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A Scientific Romance by Ronald Wright

A Scientific Romance (original 1997; edition 1998)

by Ronald Wright (Author)

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3901255,456 (3.82)34
It is 1999, in London, David Lambert, jilted lover and reluctant museum curator, is about to discover the startling news of the return of H.G. Wells' time machine to London. Motivated by a host of unanswered questions and innate curiosity, he propels himself deep into the next millennium.
Title:A Scientific Romance
Authors:Ronald Wright (Author)
Info:Vintage Canada (1998), Edition: 1st Vintage Canada ed, 320 pages
Collections:Your library

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A Scientific Romance by Ronald Wright (1997)

  1. 00
    The World Without Us by Alan Weisman (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: A Scientific Romance is a fictional, The World Without Us a non-fictional, look at what would happen to our cities in a future without human domination.

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I really enjoyed this book although it took a while for me to get used to the style of writing and to get into the story. It was a clever homage to the Wells story and an interesting commentary on the future of our world. ( )
  Carmentalie | Jun 4, 2022 |
A nice tribute to HG Wells, but doesn't really add anything to the spec fic genre...better to read his non-fiction, Time Among the Maya or a A Short History of Progress to get many of the same ideas, more compellingly expressed. ( )
  CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
Literary science fiction. Time travel, post-apocalyptic. A young man travels to the future to look for a cure for the disease that killed his girlfriend, and is killing him. Boy, is he in for a surprise. Some of it I liked, some of it I didn't, and some of it went right over my head. I can see strong connections between this book and the author's pessimistic non-fiction work, A Short History of Progress. ( )
  SylviaC | Apr 25, 2013 |
A mixture of time travel and post-apocalyptic fiction, this journal is written by David Lambert, an archaeologist who finds Wells' actual contraption 100 years after the events related in [The Time Machine]. Mourning his lost love Anita who has recently died at age 32 of BSE (mad cow disease), and himself diagnosed with early stages (they ate the same contaminated food while on various digs), he sets the machine for 500 years hence and takes off, hoping to find science that will allow himself to be cured and save her if he can reverse course to before she was infected. What he finds is retold in a series of letters which are part memoir of their times together and part travelogue of his adventures in 2501.

The story is dense with description and literary allusions, and a familiarity with London, England and Scotland is advised for full appreciation. David and Anita traveled around the UK together, and the time machine is found in, and subsequently arrives in, greater London. David's time in the future parallels much of the traveling they did together, and each new day brings both discoveries and memories, which entwine in the letters. It's tough going occasionally, especially for someone not familiar with the geography, and there were times I wasn't interested in his memories but just in finding out what happened next. Still, it's moving, although emotionally difficult to process, and hanging over all the proceedings is the specter of David's brain deterioration and the effect it may be having on what he is experiencing and writing. ( )
  auntmarge64 | Jun 4, 2012 |
At the turn of the millennium, in the days of Y2K and the millennium bug, David Lambert has received a letter reportedly written by H.G. Wells. According to the letter, Wells had a protégée named Tatiana Cherenkova who constructed a time machine in 1899 and was due to arrive in 1999, on New Year's Eve. David thinks the letter is a hoax but doesn't have anything better to do, so he waits at the appointed location. To his great surprise, the time machine arrives. So it works! Curiosity piqued, David decides to travel 500 years into the future and see what has become of our planet.

To his surprise, instead of a gleaming, Jetsons-like techno-paradise, Earth has become a primeval jungle. Tropical flora have taken over London and most of southern England, and the fauna are unafraid of David, evidence that they have not seen humans before. David treks from London up to Edinburgh and Inverness, finding scraps along the way that point to the decline of the human empire. Will he find any others like him? What will they be like?

If the story's climate weren't so hot, the book would be chilling. As a cautionary tale regarding the environment, it works very well, although one must bear in mind that the book was written shortly before the turn of the millennium, when the beginning story is set. We don't hear as much about what happened to humanity in the intervening 500 years, just tantalizing bits that hint at so much more, but this is realistic. Not all questions would be answered if one were to time travel in such a manner.

One thing I did find difficult to believe was David's ability to carry around a laptop for note-taking and keep it charged. A 1990s-era device in particular would have a really lousy battery life. Did he manage to fit it with a solar charger or something? That is one thing I would have liked to know more about. If I were time travelling I'd probably take notebooks and a carton of pencils that could be sharpened with a knife. Low-tech is the way to go.

David's narration is rich, filled with literary allusions and skilful turns of phrase. He describes incidents, thoughts and feelings in such a way that they stick with you for a long time afterward. (One or two in particular stuck with me because I found them disturbing, but stick they did.) I first read this in 2007 as part of a university course and most of my impressions from the first time around came back to me as I read. This time, however, the reading experience was enhanced by my recent trip to Scotland. Now that I've seen Edinburgh and Inverness for myself, it was that much easier to envision the future Earth that David was navigating.

I would recommend this perhaps to those who have read Atwood's Oryx and Crake series (the future Earths have a similar feel in my mind), fans of H.G. Wells and similar authors, and those who are concerned about the environment.

Previously read in April 2007. Original review: "Wow. This was a stunning book. Compelling, emotional, original, and just plausible enough to make you worry (if you're the worrying type)." ( )
1 vote rabbitprincess | Mar 20, 2011 |
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What did the victims matter that the machine destroyed on its way? Wasn't it bound for the future, heedless of spilt blood?
—Zola, La Bête Humaine, 1984
If you are the dreamer, I am what you dream.
But when you want to wake, I am your wish,
and I grow strong with all magnificance
and turn myself into a star's vast silence
above the strange and distant city, Time.
—Rilke, The Book of Hours,1905
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A message in a bottle.
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It is 1999, in London, David Lambert, jilted lover and reluctant museum curator, is about to discover the startling news of the return of H.G. Wells' time machine to London. Motivated by a host of unanswered questions and innate curiosity, he propels himself deep into the next millennium.

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