Read This Before Your Next Nerd Date: The Accidental Time Machine Oct17

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Read This Before Your Next Nerd Date: The Accidental Time Machine


A blogumn by Clark Perry

Time and Again

What would you do if you had a time machine? It’s a great question to ask a date if you wanna really get to know somebody.

The question always gets turned back on you, so be ready. And if I’m having a good time with someone, I have the perfect answer. “Why, I’d go back in time just so I could meet you sooner, darlin’.”

That line is guaranteed to slay or your money back.

Actually, I’ve got a list of about 47 things I’d do with a time machine. First, I’d go back in time and kill Adolf Hitler. Then I’d go back in time and kill Hitler again, just to be sure.

Then I’d tackle Lee Harvey Oswald in the book depository before he could raise his rifle. The government spooks on the grassy knoll would still get their shots, but this would at least remove Oswald as the patsy in one of the biggest conspiracies of all time.

Third, I’d go back and sleep with Louise Brooks, the silent film actress. She was way damn hot and I’ve always wondered if her voice was as saucy as her smile.

We always talk about going backward in time. Why is that? Because we all have regrets and lost opportunities? Or is because we’re all scared of the big blank future ahead of us?

But what if your time machine was a one-way device? Specifically, what if you could only go forward in time, with no way back? Would you want to use it then? That’s the case in Joe Haldeman’s hilarious and thought-provoking novel The Accidental Time Machine, a sci-fi romp with a very sweet love story at its heart.

The story’s about Matt Fuller, an MIT grad student who accidentally invents a time machine. Yes, just like that. He rigs an innocent lab doo-hickey for a science project and is understandably stunned when it suddenly disappears. Then it reappears. The next time he presses the button, it happens again. The damn thing’s going someplace, but where?

Matt figures out his inexplicably magic box is traveling into the future. He realizes that, by using metal to connect himself to the box, he can go along with it. But each jump is twelve times longer than the previous one. So the first few jumps are seconds, then hours. But soon he’s facing a time jump of hundreds, then thousands and finally millions of years.

Matt takes a seemingly endless journey through a series of futures that get more bizarre and absurd with each step. He finds humans living under theocracies, raising dinosaurs and terraforming the Moon. He also finds a society where everybody’s born rich and Jesus has finally returned.

Along the way, Matt falls in love with a woman and brings her along, sort’ve a Girl Friday. And I think that’s one emotional key to this spritely sci-fi romp: it’s a metaphor for marriage and the long, strange journey some people choose to make with a mate. The world is guaranteed to change all around you, sometimes crazily so. The one constant we might be granted: a mate, a partner, a love to provide an emotional constant.

Haldeman is one of the genre’s masters right now. His best book, The Forever War, isĀ  an intergalactic take on his time spent in Vietnam and it’s just been optioned by filmmaker Ridley Scott. That’s a sort of time travel story, too, as space soldiers traveling near the speed of light return home to a world that’s aged hundreds of years. Fighting a terrible sense of dislocation, Haldeman’s hero can only hold onto the woman he loves.

There’s something very similar going on with The Accidental Time Machine. While Haldeman keeps the emotional core very real, the adventure itself reads like a blend of Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams. It’s a scientifically-plausible and deliriously fun adventure that might make you look at your date and really, really consider how much you really like them.

Do you want to go into the future with this person, no matter how bizarre the world may get? You should be asking that question on every date. And don’t be scared if you realize the answer is “yes.” That’s the word that begins all great adventures.