Saturday, August 25, 2007

New Joe Haldeman Book

Just a couple of days ago I finished tearing through the new book by Joe Haldeman called "The Accidental Time Machine." Most of the time when you go on about Haldeman you are required to mention the book that cemented his status as a great SF writer, "The Forever War." Sometime in the mid nineties when I was in my mid twenties I was starting to really open up my science fiction reading a good bit. As I was searching for new authors I came across a mention of "Forever War" that described it as being based on the author's Vietnam experiences and as an answer to the Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" and the glorification of the military therein. That's the only hook I've found more initially appealing than Michael's short summary of Turtledove's "Worldwar: In the Balance:" Nazis fighting aliens. It also won the Hugo and Nebula awards.

What I really enjoy about Haldeman is, like Heinlein and Zelazny, that he is readable. I can crack open one of his books and I know I am going to be reading quality fiction with believable physics and/or technology and characters that are worthy of empathy. Another talent he has, and that he shows off in his book, is that he can take a foreign setting and with minimal explanation can flesh it out into a vibrant world.

This particular book is about exactly what the title implies. A student at MIT creates a gizmo that goes forward in time anytime he hits the reset button. That only catch is that each time the machine is engaged as a time travel device the time it jumps forward increase exponentially. I don' t to give too much away. He does have a nice time jumping adventure. He ends up in a medieval type theocracy that is so interesting that Joe could have created a book just around that. At some point he meets a nice girl. At some point he meets a living piece of software that may or may not be nice. Nice in her own way, I guess.

I guess one of the criticisms going around about this particular novel is that it's not a particularly serious book. I'd have to agree and disagree with that. It certainly is a story in which you don't feel like the main character is ever really in any danger but there is an underlying tension in the book, especially during his time in the theocracy.

Each of his last three books have felt, not unfinished, but maybe they could have been more. This one is no different. It's not a bad book, in fact it's quite enjoyable and is better than most of SF you will read all year. I just wanted more. I wanted it to be longer, deeper and uncut. I guess that's the price an author pays when he's this good. We always want more.

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