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Friday, September 13, 2013

Review: The Time Ships

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
The Time Ships
by Stephen Baxter

Plot Summary:

There is a secret passage through time ...

and it leads all the way to the end of Eternity. But the journey has a terrible cost. It alters not only the future but the "present" in which we live.

A century after the publication of H. G. Wells' immortal The Time Machine, Stephen Baxter, today's most acclaimed new "hard SF" author, and the acknowledged Clarke, returns to the distant conflict between the Eloi and the Morlocks in a story that is at once an exciting expansion, and a radical departure based on the astonishing new understandings of quantum physics.


When I first started this book, the insightful intellectual way the author approached time travel really impressed me.  There's so much more to the idea of traveling through time, that thinking about time linearly can not encompass, and the author really opens up your thinking through this story.  I can't pretend that I really understood all of it, especially towards the end, despite the very lucid way the author describes this exploration of time travel.  I think all that scientific information woven into this constantly evolving tale of new futures and new pasts is the highlight of this book.

The author also captures the time traveler's forthright voice in relating his adventures, and because this book is much longer than the original by H.G. Wells, we get a better sense of his character and a better persepective on his actions especially when contrasted with the new, more enlightened Morlock, Nebogipfel.  I think while it was sometimes difficult to sympathize with the time traveler because of his prejudices and his irrational instincts, it was very easy to sympathize with patient and understanding Nebogipfel who seemed to be the best of humanity in an odd inhuman way because he was so rational and his only goal was to obtain information. Which was an interesting idea in the book.  That that is the highest achievement mankind should strive for - trying to learn about everything.  There are a variety of other characters the time traveler encounters on his journeys through time, but these two were the main protagonists, and the other characters, while well drawn, did not stand out as much.  The main focus is on the way the different experiences changes the time traveler.

What really disappointed me about this book was the extreme length.  I felt it started off strong and there were so many ideas and theories to touch on that it was a very interesting read.  But it began to be too much for me after awhile, when every chapter seemed to highlight some new idea or some new world and I really wished the time traveler would settle someplace already.  It's difficult for me to say this because I felt that all the pieces of the story worked together as a whole and probably everything was needed to really explain all the aspects of time travel the author wanted to get across, but the pace became ridiculously slow, and by the last third of the book, I just wanted it to be over.  The ultimate conclusion the time traveler came to, was a little less satisfying as well.  I don't want to give any spoilers, so I won't say much on that except it didn't really seem that it was the best situation for him.

As a thought-provoking and illuminating story, I'd recommend science fiction fans to check this book out.  I personally find time travel fascinating and although the story really grinds to a halt many times, the different scenarios and theories were really very interesting.  It's not a light read, and it's a story that might appeal to a very select group.

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  1. This looks really interesting. The only Stephen Baxter I've read is a trilogy he collaborated on with Arthur C. Clarke, but I might pick this one up.

    1. I haven't read anything else by him, but I thought his writing was pretty good in this - maybe if he's writing something completely original it will have a faster pace. I have a Doctor Who book by him which I hope to read soon!

  2. The only time I've read anything by Stephen Baxter is when I read The Long Earth, although that was co-written with Terry Pratchett so I haven't experienced just his own work. I've heard a lot about him though, especially as he's written some Doctor Who novels.

    Thanks for this review, I may keep an eye out for this one! I want to read ALL the time travel books ;D

    1. I haven't read anything else by Stephen but I hope to read a Doctor Who book soon. (For Sci-Fi Month!) Maybe with his own work and his own style, I'll really enjoy the way he tells a story! And if he co-wrote a book with Terry Pratchett (who I love) I'll probably really enjoy that! I hope you like this book if you get a chance to read it - definitely it will tell you alot about time travel!

  3. Sometimes it is such a bummer to read a LONG book only to be disappointed in it!!

    1. Definitely! I just feel like I HAVE to finish after reading so far!

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