The Space Machine by Christopher Priest (1976) 363 p.

This was a weird little book. It’s an effort by Priest to fuse together H.G. Wells’ two most famous novels, The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, into a single shared universe. The story begins with the narrator, Edward Turnbull, meeting Amelia Fitzgibbon, the assistant to an inventor named William Reynolds. While the two of them are tinkering around with his time machine (which also transports people through space), they find themselves stranded on Mars, prior to the Martian invasion of Earth.

This Mars is depicted as Wells imagined it, with red plant life and a weak atmosphere, but with Priest’s own invention of a population of human slaves. The most interesting part of the novel is probably this middle section, where Edward and Amelia struggle to survive in the bleak cities of Mars over a period of many months.

Later, they manage to return to Earth by stowing away on the first Martian invasion projectile, fired from a long cannon supported by the slopes of Olympus Mons. Here the novel fuses more directly with the original work, as Edward and Amelia survive in southern England in the midst of the Martian invasion. They even meet the narrator of The War of the Worlds, identified as Mr. Wells.

Then it got a little stupid. Priest decided to tie the The Time Machine back into the story, and the trio return to Reynold’s laboratory to construct a new machine out of a bedstead. Then they fly around the countryside encased in the machine’s “attenuation field,” making them invisible and invincible, dropping grenades on the Martians’ tripods. This is a bizarre and wacky turn of events in a novel that was, despite everything, remaining relatively consistent and suspending my disbelief. It’s all pointless anyway, since the Martians are defeated the same way they are in the original novel, which I won’t spoil in case you’re one of the seven or eight people who haven’t heard about it.

I haven’t read The Time Machine (though I have seen the shitty movie) and I’ve only read an abridged version of The War of the Worlds, plus an excellent webcomic version that no longer seems to be online, so I can’t really compare The Space Machine to its forebears. Suffice to say that while it was somewhat entertaining, as science fiction goes, I’m not sure what the point was. The stories are similar in only the most basic of ways, and to merge them together seemed like a brief thought experiment that Priest forced into a novel that never should have been.