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The Accidental Time Machine Hardcover – August 7, 2007

3.8 out of 5 stars 283 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Hugo-winner Haldeman's skillful writing makes this unusually thoughtful and picaresque tale shine. Matt Fuller, a likable underachiever stuck as a lab assistant at a near-future MIT, is startled when the calibrator he built begins disappearing and reappearing, jumping forward in time for progressively longer intervals. Curiosity and some unfortunate accidents send Matt through a series of vividly described, wryly imagined futures where he gradually becomes more adaptable and resourceful as experiences hone his character. The young woman he rescues from a techno-religious dictatorship gives him a chance at a mature relationship, while teaming up with an AI that intends to press on to the end of time forces him to decide what he wants from life. Rather than being a riff on H.G. Wells's The Time Machine, this novel is closer in tone to Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys, another charming yarn about a young man who's forced out of a boring rut. Producing prose that feels this effortless must be hard work, but Haldeman (Camouflage) never breaks a sweat. (Aug.)
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From Booklist

Since H. G. Wells' heyday, the time travel scenario has undergone so much variation that it's easy to envision the river of ideas finally running dry. But here the ever-inventive Haldeman offers a new twist: a device that travels in one direction only, to the future. Lowly MIT research assistant Matt Fuller toils away in a physics lab until one day he makes an odd discovery. A sensitive quantum calibrator keeps disappearing and reappearing moments later when he hits the reset button. With a little tinkering, Matt realizes that the device functions as a crude, forward-traveling time machine. With visions of Nobel Prizes dancing in his head, he latches it to a car and leaps into the future. The interesting wrinkle here is that each jump ahead is 12 times longer than the last. Matt's successive futures involve jail time, unwelcome celebrity, and assorted holocausts in the earth's climate. He begins to long for his native era. As usual, Haldeman's ingenuity delivers cutting-edge technological speculation and irresistibly compelling reading. Hays, Carl

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Ace Hardcover (August 7, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0441014992
  • ISBN-13: 978-0441014996
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (283 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #606,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've often said that Joe Haldeman is the most interesting and talented Science Fiction writer of our time. He is an artisan who experiments with different writing styles, yet always manages to be a master storyteller. Haldeman's current novel does not disappoint. Like his classic "Forever War", he creates a novel whose protagonist is thrust across millennia; but, this is an entirely different treatment of the topic. Haldeman seems to prefer a very compact writing style and his current novel is a clinic on how to implement it correctly. Overall, I think this is one of Haldeman's best. The wordsmithing is excellent. The story is well-told and one of the most humorous novels he has written.

You write what you know, and Joe has pulled from his professorial experiences at MIT to write a very playful tribute to that Institution, its professors, and its students. But, you'll appreciate the references regardless of your background. His characters are quirky and well-developed. The situations he creates for his protagonist range from the mundane to the absurd as he explores differing views on science and technology and what the future may hold. You will also find some pointed commentary about the relationship of current politics to science as well.

Within this framework, Haldeman has interwoven a story of a man coming of age and discovering himself in the process. Told with great humor and affection, this novel will please both Haldeman fans and those who have not previously read his works. I wish I had a time machine to see what Haldeman has for us next! I most highly recommend it!!
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Format: Hardcover
_The Accidental Time Machine_ by Joe Haldeman is a fun, quick read, one I thoroughly enjoyed. Not perhaps ultra deep, as the book does not tackle any of the great questions of life or of science fiction, but it was an enjoyable time travel romp, the story of one man and later a companion of his and their journey farther and farther into the future.

The main character is Matt Fuller, a graduate school dropout of sorts (forever putting off finishing his Ph.D), barely eking out a living working as a lab assistant at MIT. Working with Dr. Marsh, he discovers that a machine he had put together for the professor, a simple device designed to emit a single photon, a calibration device that was part of a larger experiment that Dr. Marsh was working on, had the power to vanish. Matt pushed the button on the machine and the device disappeared, reappearing a second and a half later. The professor of course didn't see this happen, assumed, not incorrectly, that Matt had had too little sleep and real food (other than Twinkies and coffee), and should go on home for the evening. Matt pushed the button again, and the machine dutifully vanished, then reappeared 15 seconds later. Naturally, Dr. Marsh didn't see this event either.

The machine was not designed to move at all, either in time or space, and Matt had no idea how or why the device was vanishing and reappearing. All he knew was that it was big news, that unless he had proof Dr. Marsh and others would assume he was on drugs and/or insane, and that he had to get more "scientific" about his study of it. Essentially stealing the device, Matt set up a somewhat more controlled environment at home, worked out the math, and figured out that the device would be gone in ever larger increments and also reappear slightly farther away each time.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Accidental Time Machine is a pleasant, although shallow story about an accidental time traveler. It follows the misadventures of Matt Fuller, a somewhat unsuccessful physics student at MIT. One day while working with a piece of equipment he built he discovers, to his surprise, that it works as a time machine! He tries to duplicate it but it won't work, but does figure out how to use it to travel through time himself. As he travels further forward in time we see major changes in the earth and humanity. In one era he runs across a theocracy and again, accidentally, ends up taking along Martha, an innocent, beautiful woman who has grown up in a religious culture. This leads to some rather humorous adventures between the two as they move even further forward in time where humans seem to have left the earth. But how to get back? Well, I don't want to give away too much of the story.

Overall this is an entertaining, quick read. The only drawback is the lack of drama or emotion displayed by the characters as they are thrust into very different circumstances than the one they are used to and the somewhat quick, hollow treatment of the future worlds they discover. As the title might suggest, this is a lighthearted, humorous adventure.
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Format: Hardcover
Three and a half stars, I'd say.

As the title suggests, The Accidental Time Machine is a time-travel story. It follows the adventures of Matt, a physics graduate assistant at MIT who builds an innocuous piece of equipment that (guess what?) accidentally works as a time machine. The machine, however, is limited. It can only move forward in time, and each time it does, the length of the jump increases by approximately a factor of 12: the first jump lasts a little over a second, the next 15 seconds, then three minutes, half an hour, and before long, decades and millennia. Moreover, the machine is a fluke. No one knows how it works, or how to duplicate it.

Matt at first tries to figure out the machine on his own, but eventually uses it to escape into the future. Each stop is fairly brief, no more than a few days, just long enough for Matt to feel threatened and move on. He keeps moving forward, hoping to reach a time when backwards time travel is possible so he can return home.

Time travel is a familiar road, and it's hard to be completely original. Matt's first stops are reminiscent of H. G. Wells' classic novel. He even picks up his own Weena: Martha, a religious innocent who becomes his travel companion. As the jumps stretch farther into the future, the story more resembles Vernor Vinge's Realtime. Humans have, for the most part, moved on, and the world seems an empty place.

Haldeman's intent is different than Wells or Vinge, however. The tone is much lighter, often humorous, the pace quicker, the danger less threatening. Matt doesn't seem too perturbed by his situation, or overly curious about the changes around him. He just continues his plucky way forward. We get just a taste of the future at each stop, like sightseers on a tour bus.
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