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The Space Machine, by Christopher Priest (Books 2008, 8)

What a fine conceit. Take the two great science fiction works by one of the genre’s defining masters, mash them up together, and use the result to tell the ‘inside’ story of both of them.

It’s title is an obvious allusion to ??The Time Machine??, but this is actually much more rooted in ??The War of the Worlds??. And why shouldn’t those two novels take place in the same fictive universe? And why shouldn’t they be linked? After all, Mr Wells wrote both the stories down, so he must have experienced some of the events of both, right?

Priest sustains the tone and style of a late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century novel admirably well, and there’s not much to fault in this novel.

Except, perhaps, for the ending. The actual climax and conclusion of the story is well expected if you know ??The War of the Worlds??. It’s just the last page or two; the rationale for the behaviour of one of the characters (a Mr Wells, in fact) in particular is, to my mind, inexplicable. Not that it matters, that late in the story, I suppose, but it does bother me.

I wish I had known about this novel a few years ack, when I read both ??The Time Machine?? and Stephen Baxter’s ??The Time Ships??. It would have sat very well in company with them.

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