©2007 Joe Haldeman (P)2008 Recorded Books
A novel that almost becomes a story; A 3 star rating that doesn't quite make it to 4.
I picked this one because the premise intrigued me. "Things are going nowhere for lowly MIT research assistant Matt Fuller - especially not after his girlfriend drops him for another man. But then while working late one night, he inadvertently stumbles upon what may be the greatest scientific breakthrough ever. His luck, however, runs out when he finds himself wanted for murder - in the future."
The book doesn't waste any time getting to the discovery of the time machine or the conflict created by the murder accusation. At first I really appreciated this about the novel. Matt makes a discovery and true to a scientist's form he begins testing it. I was drawn in by his curiosity and I wanted to see what would happen.
Then his curiosity leads him to create a bigger test, the end result of which is a wrong place wrong time (no pun intended) scenario that made it look like he killed someone. At that point there was good tension and I wanted to see how it would be resolved as well.
But that's where the book started to let me down. The time machine essentially becomes just an easy way for him to escape. It was a let down, particularly when he lands in the future in a very ho-hum existence. The main tension there seems to be that between a dull comfortable life and the knowledge that he can escape it with the press of a button. Whoopdidoo.
The pattern of easy escape continues through a couple more episodes. I say episodes because the tension and attention to them is not quite full enough to call them adventures. Along the way Matt picks up a girl, so to speak, and she (Martha) somewhat easily becomes convinced that her whole system of beliefs is bogus; therefore, she would rather stay with him than return to her own time and place. That was particularly convenient. Their relationship is cute enough not to be completely irritating and undeveloped enough to be superficial.
Eventually, Matt picks up a powerful being who does not have the best of intentions for him and that has the potential for some tension or conflict. But . . . and you'll love this . . . the being is easily sent on its way by some just slightly more powerful beings from somewhere in time. The bad gal dispatched, the love interest no longer interested in her own time, the new powerful being with the ability to send them back in time, and we have the makings of a happy, if somewhat convenient, ending.
The end itself comes in a summary fashion. We are shown that the happy couple both have successful careers and a whole mess of well-adjusted and successful children.
If you're looking for something to listen to while you drive (as I was) or a beach book, then this is a decent fit. It is light on science, character, plot, tension, and theme. That said, it has just enough interesting bits to keep you reading/listening. I did, but I also came away with a ho-hum feeling.
This book simply lacks the characters or story quality that made Forever War and the World's Trilogy such great books. Even a so-so book could become a good one when framed in the kind of incredible prose Haldeman has demonstrated in his best books - but that quality too is lacking here.
Buying a Haldeman book has been a no-brainer for me in the past.. but I have grown increasingly disenchanted with his works over the past years.
I was looking at a couple of time travel titles and stumbled across this short yet witty time travel experience. It provides a rather unique view of time travel and focuses mainly on the characters rather than the technology beyond the phenomena. This book combined humor, religion, holograms etc to weave a rather unique tapestry of an experiment gone wild and in the end was a solid listen. Slightly short however, so you must debate whether you want to use your credit or not!!!
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