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timeships

Classification: Past and Future Time Travel

 

The Time Ships is the unofficial sequel to H.G. Wells’ famous novel, The Time machine.

 

Written more than a century after the original was published, The Time Ships directly continues where The Time Machine stops: The Time Traveler goes back to the year 802,701 to save his Eloi friend, Weena, from the bestial Morlocks. But the plot does not stop there: the Time Traveler continues his journey through time, visiting the year 1939 (the future from his perspective – remember, his present is 1891!), his own past (the year 1873: where he meets his younger self), the deep past (50 million BC!), an alternate reality of 1891, the far future again, and back and forth.

 

This book is a celebration for any time travel lover: the protagonist travels to the far future and the distant past, back and forth and back and forth, each trip being very different from the other, and yet all trips are highly imaginative and very original. Furthermore, it successfully captures the style and the ‘feeling of wonder’ created by the original – no simple feat! The only difference being that The Time Machine is hard-core science fiction (unlike the original), and as such, uses modern concepts and goes much more deeply into the underlying quantum physics than the original. This does not conflict with the story, but in fact greatly enhances the plot. To be fair, H.G. Wells couldn’t have written anything about quantum physics or Dyson Spheres in the 19th century without using a time machine himself!

 

In summary: fantastic! Certainly a must for lovers of the genre. I’m quite confident H.G. Wells himself would’ve liked the novel, and would’ve been proud to call it a sequel to his own work.

 


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timemachine

Classification: Future Reality

 

In The Time Machine, we are introduced to a British inventor (who is never named) living in London at the end of the 19th century. Using the technology of the time, he builds a machine capable of traversing time – a Time Machine. Out of curiosity and adventuring spirit, he embarks on a journey to the far future, namely, the year 802,701. This period is so far removed from our own society, that the human race has split into two races: the simple and peaceful Eloi, and the predatory Morlocks, both races clearly not as intelligent as an average 19th century human. The book chronicles of the adventures of the Time Traveler.

 

It may be hard to believe, but The Time Machine was written in 1895. It’s astounding to consider that this book – a book that attempted to predict the very far future – was written before World Wars I and II, before television, before computers, before commercial air flight. As a result of the enormous number of science fiction movies and books, we take such ideas for granted – but H.G. Wells was the first to come up with this concept. In fact, according to Wikipedia, H.G. Wells can be credited with inventing the very concept of a Time Machine, and certainly was the first to call such a machine a Time Machine. Consequently, as the first book in the Time Travel sub-genre, The Time Machine may feel like a cliche to modern readers. [Note that I've just found that Edward Page Mitchell wrote a short Time Travel story 14 years before Wells. Still, the fact this is a short story, and basically no one has heard of it, Wells still deserves the title]

 

Because of the book’s status, several authors have attempted to create unofficial sequels to The Time Machine. I review Stephen Baxter’s excellent ’sequel’, The Time Ships.

 

Judged on its own, the book is good but not great. However, put in context, namely, the period in which it was written, The Time Machine can and should be considered a classic. Considering the short length of the novel, I think every Time Travel lover should feel obligated to read it.

 


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timeonmyhands

 

Classification: Historical Characters

 

When visiting a museum in Paris, physicist Jasper Hudnut is astounded to discover a time machine just lying in the corner (strangely reminiscent of H.G. Wells’ famous contraption). Jasper immediately knows it is a time machine because he’s already seen it before (you’ll have to read the novel to discover how).

 

After realizing he is too old to go on temporal adventures, Jasper offers the machine to Gabriel Prince, an author of travel guides. There are, however, strings attached to this offer: Gabriel is to go back in time and find a way – any way he could think of – to prevent Ronald Reagan from becoming president of the United States. After this is accomplished, Gabriel is free to do with the machine as he pleases.

 

Gabriel, obviously the protagonist in this story, decides to accept this proposition, and travels to 1938. Managing to assimilate almost perfectly into the society of the time, Gabriel befriends Ronald Reagen and tries to steer him in a way that will accomplish his mission. But things are not as easy as he expected.

 

Preferring not to use violence, at first Gabriel attempts to enhance Reagan’s movie career, in the hope that this success will prevent him from ever entering politics. But this backfires, and he accidentally causes Reagan to drown while swimming. Refusing to accept this, Gabriel travels through time once again and attempts a different course of action. But trouble seems to follow him, thus, Gabriel finds himself making multiple additional trips in time. All just to prevent Ronald Reagan from ever becoming president.

 

Clearly this book had a very unusual premise, which is why I was very eager to read it when I had first heard of it. The author has done a good job of researching Reagan’s life, and this greatly increases the realism of the plot. Not to mention the fact it makes it a fascinating read. On the other hand, I’m not sure how realistic Reagan’s portrayal is. In the novel he’s being presented as generally a very nice guy, but quite an idiot – or at the very least, a very simple-minded person.

 

I also greatly enjoyed the portrayal of 1938 Hollywood and the various historical characters that appeared in the novel. Although Joshua Dann attempts to do something similar in his Timeshare novels, Time On My Hands is vastly superior (not to mention far more interesting).

 

As for the time travel aspects, these were excellent. The protagonist repeatedly attempted to achieve different ends using time travel. Often his attempts backfired, resulting in some unusual twists; this is exactly the kind of stuff that makes time travel novels so great. Even merely witnessing an 1980s alternate reality, one without Ronald Reagan as president, was a memorable depiction worthy of reading the book.

 

All in all, I thought this is an excellent, highly original, novel. Creative, superbly written, realistic characters. Time on My Hands is definitely one of the best ‘Historical Time Travel’ books I’ve ever read.

 


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Time Travel Movies