BOOK REVIEW A News Weekly
sequel that surpasses the original
, September 17, 2011
TIME MACHINE: TROOPERS
by Hal Colebatch
(Perth, WA: Acashic Publishing)
Paperback: 172 pages
Reviewed by Brian Peachey
That award-winning Australian author Dr Hal Colebatch in the year 2010 should choose to write a large, 70,000-word novel, Time Machine: Troopers, a sequel to H.G. Wells’ 1895 book The Time Machine is a dramatic — dare I say, courageous — literary act.
The result is a brilliant work, an example of Colebatch’s literary genius and an antithesis to H.G. Wells’ dreary pessimism.
Like many of my generation, when young I read H.G. Wells’ small science-fiction novella, which had then received acclaim and publicity for more than half a century; Hollywood made an imaginative movie of it in 1960 and comic-book versions were produced.
My first reading of the 1950 edition (bought in Alberts Bookshop in Forrest Place, Perth, for three shillings and sixpence) disappointed me. I did not understand why the story, which seemed to capture the imagination of millions, did not enthral me.
In my mature years, and having read more of Wells’ political writings — especially his support in 1935 of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, his seeming agnosticism and his antagonism towards Christianity — I understood the reason for my disdain.
Wells’ story of what the time-machine traveller finds in the year 802,701 AD is a pessimistic depiction of the degeneration of the human race into the cannibalistic Morlocks and an effeminate Eloi.
The title of the sixth chapter is “The Sunset of Mankind”. The picture is contrary to Christ’s promise to be with us to the end of the world.
Hal Colebatch’s Time Machine: Troopers starts at the point The Time Machine ends, and tells of the unnamed Time Traveller’s second “voyage”.
Where Wells’ story was a subversive attack on Edwardian optimism, Colebatch’s story is a none-too-subtle attack on Wells’ pessimism.
The Time Traveller sets off on a mission to rehabilitate the Eloi. But he does not go alone. After considering and talking with various eminent Edwardians, including Wells himself, he takes with him Lieutenant-General Robert Baden-Powell, famous for his defence of Mafeking during the Boer War and the future founder of the Boy Scout movement.
The distant future is to be saved by re-introducing true values including those of the Boy Scout movement. Colebatch with literary skill depicts the tension and drama of their journey as only Colebatch can.
Returning to the London of 1917 for help, the Time Traveller finds himself caught in an air-raid. He is saved by Winston Churchill, now Minister of Munitions (Colebatch has faithfully re-created Churchill’s speech and personality).
With Churchill’s help in supplying them with modern weapons, good prevails. But this is not the end of the Time Traveller’s problems.
Without revealing all of this intriguing tale there is the question: Will Baden-Powell be able to save the Eloi with scouting, cricket, a missionary, the restoration of the monarchy, and the Royal Navy?
Twice the length of H.G. Wells’ original story, Colebatch’s Time Machine: Troopers is an imaginative and exciting story full of ironies and not without humour. More seriously, however, Colebatch, with great skill, has pointed out the enduring worth of good values and institutions.
Time Machine: Troopers is an excellent piece of literature written with great style. In a time when society seems to be lacking in good moral values it is the sort of book you will want your children to read. It is also a classic you will want to keep for yourself. It is a collector’s item.
Book extract: Core of despair at the centre of H.G. Wells’ soul
The unnamed Time Traveller says of H.G. Wells:
“I felt that under his optimism there was always a core of despair at the centre of his soul.
“As for the only way out he had looked to, ‘to live as if it were not so’, as if mere petty existence was all we would ever possess, I had thought such a doctrine of ‘existentialism’ (as I called it for want of a better name) a mindlessly petty and bleak one.
“I am still prepared to wager that should such a view come to be held by the leading body of philosophers of any nation, that nation (though it be as great in the field as France … is today) would not any longer be able to control its affairs: an invader would sweep its defences away.”
Extract from Hal Colebatch, Time Machine: Troopers.