after Boys’ own adventures, climb aboard.


July 2010