The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman

The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman is a delightful story. After a long, long did something force me to pull and all nighter. I started reading the book at about 11 in the evening because I usually read myself to sleep and it gripped me so that I could not go to sleep. Kept reading till 6 in the morning.

The story in the same spirit as H G Well's time machine. An unsuspecting MIT grad student accidentally invents a time machine. After losing his job /and/ his girlfriend to the same guy, he decides to travel in time in a desperate lunge for fame. But he finds that no matter what future he travels to, he can never find one that he can feel at home in.

In the spirit of Well's 'Time Machine', Haldeman describes a dichotomous future but this time pertaining largely to America, unlike the broader human divisions that Wells decided to explore. In Haldeman's future, America is divided into two states. One, a regressive, theocratic Christian state, where the government creates the myth of the return of Christ and rules people through the fear of god. Second, is a secular, technologically advanced state which is profoundly anti-intellectual and deeply capitalist-consumerist.

In outlining these two possible futures for America, Haldeman delineates the two threats to intellectual thought present in the US today. The first are the religious conservatives and the second are the capitalist-consumerists.

I do have to add that I found the novel a little isolationist in its point of view. No effort is spent in writing about what the rest of the world is doing while the One Year War is going on the US. Indeed, it is as if the rest of the world doesn't even exist in Haldeman's universe. Only towards the end of the story do we see Australia cropping up from somewhere, which, I think, is put there merely for it's geographical separation from the rest of the world than anything else.

Rating: 3.5/5


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