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A Scientific Romance [Paperback]

Ronald Wright
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 7 1998
In this critically acclaimed and bestselling novel, Ronald Wright has fashioned a story for our times, an unforgettable chronicle of love, plague and time travel in the tradition of Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Handmaid's Tale.

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In London at the turn of the 20th century, H. G. Wells's time machine mysteriously appears--empty--in a squatter's flat. Whence did it come, and for what purpose was it sent? The answers to these questions--though not to an even greater mystery connected with the machine's appearance--are contained in a letter written by Wells on May 2, 1946, which falls into the hands of one David Lambert on the eve of the millennium. Lambert, an industrial archeologist, reads the letter foretelling the arrival of the machine and, half convinced the whole thing is a hoax, goes to the address Wells provides, where, at the appointed hour, the time machine materializes. Thus begins Ronald Wright's fine and fantastical novel A Scientific Romance.

Romance can refer to an affair of the heart; it can also describe a heroic tale of extraordinary events. In A Scientific Romance, Wright plays on both possible meanings as he weaves a tragic story of betrayal and lost love into a larger narrative of time travel. Lambert, having lost the woman he loved, is reckless enough to test Wells's machine himself, catapulting 500 years into the future, where he finds London--indeed, all of England--a deserted, semitropical landscape. As David explores the future, he also sifts through his own past, creating in this Möbius strip of time and relationship a chilling cautionary tale about the limits of science and human ambition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

English-born historian Wright, who lives in Canada, is the author of several celebrated works of nonfiction, including Time Among the Maya and Stolen Continents, but his first novel is such a triumph that it's a wonder he didn't get around to writing one earlier. The plot is something of a curiosity: English archeologist David Lambert stumbles upon a Victorian time machine?the very one, it turns out, that H.G. Wells described in his famous novel. When Lambert discovers that he may have the same disease that killed his lover, he lights out for the future: A.D. 2500, to be exact. There Wright creates for him a vivid, compelling world, a depopulated, tropical dream of what had once been England. The book's central drama is Lambert's struggle to excavate and uncover the exact nature of the calamity that erased London. At the same time, he sifts through the shards of his own unhappy personal history?which he is, of course, tempted to touch up a little with the help of the time machine. The narrative bristles with fascinating characters, both fictional and historical, and Wright furnishes it with a rich store of enthralling scientific Victoriana. His writing is charming, unpretentious and wonderfully literate. J.G. Ballard explored this same territory in his disaster novels of the 1970s, but never with Wright's psychological insight or pathos.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time travel for the romantic Feb. 4 2003
It may seem to be a contradiction in terms, to use a time machine to travel into the future to pour over the details of one's past. But that's exactly what Ronald Wright accomplishes in his marvelous novel A SCIENTIFIC ROMANCE. Part futuristic travelogue, part nostalgic reminiscences of the past, ROMANCE is a thinking person's science fiction, a completely enthralling apocalyptic dystopia that reveals more about the present-day human heart than one would expect.
Taking a page from H.G. Wells's classic THE TIME MACHINE, Wright has fashioned a fiction based on the 'reality' of a fiction. Wright's protagonist David Lambert, archaeologist and devotee of Victorian machinery, discovers that Wells based his novel upon a factual incident. Lambert subsequently discovers the time machine, intact but riderless, and decides to travel to 2500 A.D.. What he discovers raises more questions than answers about the fate of humanity, but it also raises questions as to what events led Lambert to this point in his life. As he travels the futuristic England countryside, he retraces his past with his friend Bird, and the woman they both love, Anita. The farther Lambert treks through England, the farther his despair over past actions becomes.
Not having perused Wells's classic, I am unable to compare his and Wright's styles. I can reveal that there is a deeply pleasing antiquated feel to Wright's tale; something in his style evokes the nostalgic prose style of Jules Verne. The font also seems charmingly old-fashioned (and for anyone who doesn't believe a font can affect a story, please discover Chip Kidd's terrific novel THE CHEESE MONKEYS, which covers just such a format consideration).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great premise but falls down on the follow-through. April 30 1998
By A Customer
Since a synopsis of the plot is already printed, I won't bore you running through it here. Unfortunately, I was bored running through the book. What a great premise -- H.G Wells' Time Machine exists and an archeologist is going to take a ride into the future! What a let-down. There's no denying that this is a well-written book, but I like books that are plot and character driven. This book is a great idea. There is little "story" and the characters are poorly developed. Such interesting people and I never got to find out more about them! It's a great hook, but when I expected the book to really take off, it just ran out of gas.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great story unclearly written July 3 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This novel is a great idea that was complicated by it's execution. There are multiple letters to different characters over many pages. Complex language dilutes the clarity of the concept. It is written in British style, North Americans might have trouble with certain references.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Three-quarters a perfect sci-fi novel Nov. 27 2007
If you live by the philosophy that the real joy of any experience is in the journey towards its conclusion, then this book is for you. While I can't speak for everyone, the book is comprised of four parts, and while I thought the third part lost this book its five-star rating, the remainder I will proudly exalt as breathtaking.

Taking an archaeologist and sending them to the future to dig up our era (where we have unfortunately come to an untimely end), fares as one of the best sci-fi plots to date. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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3.0 out of 5 stars ........ Feb. 4 2006
By A Customer
I came across this book when my english teacher was handing out a list of novles for us to choos from for our ISU, and I somehow ended up with this. I have to admit that I didn't really enjoy it. I found that while the concepts presented were quite interesting and got me thinking, the characters were dry. I aboslutely hated the fact that the main character kept going on about his love for some girl who came across as quite shallow. Also, the ideas in this book are very similar to A Short History of Progress, by the same author. I would definately reccomend this author's non-ficion works, but this one left a bit to be desired.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Sloppy Plot Devices Nov. 15 2003
This is an interesting concept novel used to drive home a point about technology and scientific hubris run rampant that eventually chokes our planet and all but destroys the human race.
In 1999 David Lambert, really a rather wandering soul, is a museum curator who has lost the love of his life to Mad Cow disease and his best friend in a falling out over a nasty love triangle involving the same woman. Unbelievably a letter falls into his hands that purports to be from H.G. Wells informing the reader of the return of the time machine to London-a fiction that turns out not to be fiction. So off he goes on his jaunt into the future.
This is a poor attempt at using the time travel concept as a plot device. There are just way too many coincidences and way too many convenient plot devices to move the story along. And it drags on unrelentlessly in the middle with some very tedious slogging as the author gets carried away over describing the future he finds.
At times, the novel is very good and it does have some merit. But frankly, the plot devices used, especially in the end, undermine the novel.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Good Concept, Boring Writing Dec 2 2002
First the concept - A man with an uncurable disease, discovers a time machine created by an associate of H.G. Wells. He decides to go to the future to seek a cure.
Unfortunately the writing style to this book was excrutiatingly boring, written in the first person. The narrator (the man with the incurable disease) jumps from concept to concept, without anything interesting to say. There is virtually no action. When he gets to the future, everything is destroyed and you keep waiting for him to encounter people, which never seems to happen. I found H.G. Wells Time Machine to be vastly more interesting and that was written over 100 years ago.
Many other readers have given this book very high marks for writing and I wonder how they can? I know I kept finding myself skipping over a lot of paragraphs throughout the book and had to fight with myself to keep from just jumping to the back of the book and reading the end so I could get on with it.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Using the future to examine the past
It may seem to be a contradiction in terms, to use a time machine to travel into the future to pour over the details of one's past. Read more
Published on Aug. 26 2002 by Stone Junction
4.0 out of 5 stars a good premise, a good book, could have been even tighter
I certainly wish Wright would write some more novels. He's mostly a travel writer, but has proven with this release that he's capable of a lot. Read more
Published on April 2 2001 by David Myers
2.0 out of 5 stars "Scientific Romance" has little of either.
Truly a fascinating premise...I've always wanted a time machine of my own, but the protagonist wastes his opportunity. So does the author. Read more
Published on June 6 2000 by V. Mike Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars a real page turner
This is an enthralling read, beautifully written, and the story has stayed with me since I read it last year. Read more
Published on April 24 2000
1.0 out of 5 stars Ugh
Although the premise is interesting, Wright did not do justice to his own idea. The story is slow-moving and totally unbelievable. Read more
Published on April 10 2000
3.0 out of 5 stars An imitation of H.G.Wells
Although I describe this book as an imitation of Wells, I liked the story. The visual image of a London turned into a jungle alone made the book worth reading. Read more
Published on April 2 2000
1.0 out of 5 stars What a waste
What a waste of a great idea! The story doesn't really go anyhere, the science is vague yet still unbelievable, the romance is dull and the journal style used by the author falls... Read more
Published on March 14 2000 by Mr I A Morris
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