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The Time Ships

de Stephen Baxter

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When a young man discovers a time machine, he finds himself stranded in a far off galaxy with no way to return home and nothing to defend himself with against the planet's inhabitants.
  1. 10
    Doomsday Book de Connie Willis (JGolomb)
  2. 00
    La Màquina del temps de H. G. Wells (sturlington)
    sturlington: The Time Ships is a sequel to The Time Machine.
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  freixas | Mar 31, 2023 |
El Viajero del tiempo de H. G. Wells despierta en su casa de Richmond la mañana posterior al retorno de su primera partida al futuro. Apesadumbrado por haber dejado a Weena en manos de los morlock, decide realizar un segundo viaje al año 802701 para rescatar a su amiga eloi. Pero al entrar en un futuro distinto y radicalmente cambiado, el Viajero se ve irremediablemente atado a las paradójicas complejidades del desplazamiento a través del tiempo. Acompañado por un morlock, se encontrará consigo mismo, para ser detenido después por un grupo de viajeros temporales procedentes de un 1938 en el cual Inglaterra lleva 24 años en guerra con Alemania…
  Natt90 | Feb 7, 2023 |
review of
Stephen Baxter's The Time Ships
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 29-May 10, 2019

For the complete review go here:

Sometime in the misty past few yrs I bought the "H. G. Wells Collection" by Doma Publishing for an absurdly low price like $5 & got the Kindle app to enable me to read it. I don't like reading off screens, even though I do it all the time. As such, I only took a brief glimpse at it. I considered reading all the Wells in chronological order, starting w/ The Time Machine, wch I've already read at least once, so I looked at the 1st page recently & was impressed by the writing but still didn't want to read it on-screen. Then I picked up a copy of Baxter's The Time Ships, written 100 yrs later, & decided to read that instead. It was perfect for providing the experience I wanted!

Stephen Baxter's "Editor's Note" begins:

"The attached account was given to me by the owner of a small second-hand bookshop, situated just off the Charing Cross Road in London. He told me it had just turned up as a manuscript in an unlabeled box, in a collection of books which had been bequeathed to him after the death of a friend; the bookseller passed the manuscript on to me as a curiosity—"You might make something of it"—knowing of my interest in the speculative fiction of the nineteenth century.

"The manuscript itself was typewritten on commonplace paper, but a pencil note attested that it had been transcribed from an original "written by hand on a paper of such age that it has crumpled beyond repair." That original, if it ever existed, is lost. There is no note as to the manuscript's author, or origin." - p vii

This device, the device of stating that what one is about to read is from a found manuscript, thusly hypothetically not making it fiction by the author, in this case Stephen Baxter, but of unknown nature as to whether it's fiction or fact, is a device probably more often used in the 19th & early 20th century than now. Whether it was ever effective in making readers of those times believe that the story might be 'fact' has always struck me as improbable. As such, in this instance, it seems to be Baxter's tribute to the style of Wells's original wch doesn't, however, begin that way. Instead, let's compare the beginning of William Hope Hodgson's The House on the Borderland (1908). Its 1st chapter is entitled "The Finding of the Manuscript":

"I reached the crumbled wall, and climbed round. There, I found Tonnison standing within a small excavation that he had made among the debris: he was brushing the dirt from something that looked like a book, much crumpled and dilapidated; and opening his mouth, every second or two, to bellow my name. As soon as he saw that I had come, he handed his prize to me, telling me to put it in my satchel so as to protect it from the damp, while he continued his explorations. This I did, first, however, running the pages through my fingers, and noting that they were closely filled with neat, old-fashioned writing which was quite legible" - p 10, Carroll & Graf 1983 paperback edition

The Time Ships continues The Time Machine & the "Prologue" to The Time Ships mentions that their shared hero had been in "the nightmarish world of A.D. 802,701" so I decided to double-check this against the Wells story. When I searched the Kindle edition for "802,701" no results were found. I tried "A.D." next. That produced 500 matches & revealed that yrs are spelled out as words so I tried: "Eight Hundred Thousand and Seven Hundred and One A.D." &, yep, that worked: "our planet in the year Eight Hundred and Two Thousand Seven Hundred and One A.D. For that, I should explain, was the date the little dials of my machine recorded." so I didn't catch Baxter out at not following the original (not that I expected to).

The Prologue continues by having the protagonist decide:

"I had blood on my hands, and not just the ichor of those foul, degraded sub-men, the Morlocks, I determined I must make recompense—in whatever way I could—for my abominable treatment of poor, trusting Weena.

"I was filled with resolve. My adventures, physical and intellectual, were not done yet!" - p xi

Near the end of The Time Machine it's written that:

"The Time Traveller was not there. I seemed to see a ghostly, indistinct figure sitting in a whirling mass of black and brass for a moment—a figure so transparent that the bench behind with its sheets of drawings was absolutely distinct; but this phantasm vanished as I rubbed my eyes. The Time Machine had gone. Save for a subsiding stir of dust, the further end of the laboratory was empty. A pane of the skylight had, apparently, just been blown in."

Has he gone forward in time again to try to find Weena, the Eloi last seen struggling in the kidnapping grip of some Morlocks? Baxter goes that route. As our hero goes off into the future again he checks his gear:

"I found my Kodak, and dug out my flash trough. The camera was now loaded with a roll of a hundred negative frames on a paper-stripping roll. I remembered how damned expensive the thing had been when I had bought it—no less than tweny-five dollars, purchased on a trip to New York—but, if I should return with pictures of futurity, each of those two-inch frames would be more valuable than the finest paintings." - p xiii

"This Original Kodak camera, introduced by George Eastman, placed the power of photography in the hands of anyone who could press a button. Unlike earlier cameras that used a glass-plate negative for each exposure, the Kodak came preloaded with a 100-exposure roll of flexible film. After finishing the roll, the consumer mailed the camera back to the factory to have the prints made. In capturing everyday moments and memories, the Kodak's distinctive circular snapshots defined a new style of photography--informal, personal, and fun.

"George Eastman invented flexible roll film and in 1888 introduced the Kodak camera shown to use this film. It took 100-exposure rolls of film that gave circular images 2 5/8" in diameter. In 1888 the original Kodak sold for $25 loaded with a roll of film and included a leather carrying case." -

As might be expected, Baxter's 'sequel' 'pulls out all the stops' & makes things considerably more far-fetched & dramatic than the original Wells bk:

"At last, the sun came to a halt altogether, it rested on the western horizon, hot and pitiless and unchanging. The earth's rotation had been stilled; now, it rotated with one face turned perpetually to the sun!

"The scientists of the nineteenth century had predicted that at last the tidal influences of sun and moon would cause the earth's rotation to become locked to the sun, just as the moon was forced to keep one face turned to earth. I had witnessed this myself, during my first exploration of futurity: but it was an eventuality that should not come about for many millions of years. And yet here I was, more than half a million years into the future, finding a stilled earth!" - p 12

& to think he's only on page 12. But he ain't seen nuthin' yet.

"There could be no doubt about it: I was traveling through events which differed, massively, from those I had witnessed during my first sojourn." - p 13

"And then—it was quite sudden—the sun exploded." - p 14

That cd really ruin a guy's day.

On the back cover of the edition of The Time Ships that I have, the author is referred to as "today's most acclaimed new "hard SF" author, and the acknowledged heir to the visionary legacy of Wells, Heinlein, and Clarke". That might be in a parallel universe b/c I don't recall hearing about him until I got this bk, wch was published in 1995. Of course, I don't know EVERYTHING, just every other thing. Regardless, the notion of the multiverse wasn't postulated in MY universe until the mid-20th century so it's things like that that make this different from Wells's original The Time Machine. I admit, I wd've settled for the Time Traveller going back to the same future, finding Weena, & fucking her brains out w/ explicit description — but I can't fault Baxter for making the bk be an epic exploration of possibilities that cd be scientifically hypothetized way back in the 1990s before everyone had cell-phones & the world completely changed all over again.

ANYWAY, in this new, improved, future the TT meets a Morlock & the damned thing speaks to him in English:

""I have access to records of all of the ancient languages of Humanity—as reconstructed—from Nostratic through the Indo-European group and its prototypes. A small number of key words is sufficient for the appropriate variant to be retrieved. You must inform me if anything I say is not intelligible."

"I took a cautious step forward. "Ancient? And how do you know I am ancient?"

"Huge lids swept down over those goggled eyes. "Your physique is archaic. As were the contents of your stomach when analyzed."" - p 40

How dare you say my "physique is archaic"!! Ok, I admit, I've got a bit of a pot belly & my teeth are really worn down & my hair's thinned dramatically but you talk like I've been left behind in the dust evolutionarily!! Let's change the subject.

In the original Wells bk, the Eloi lived above-ground in idyllic circumstances: never having to work & happy & playful all day. Practical matters, such as the provision of their food, was taken c/o for them by the Morlocks, who lived underground & tended great machines. Occasionally, the Morlocks wd take away some Eloi & eat them (if I remember correctly). The Eloi were so spoiled & air-headed that they'd become oblivious to this dynamic.

I always interpreted this as a prediction as to what wd happen if society were to continue to be divided between exploiters & workers: the exploiters wd become Eloi, totally dependent on the labor of others for everything & enervated by lack of initiative; the workers becoming completely debased by forced labor w/ no time for anything else, devolving into cannibalistic trolls. Baxter's vision has the Morlocks as highly evolved beings living to a hive-like extreme. The reader sees humans continue as beings constantly at war, forced to live underground w/o sunlight — simultaneously developing into the sunlight-eschewing Morlocks & into sunlight-embracing humans who STILL war constantly. It seems to me that Baxter's version more or less bypasses the class issue (until almost the end & then just in passing (or classing)).

"I know well—Nebogipfel taught me!—that much of my dread of the Morlocks is instinctive, and proceeds from a complex of experiences, nightmares and fears within my own soul, irrelevant to this place. I have had that dread of darkness and subterranean places since I was a boy; there is that fear of the body and its corruption which Nebogipfel diagnosed—a dread which I may share, I think, with many of my time—and, besides, I am honest enough to recognize that I am a man of my class, and as such have had little to do with the laboring folk of my time, and in my ignorance I have developed, I fear, a certain disregard and fear." - p 517

"I leaned forward, as far as my restraints allowed. "Filby, I can scarcely believe that men have fallen so far—become so blind. Why, from my perspective, this damnable Future War of yours sounds pretty much like the end of civilization."

""For men of our day," he said solemnly, "perhaps it is. But this younger generation, who've grown up to know nothing but War, who have never felt the sun on their faces without fear of the air-torpedoes—well! I think they're inured to it; it's as if we're turning into a subterranean species."

"I could not resist a glance at the Morlock." - p 172

"But for all the familiar landmarks and street names, this was a new London: a London of permanent night, a city which could never enjoy the glow of the June sky outside—but a London which had accepted all this as the price for survival, Filby told me; for bombs and torpedoes would roll off that massive Roof, or burst in the air harmlessly, leaving Cobbett's "Great Wen" unmarked beneath." - p 187

""Tell me what this place is, before we leave it," I said.

"His flaxen-haired head turned toward me. "An empty chamber."

""How wide?"

""Approximately two thousand miles."

"I tried to conceal my reaction to this. Two thousand miles ? Had I been alone, in a prison cell large enough to hold an ocean? "You have a great deal of room here," I said evenly.

""The Sphere is large," he said. "If you are accustomed only to planetary distances, you may find it difficult to appreciate how large. The Sphere fills the orbit of the primal planet you called Venus. It has a surface area corresponding to nearly three hundred million earths—"" - p 54

Yeah, show-off, but I'll bet the property taxes are out of this fuckin' world!! Of course, humans, being what we are (HEY! Don't even think that about me, SHIT-HEAD!) are in a nature reserve of sorts where they continue to blow the bejesuz out of each other:

"The island-world flared brighter than the sun, for several hours, and I knew I was watching a titanic tragedy, made by man—or descendents of man.

"Everywhere in my rocky sky—now I started looking for it—I saw the mark of War." - p 91

There goes the neighborhood. Next thing you know, you'll have a rotating universe.

""The rotating-universe idea was first described some decades after your time—by Kurt Gödel, in fact."" - p 117

You don't say. That Gödel really knew how to tighten the expanding waistband.

"The Gödel metric is an exact solution of the Einstein field equations in which the stress–energy tensor contains two terms, the first representing the matter density of a homogeneous distribution of swirling dust particles (dust solution), and the second associated with a nonzero cosmological constant (see lambdavacuum solution). It is also known as the Gödel solution or Gödel universe.

"This solution has many unusual properties—in particular, the existence of closed timelike curves that would allow time travel in a universe described by the solution. Its definition is somewhat artificial in that the value of the cosmological constant must be carefully chosen to match the density of the dust grains, but this spacetime is an important pedagogical example.

"The solution was found in 1949 by Kurt Gödel."


"Because of the homogeneity of the spacetime and the mutual twisting of our family of timelike geodesics, it is more or less inevitable that the Gödel spacetime should have closed timelike curves (CTCs). Indeed, there are CTCs through every event in the Gödel spacetime. This causal anomaly seems to have been regarded as the whole point of the model by Gödel himself, who was apparently striving to prove, and arguably succeeded in proving, that Einstein's equations of spacetime are not consistent with what we intuitively understand time to be (i. e. that it passes and the past no longer exists, the position philosophers call presentism, whereas Gödel seems to have been arguing for something more like the philosophy of eternalism), much as he, conversely, succeeded with his incompleteness theorems in showing that intuitive mathematical concepts could not be completely described by formal mathematical systems of proof. See the book A World Without Time." -ödel_metric

I'll take some of those Closed Timelike Curves anyday over that old-time religion. Heck'o'goshen, readers of this bk even get to meet Gödel as a character. What more cd you ask for?

""Time travel, by its very nature, results in the perturbation of History, and hence the generation, or discovery, of Worlds other than this. Therefore the task of the Time Traveler is to search—to search on, until that Final World is found—or built!"

"By the time we left Gödel, my thoughts were racing. I resolved never to mock Mathematical Philosophers again, for this odd little man had journeyed further in Time, Space and Understanding, without leaving his office, than I ever had in my Time Machine! And I knew that I must indeed visit Gödel again soon . . . for I was convinced that I had seen a flask of raw Platnerite, tucked inside his crate!" - p 230

Platnerite? Never touch the stuff. It's highly addictive & it makes you KA-rayayayay-zee!

"As for me, after subsisting for so long on a diet of the Morlocks' bland stuff, I could not have relished my breakfast more if I had known—which I did not—that it was the last nineteenth-century meal I should ever enjoy!' - p 153

OUR HERO has already been thru ALOT & there's still almost 400 pp to go in the bk.

Chapter 11 in Book 3 is called "The New World Order" & takes place in London in 1938, perpetually at war w/ the Germans. Some of us became familiar w/ the phrase "New World Order" in the 1980s when Reagan was pushing the idea. Some of us transformed that into "New World Odor" — as in something smelled fishy about the idea of one government for the entire world — esp given that this government was based on the US being the 'good guys', as opposed to, say, primary resource grabbers, & as the world cop. Hitler's '2nd bk' is called My New Order but it's misleading to call it "Hitler's Own Sequel to Mein Kampf" as the cover of it proclaimed given that it was really a bk cobbled together by American editors of Hitler speeches designed to show Hitler's genocidal & imperialistic intentions & NOT really a bk by Hitler. Still, I've long since wondered whether Reagan & his right-wing cronies deliberately referenced Hitler w/ their New World Order.

In the London of 1938, basically a giant bomb shelter deprived of sunlight:

"Wallis told me that people would still turn out to the Speakers' Corner, to hear the Salvation Army, the National Secular Society, the Catholic Evidence Guild, the Anti-Fifth Column League (who waged a campaign against spies, traitors and anyone who might give comfort to the enemy), and so forth." - pp 206-207

I'll be giving a speech in a few days that references the Speakers' Corner so if I don't finish this review before I've uploaded the documents for that I'll add a link here.

The history Baxter provides for this era is a parallel universe one for the one that I assume my readers & I both have been born after. In this case, the race to build a Time Machine becomes a parallel for the race to build (& drop) the atom bomb (although that comes along too).

"He said in a low voice, "We have rumors that the Germans are building a Time Machine of their own. And if they succeed first—if the Reich gets functioning Chronic-Displacement Warfare capabilities . . ."" - p 217

""You develop your time ironclads because you fear the Germans are doing the same. Very well. But the situation is symmetrical: from their point of view, the Germans must fear that you will exploit such time machinery first. Each side is behaving precisely in such a way as to provoke the worst reaction in its opponents. And you both slide towards the worst situation for all."" - p 313

Replace the Human Race w/ the Arms Race. What about the Peace & Prosperity Race? The Positive Creativity Race? What if nations worked hard at improving everyone's lot & got credit when they succeeded?

For the complete review go here: ( )
  tENTATIVELY | Apr 3, 2022 |
I picked this up after reading [b:Anno Dracula|33535|Anno Dracula (Anno Draculae #1)|Kim Newman||1731834] because I wanted something solidly futuristic. As it turns out, however, this is a sequel to H.G. Wells's [b:The Time Machine|2493|The Time Machine|H.G. Wells||3234863]. So that may have something to do with my reaction, but I don't really think so. In this book, the narrator is the Time Traveler himself. And although the story is engaging, and the physics is plausible enough to keep you going, the Traveler is not a great protagonist; he is prone to fits of temper, not very charming, frequently boorish, highly impulsive, and - despite being a crack scientist and tinkerer - just not very smart. That is to say, he doesn't learn from his experiences; he makes the same mistakes over and over again. And while much of characterization is consistent with what I remember from Wells, when the story is an incredible, epic journey, like this one is, one has an expectation that the main character will grow over the course of the journey, to be ready for what's to come at the end of it. But this character never does, until the very end, and even there only slightly.

Now on the positive side, the science really is quite fun. Baxter re-imagines how a time machine must work based on contemporary quantum theory, in particular the many-worlds interpretation. Having returned (in Wells's book) from the future back to 1891 and told his tale to the Writer and his other friends, the Traveler heads forward again into a very different future. And then back to the past, and to a different again future, and so on through multiple timelines. And what timelines! There are lots of interesting technological twists and turns, and interesting and surprising alternate histories. Best of all, Baxter offers some delightful spins on what evolution is capable of over truly significant time scales, blowing Asimov out of the water.

To sum it up, I found a lot to enjoy in this novel, but the lack of character development left me more than a little disappointed. I'm almost certain to read another or two of Baxter's books, but I have to remember to slot him to that subgroup of SF authors for whom the characters don't matter much. ( )
  JohnNienart | Jul 11, 2021 |
An authorized sequel to The Time Machine, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It picks up where H.G. Wells' story left off, as the time traveler hurtles to the future to rescue Weena.

Mr. Baxter manages to retain the style of the original without turning it into a slavish copy. The simplistic, linear view of time in the original book is expanded to include current physics, keeping the book recognizably a Stephen Baxter tale as well as a pastiche of H.G. Wells.

I enjoyed the book thoroughly, and I was sorry to get to the last page. More 19th century time travel books, please! ( )
  neilneil | Dec 7, 2020 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Baxter, Stephenautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Burns, JimAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Edwards, LesIl·lustradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Edwards, LesAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Eggleton, BobAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Gilbert, MartinTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Moore, ChrisAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat

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