Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Time Machines - Repaired While U Wait, a review

Hi all,

I have always loved a good story about time travel. Bad time travel stories have someone going back to a time where the protagonist frets about changing the future - will I or won't I kill Hitler, Jack the Ripper, George Bush - and usually have me wanting the protagonist to have never been born. Good time travel stories mainly take place in the future and are full of time paradoxes and continually break the imagined rules of time travel.

Time Machines Repaired While U Wait by Australian K. A. Bedford falls into the good category. Set in the near future in Perth Australia - where for some reason it now rains all the time - its main protagonist Aloysius "Spider" Webb is a disillusioned ex-cop working in a time machine repair shop. It seems time machines are the new Ferrari with most wealthier citizens having one. Time travel is regulated and the machines have limits on what time periods they can travel to. For instance it is illegal to go ahead in time and get tonight's lotto numbers.

One day a body turns up in one of the time machines Spider is fixing, his cop instincts kick in and we follow his attempts to solve the mystery. Along the way he gets help from future versions of himself and is hindered by his boss, Dickhead McMahon. The tension increases as the Spider finds himself in increasingly strange situations.

Spider would be classed by many as a loser, but I think he has more in common with the increasingly disillusioned population of Australia, and indeed the West, than people, who are desperately trying to keep their lives too busy to contemplate their existence, would care to admit. I felt for him: his poverty, his damaged relationships.

I have made a point over the past few years of reading Australian science fiction. Most of those stories have cut out the unique Australian vernacular so that the characters could be pretty much... well American. This novel doesn't. And it's published in Canada. I reckon the Canadians are very aware of the Americanisation of their culture. At first I found it strange reading Australian dialogue in a science fiction book, but then I got into it, revelled in it.

The conclusion resolves the murder, but leaves plenty of room for a sequel.

Overall, this is one of the better Australian speculative fiction novels that I have read. It is brave in its Australianess and original in its the way it uses the commonality of time travel.


1 comment:

David Scholes said...

I think it must be very much easier to write a bad time travel story than a good one.

I've written a few in the form of Marvel fan fiction on various internet sites and received mixed responses.

I like the idea of any science fiction story by an Australia author containing uniquely Australian elements.

That said in my recent publication (just published in the US) there was unfortunately nothing uniquely Australian about it all.

The link to my authors page on the publishers web site is:

I'm thinking it would be nice to write something with a strong Australian elment in some of my future short stories