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The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman

Book CoverOne of my favorite books that I read in the past year was Joe Haldeman's Accidental Time Machine. Your first guess about this book is probably correct—that you'd be in for a time travel tale. Haldeman, however, takes an SF standard that can sometimes amount to a tired old story, and with his wit and story-telling sensibilities, turns it into an engaging read with novelty, humanity and classic science fiction spirit.

Matt Fuller, a research assistant at near-future MIT, accidentally calibrates one of his projects incorrectly and only realizes it when the device disappears when activated, only to reappear a few moments later. The disappearance and reappearance, he soon realizes, is actually a jump forward in time, and each forward jump becomes exponentially longer. What starts at a second, increases to minutes, to hours to days. By the time he has figured out how to rig up an old car to take himself along with the device, he's gone for months only to find himself in a world of trouble when he gets home. Circumstances push him to make the irrevocable decision to embark on an adventure of forward jumps, casting him increasing further into the future until he can either find a place to settle, or a future with the technology to send him back.

The charm of this novel is primarily in Haldeman's sense of humor, creating characters that are at once whimsical and compelling. The ever larger time jumps give the reader a sense of wonder and urgency to continue along Fuller's journey, as each new time is painted in rich and fascinating detail—and typically defeats all reader expectations of what kind of place Fuller will end up in next. The science is well- but not over-detailed, allowing the causal reader and the science fiction enthusiast alike to enjoy this story. This novel is ultimately about the novelty of each new milieu, but the characters are eminently likable and their motivations keep the story grounded in real emotions. A great choice for science fiction fans, but is highly accessible for general readers looking to try something in the SFF realm.  

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