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The Time Ships

The Time Ships - Stephen Baxter Taking on the task of writing a sequel to H.G. Wells’ classic The Time Machine is a beautifully written and fairly straight forward sci-fi adventure. Baxter’s The Time Ships does seem to be quite popular among his books so I was intrigued to find out how he managed to make a success of it.

The Time Ships continues directly from the end of [b:The Time Machine|2493|The Time Machine|H.G. Wells|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327942880s/2493.jpg|3234863] where the unnamed protagonist has recently returned to 1891 from his adventures in the far future where he battled Morlocks, witnessed the end of the world, almost get eaten by weird giant crabtrocities etc. After a few days home it occurs to him to go back to the future to rescue Weena, the little Eloi girl who befriended him and was carried off by Morlocks for her troubles. This is the initial premise to the start of a truly epic adventure in time and space in both past and future directions this time.

One missed opportunity about Wells’ [b:The Time Machine|2493|The Time Machine|H.G. Wells|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327942880s/2493.jpg|3234863] is that the “timey wimey” paradox is not featured in the book, the story feels kind of linear in spite of the journey to the future and the return journey at the end. The science fiction genre, which Wells has helped to give birth to, has developed very far since Wells’ time, and Baxter has taken full advantage of that subsequent development. It is as if Baxter has turbo charged the original book, or - perhaps more accurately - strapped a FTL drive to it. From the Edwardian settings Baxter goes on to incorporate post-humanism, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, parallel universes, space elevators and many other modern sci-fi concepts. The Time Ships does not read like a sequel that Wells may have written it himself. It reads more like fan fiction written by a scientist and eminent sci-fi author. Fortunately this time Baxter’s science (mostly) did not go over my head, I certainly find The Time Ships more accessible than his Xeelee books. The plot is completely unpredictable and the occasional illustrations are wonderful, there is even a great anti-war message. Baxter also makes the time machine itself more believable:
“Well, then, this is the essence of my Time Machine,’ I concluded. ‘The machine twists Space and Time around itself, thus mutating Time into a Spatial Dimension – and then one may proceed, into past or future, as easy as riding a bicycle!”

“We cannot help but interact with History, you and I. With every breath we take, every tree you cut down, every animal we kill, we create a new world in the Multiplicity of Worlds. That is all. It is unavoidable.”
Nicely put! Stephen Baxter’s faux-Wellsian prose is a valiant effort though he does not really have Wells’ finesse with the language. He certain overuses exclamation marks in his narratives and dialogue, a habit which I find quite jarring. He did quite well with the character development though, at least with the two central character, the Time Traveler and his Morlock friend Nebogipfel (no, I won’t elaborate on the “Morlock friend” part). The Time Traveller seems to be more badass and pugnacious than I remember from the Wells book. Baxter has the advantage of modern science knowledge which he applied cleverly to the story.

In spite of some stylistic flaws I would rate this book at 5 stars because I had 5 stars worth of entertainment out of it. By far the best [a:Stephen Baxter|20295|Stephen Baxter|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1391280682p2/20295.jpg] book I ever read and it has made me a regular customer of his.