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A book review by Steven Wu
August 11, 2003
|Rating: 2 (of 10)|
At best, The Space Machine can be considered an homage to Wells. At worst, it is nothing more than a slavish retelling of much of Wells's ouvre. Indeed, the most interesting parts of the book are borrowed almost entirely from Wells's work--including the ending, which will be old news to readers of The War of the Worlds. Even when Priest creates something genuinely new, such as Edward and Amelia's adventures in a war-torn Mars, the plot is at the mercy of the book's influences: Priest is more than willing to abandon his own narratives when Wells's stories declare that some event or another must happen. To take the most prominent example, Priest recounts how Edward and Amelia attempt to incite a rebellion on Mars, but that plot thread is quickly abandoned--and never picked up again--as soon as the two escape back to Earth as part of the Martian invasion that is ripped entirely from The War of the Worlds.
The Space Machine's steadfast adherence to Wells's stories robs its own narrative of any drive or excitement. The book is, frankly, a bore. Priest is an author who is clearly capable of stunning invention: The Inverted World, for all its flaws, and the vastly superior The Prestige are among the most original books I have ever read. But in The Space Machine, Priest abandons his creativity to pay homage to one of science fiction's earliest masters. How ironic that a paean to the inventiveness of another author should have so little inventiveness of its own. In that respect, Priest's book feels less like a tribute to Wells and more like a betrayal of all that Wells stood for.
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