book review: a scientific romance

A Scientific Romance by Ronald Wright is one of those SF books that felt like it was by a “literary” writer self-conscious about writing something that could be considered genre fiction. The idea is that this archaeologist comes into possession of the Time Machine H.G. Wells wrote about back in the nineteenth century. There are four parts to the book, set up as letters to the narrator’s friends. Friends is incorrect. To the other legs of their life-defining love triangle. After the narrator is diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease he takes the time machine 500 years into the future to find a cure, but finds a hot and almost empty Britain.

There are a bunch of frustrating aspects to it that keep me from recommending the book. It really feels like an artifact of the end of the 1990s with its concern with the millennium and mad cow disease. The idea that bringing a circa 2000CE laptop 500 years into the future would be a good way to read information found in a post-apocalyptic environment just bothered me. The fact that it works and that he can get the obituary of one of his friends off of a CD-ROM found in a chest in shattered London pissed me off to no end. And he became buddies with a panther. And expects us to take the troubled romance part of it seriously.

It wasn’t bad, but it felt like someone who isn’t comfortable with writing SF. Oh, and the ending is supposed to be ambiguous, but you know how it works out through a stupid sly wink and dumb narrator about halfway through the book. Actually, reading this review, you should probably not waste too much time with this. If you’re an H.G. Wells fan, the abandonment of the origin of the device will also piss you off. Generally unsatisfying.

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