on June 15, 2003
As a life-long fan of H.G. Wells, I must say that I avoided picking up Baxter's book for several years. I doubted that anyone could seriously improve upon the original novel. When I came across a relatively undamaged copy of "The Time Ships" in a used bookstore, though, I finally decided to give it a try. Needless to say, I became so engrossed in the story that I finished the five hundred plus page book in three days. Although Stephen Baxter appears to be a scientist by training, he is much better at seizing and maintaining the reader's attention than many authors I have recently read. While continuing the narrative voice of Wells' Victorian Time Traveller, Baxter radically expands the scope and depth of the original universe, incorporating many modern ideas about causality, parallel worlds, and quantum mechanics. The fact he does so without overwhelming the reader but instead inspiring a genuine sense of wonder and awe is an achievement in and of itself. Baxter also makes a number of allusions to Wells' other fiction, including the use of Plattnerite, land ironclads, and a vision of nuclear and conventional warfare between Britain and Germany in the first half of the twentieth century, all of which are amusing to those of us who recognize them as the story progresses. In the end Baxter doesn't so much surpass Wells as simply take the original tale to a whole new level, extending and reinterpreting it for a twenty-first century audience.
on December 31, 1997
Though being an ardent sc-fi fan, I have never read Time Machine by H.G.Wells, so when I started this book, I approached it with a bit of trepidation. I thought I was stepping into the deep end, and I would be hopelessly lost.
I was wrong.
and more wrong, I could not have been, this book, though a "sequel", is independant in it's thoughts and it's scope. It's writing explodes into your mind, titilating your imagination.
though the notion of parallel universes, would be known to any sci-fi reader worth his salt, never has it been explored, exploited and executed into a story so well. Though the scientific premise of this story is sound and invigorating, Baxter never lets it to dominate, he keeps in mind that this is a book and above all, it is meant to be read and to entertain. The story continues as he explains and educates, the plot progresion is one of the most seamless I have seen in a sci-fi novel.
If this book shows anything of Baxter's promise, it is that if he continues like this, in time his name would be remembered with the likes of Asimov, Clarke and Heinlien.
Buy this book, you will and can not regret it.
on December 23, 1998
"The Time Ships" is a stunning novel, both in style and substance. Baxter captures the innocent, rollicking tone of the original while adding a healthy dose of contemporary science. Granted, the invented time-travelling substance he invents here is a bit silly, and I saw one major plot point about twenty pages in, but the fast-paced, future-past-present-future-past storyline never lets up long enough for you to be bothered by any potential weakness.
Baxter is a brilliant writer with some incredibly original ideas. This book is packed with enough original ideas to fill ten novels. At the same time, he's managed to draw characters that actually matter - something Baxter has had trouble doing in the past.
Baxter owes a lot to Clarke and Bear. He's also his own writer. Probably the best Hard SF writer to appear on the scene in the last 10 years. Don't be put off by the occasional bad review: Baxter is a great talent and "The Time Ships" is an example of him at the top of his form.
on December 26, 2001
I had a great time reading this book. Steven Baxter tries to keep some of the characters (Weena, Morlocks, the narrator) and some of the plot, I guess maybe not to (upset) a lot of people, but his imagination is so vast that, by the end, the book sprirals off into a tale of cosmic proportions. I love time travel stories, and this is one of the best, imaginative and far-reaching in the tradition of the original novel. Baxter's concept of the gigantic world-ring around the sun is spectacular. His alternate-earth timeline is fascinating, as well as being a message to us all. I simply could not put this book down when I read it a few years ago. It remains on my shelf in a place of prominence so I can get to it again!
Baxter has a way of explaining the concepts of quantum physics and effortlessly weaving these concepts into his stories.
This is a very well-written book that holds together from start to finish, with clever plot-twists and imaginative scenes; I liked it better than the original.
on February 28, 1997
The following quote is not mine, but it bears repeating:
"This book reminds me why I started reading science fiction."
The story, written to commemorate the 100th anniversary of H G Wells's "The Time Machine", picks up where the original finishes, with the time traveller heading back to the future in order to rescue Weena.
However, it soon becomes apparent that the future has changed as a result of the time traveller's initial journey. Not a unique concept to anyone who has seen "Back to the Future", perhaps, but rather a shock to a Victorian citizen such as the time traveller. Full marks to Baxter for conveying his reaction so well.
Without giving away too much of the plot, the book whisks us on an intriguing journey through alternate futures and pasts. A future in which a Dyson sphere surrounds the Sun; a 1938 in which the First World War rages; a Jurassic in which a nuclear bomb explodes; a present in which the remote ancestors of a group of humans have conquered the stars.
Baxter extends (dare I say "improves on"?) the original in a convincing way, and maintains the viewpoint and style of the time traveller throughout. Quite deliberately, the book reads like the original, and much of the technology works in a way that Wells might have anticipated. The Time Ships could so easily seem contrived, but in Baxter's hands it has an extra appeal that makes it exciting to read.
What a brilliant story; keenly constructed, compellingly told. This is an entertaining book by any standards, and that's surely the main reason we read fiction - to be entertained. I'd never read any Baxter before, but I will certainly read more in the future
on August 25, 1997
An absolutely great read. From some of the lower-rated reviews listed here, I was expecting to be disappointed, but to my surpise I was treated to a ripping yarn as well as an intellectual exhibition revolving around the Time Traveller of HG Wells' "The Time Machine." A direct sequel to that great novel, the Time Traveller is certainly represented as a man of his times (19th century and all points future and past)--sometimes brutish yet often compassionate, free-thinking yet capable of prejudice, a scientific genius yet a man of action.
The book is a fantastic journey up and down and down and up the time-line, filled with marvelous touches on the grand and minute levels. I enjoyed the descriptions of the effects of time travel, and thrilled to the cosmic finale that quite honestly lost me save for the fact that man's individuality can survive the re-writing of the birth of the universe.
For anyone who enjoys time-travel novels, this one (long but fast moving) will satisfy on many levels. This is why I read science fiction--to be entertained, awed, educated, and moved.
on June 15, 1997
Although the idea of picking up where H.G. Wells left off is aspectacular idea, Time Ships attempts to repaint over too large acanvas to sustain a coherent and plausable story. Baxter tries too hard to adhere to some major plot-points of The Time Machine while taking the story in a new direction. In particular, turning the sloth-like, animalistic Morlocks into a super-intellgent race of advanced beings is utterly unconvincing. Amazingly, despite their hyper intelligence, the Morlocks maintain the identical, primitive physical appearance of Wells' creatures. Furthermore, having a Morlock as a sidekick for this 520 page book lacks the requisite chemistry.
Another problem with the story is that the plot has the same 20th century arrogance that the book attempts to mock and satirize. Even though the Morlock sidekick has the knowledge of over 600,000 years of science and history, all the physics needed to save the characters was discovered in the first half of the 20th century. Having a being from the year 600,000 actively relying on the primitive teachings of Godol and Einstein for salvation seems rediculous at best.
Finally, (and this may seem a bit xenophobic), the author spends far too much time dwelling on side-alley's and street names of his native England. Several pages are devoted to minute details of a city most of the readers have never been to, nor will ever know to the familiarity of the author. Frankly, if I were born and raised in London, I doubt I'd know half the places Baxter refers to.
Overall, I found Time Ships to be a disappointment that lacked the introspective insight into the human condition and turned time travel into an infinite and sometimes meaningless jaunt from one reality to another.
On the positive side, Baxter has done a very skilled job of adapting his writing style to that of H.G. Wells and accurately portrayed the perceptions and reactinos of a 19th century time traveler. I suggest reading the original by H.G. Wells.
on October 4, 1999
This is the first time I have ever read Stephen Baxter, and already I am anxious for more of his work. This book was probably one of--if not the--most imaginative sci-fi novels I have ever read. It starts out with the Time Traveller, determined to save Weena--the Eloi girl he left behind in the far future--taking another fateful trip into the future. But instead of a repeat of the original Wells book, but with a save-the-damsel-in-distress storyline, it turned into an epic journey through alternate histories and future worlds that are just astonishing as you read the book.
It takes you to visions of alternate futures, as well as pasts, such as a sphere around the sun, a war-torn Earth of 1939, the Paleocene era of fifty-million years ago, an alternate reality with machines as the heirs of man, and finally to the most fantastic vision of an infinite universe created and ruled over by the true power of the human Mind. The book closes with the Traveller being returned to his own reality so that he is able to go and save Weena in the far-off age of 800,000 years hence(I wont give away the ending).
Throughout the book, Stephen Baxter gives you insights into the world of Quantum Physics, an aspect that brings the book to have a more real-world feel than some bizarre odyssey. Stephen Baxter is a true visionary. Someone who is able to see the current trends of science and incorporate them into a masterfully executed story. This book, in my opinion, is among the greatest sci-fi masterpieces of all time. The story never gets too technical, but never reaches down to the level of a child-like fantasy story. It is a story not only about time travel, but about the nature of mankind itself. but the most important thing that this book teaches you is that no matter where you are, or what you do, the future is a world of infinite possibilities and it is up to us choose the right ones throughout our lives. For who knows what the future holds? Possibilities, my friend. Possibilities, indeed.
on March 15, 2002
This is my third SB novel, after 'Ring' and 'Titan' and I'm
truly sorry, but I don't know what all the fuss is about.
SB is heralded by New Scientist and no less than Arthur C Clarke
as the next new talent, but I'm at a loss to see why.
'Ring' was completely flat character-wise, 'Titan' a depressing
derge full of more science, descriptive dialog and little else,
and while 'The Time ships' may have been a valiant effort at a
tribute to H.G. why make a novel out of it?
The original story has it's place in SF history, and should be left there.
I don't see how anyone could possibly bring those old cardboard
characters and speculations about time-travel into the modern
era, and make a success of it. SB certainly didn't.
And ACC's quote...."The Time Ships is the most outstanding work of
imaginative fiction since Stapledon's 'Last and First Men'....."
(taken out of context) is just a complete joke !!
Probably the reason why SB gets such rave reviews from New Scientist,
is because he really knows his science, but that alone does not a novel make.
on January 26, 2002
It appears to me by reading this 535page novel... Baxter's whole intention was to close other minds to his philosophy of thinking... For instance, anyone who is an H.G. Wells, fan of THE TIME MACHINE... has always asked: "Where is the Time Traveller?" Baxter does give a clear cut account as to what happened. Many parts of this story tend to focus in on famous or just plain places of London... Descriptive locations in my opinion are not truly needed to tell a good story.
Another annoying thing was the way he opens and closes this novel... He opens it in a way which I felt closes the door for sequels on the original Time Machine Novel. I must say he was Clever.
The major turn off was the building of the story... Causality loops are good sci-fi yes... but to drag out such a loop for 535 pages... in clear description gave me a headache.
The whole intent of this novel in my opinion was to make it so that others who want to write about THE TIME MACHINE can't... because he tried to cover as many plot lines as possible with the Time Traveller. I am not saying Baxter is like Bill Gates... but to try to create a monopoly on H.G. Wells, original fiction is in my opinion bad taste.
The book starts out where Baxter himself... places himself in the novel briefly in the Author's note... He goes to a bookstore and his handed a few manuscripts of old writing. The Prologue starts right where Wells, novel ended with the young man watching the Time Traveller off. The Time Traveller's soul intent was to save Weena... Well he goes forward and notices that something is wrong... I won't give away much more other than... This... Look forward to intelligent Morlocks... Dyson Sphere... the years Moses... (Not Charlton Heston Moses...) Filby... Weena... Bond... (Not James Bond..) Ice planet... Pre-historic earth... War... 1938-1944... Future... a new race of beings called the Watchers...
I give this all a 2... only because of the lockout tone that Baxter tried to pull with this novel... I also didn't like the fact that it took 535 pages... just for him to state a point about causality loops.
If you're a TIME MACHINE, fan read this book... but take note... the intentions are well but Baxter in my opinion meant to make it very clear that he wanted his book to be the final and only sequel... to a classic which... Wells, in my opinion left open to the worlds of imagination and creativity... Baxter stops this with his closing.