**Review may contain some minor spoilers**
'The Accidental Time Machine' came at a right time in my life. No, I am not having any “pre” mid-life crisis (not yet, at least); it’s just that that for the past dozen or so days, I was experiencing some serious reading withdrawal. I would pick up a book thinking that finally I have found the right one, read a couple of chapters, and then with a big sigh, put it back on the shelf. I couldn’t continue even if I found a book interesting. This happened at least 10 times until I picked up 'The Accidental Time Machine'.
And let me tell you, the only thing that is “accidental” here is that that the book’s hero, Matthew, "invents" the time machine accidentally (How else?). Apart from that, nothing that he does from then on could be considered inadvertent. He knew exactly where he was going and when. The machine only travelled into the future. But the time frame increased exponentially with each use, hence providing an intriguing set-up for the novel.
One thing that annoys me whenever I read a time-travel story (no, the paradoxes don't deter me, or I shouldn't be reading this sort of book in the first place) is that that the characters generally behave rashly without contemplating whether they would survive time travelling. Just jump in and press the button! It’s surprising that none of them ever end up with their heads in the present and torso in the past or future. The author’s “science” exempts them from this very probable fate. And that bugs me. Every time.
Thankfully, here Matthew does a lot of experiments and calculations (which are very interesting to read) before concluding that he could use the machine to transport himself to the future. In his journey, he comes across a religious dystopia from where a girl named Martha accompanies him on his further journeys. They travel much farther into the future to a utopia maintained by an AI. Understandably, the AI is bored of the utopia (utopias are always boring) and wants to accompany them on their future exploits, but not without its own ulterior motives.
Matthew and Martha want to go back to their own respective times, but in order to do that, they have to travel to a future earth which might have made enough technological advances which might help them to travel to their original pasts (as I said earlier, his machine only travelled into the future).
I won’t tell what exactly happens and ruin it for you, but I could at least say that this book is well-written, extremely funny at times, and raises a lot of questions about humanity living in various (advanced or backward) stages of civilization.
The reviews for this book here are all over the place and the average rating is a bit lower than other well loved time-travel books, but in my opinion, that does not reflect the true difference of quality between “The Accidental Time Machine” and other more popular books like 'To Say Nothing of the Dog', 'Time and Again' and 'The Anubis Gates'. This book deserves as much appreciation as the other well-known books of the genre are getting. Even more, in some cases.