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The Time Machine: A Sequel
David Haden
Burslem Books, 72 pages

The Time Machine: A Sequel
David Haden
David Haden is also the author of such titles as The Cats of H.P. Lovecraft, Crusoe: the Macabre Later Adventures of Robinson Crusoe and The Monoliths Under The Sea (a prequel to H.P. Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu").

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A review by Richard A. Lupoff

Herbert George Wells (1866-1946) was certainly not the first science fiction writer. Scholars quarrel endlessly over that puzzle, arguing passionately for Jules Verne (1828-1905), Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851) or even dear old Lucian of Samosata (120-180).

My grade school librarian, Florence Schultz, was a big fan of Jules. She got me to read 20,000 Leagues Beneath the Sea when I was eight years old and I've been a science fiction nut ever since. And of course Verne wins laurels as the first great gadgeteer of science fiction, what with the Nautilus of Captain Nemo, the great lunar cannon of Florida, and other lovely devices. But what Verne wrote was largely a series of travelogues-cum-hardware.

Sorry 'bout that.

The great Brian Aldiss argues for Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, whose major claim to fame is of course Frankenstein, or The New Prometheus. No arguing about the impact of that book, but what have you done for us lately, Mary? And -- on a more serious note -- Frankenstein has been co-opted by the world of Gothic horror rather than science fiction. Great as this novel is, its continuing impact is questionable at best.

Dear old Lucian, championed by that pioneering historian of science fiction J.O. Bailey, must be credited with inventing the first space-ship (even if not quite the first spaceship), the first astronauts, and the first aliens (non-human inhabitants of the sun and moon). Still, I dunno. If anything, he was the Leif Ericson of science fiction. Ericson did get here first but Columbus is the guy who counts.

Anyway, back to Brother Wells. There's no doubt in your reviewer's mind that Wells, while clearly not the inventor of science fiction, was the inventor of modern science fiction. In an astonishing burst of creativity he gave the world The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898). Add the coda of The First Men in the Moon (1901) and you have it -- modern science fiction, complete and perfect.

Wells was a prolific writer who worked in many genres of fiction and nonfiction over a long career, but there has never been an outpouring of brilliant and important works like Wells's flowering of 1895-1901. He gave us the first novel of time travel, the first novel of controlled mutation, the first novel of enhanced human abilities, the first novel of interplanetary warfare, and the first novel of "first contact."

Part of Wells's greatness lies in the multi-layered meanings of his works. It is hard to imagine any individual over the age of, oh, let's say twelve, reading The War of the Worlds and failing to notice that it's about British imperialism and the exploitation of native peoples. Sure, it's about the invasion of Earth by Martians, but while that reading offers us cheap thrills aplenty, that isn't what the book is really about.

It should be equally obvious that The Time Machine is not merely an adventure tale and love story about a Victorian tinkerer visiting the distant future. Okay, it is that, but underneath the adventure tale and love story there lies a bitter and furious attack on the British class system and the brutal industrial capitalism that was destructive in equal but opposite ways of both the workers and their employers.

Wells's works have inspired countless sequels, ripostes, analyses and evaluations. David Haden includes an eleven-page bibliography of these works in his book, and this barely scratches the surface.

All of which, if you'll forgive me, is by way of avoiding the main issue, the novelette which the author generously credits to "David Haden & H. G. Wells." The novelette starts nicely enough:

"The Time Traveller returned to us at some unknown hour during those traditionally restful days between Boxing Day and New Year's Eve, at the end of the year 1905. He had been away for nearly six years."
You may recall that The Time Machine is set among a group of Victorian men, one of whom, identified only as "the Time Traveller," narrates his adventures in the future. Morlocks, Eloi, the almost angelic Weena, the decadent, childlike, luxurious life of the privileged class, the shocking revolt of the brutalized workers -- truly, one of the seminal works of science fiction, as valid today as it was in 1895.

In Haden's sequel, the Time Traveller returns to the future in search of his lost love. Alas, while Haden is unquestionably a credible Wells scholar, he isn't much of a storyteller. Once the protagonist completes his trip back to the future, we are treated to an interlude of some forty pages in which, to put it bluntly, nothing happens. He looks at the landscape, he walks around and looks at the landscape some more. He encounters odd little creatures that may or may not be humans of an extremely degraded sort. He looks at some ruins. Or at least I think he does. I'm afraid that my powers of concentration were flagging by this time. Fortunately, by this time there were only twenty pages left in the novelette.

Eventually he finds his Weena. Alas, she's trapped in a walled city and the Time Traveller is outside the wall, so they walk around the perimeter of the city, one inside the wall and one outside, keeping in sync by singing to each other. Leastwise I think that's what they did. My eyes kept going out of focus as I tried to stay attentive to this narrative.

Eventually they find an opening in the wall and are happily reunited. Then the Time Traveller goes back to 1905. I don't remember what happened to Weena. By this time, I didn't care.

I'm sorry, my friends. This book isn't worth the time it takes to read it. There. I've done you a favor. You can spend the next hour or two watching paint dry instead of slogging through The Time Machine: A Sequel.

Copyright © 2011 Richard A. Lupoff

Richard A. Lupoff is a novelist, short-story writer, critic, and sometime academic. His most recent books are Visions (currently in production by Mythos Books) and Quintet: The Cases of Chase and Delacroix (Crippen & Landru). He is also the Editorial Director of Surinam Turtle Press, an imprint of Ramble House.

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