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A Scientific Romance [Paperback]

Ronald Wright
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 July 2002
David, jilted lover and reluctant museum curator, is about to discover the startling news of the return of H.G. Wells' time machine to London. Motivated by a host of unanswered questions and innate curiosity, he propels himself deep into he next millennium, exploring the ruins of his life.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; New edition edition (1 July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552770000
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552770002
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,052,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Amazon Review

In London at the turn of the 20th century, H. G. Wells's time machine mysteriously appears--empty--in a squatter's flat. From where did it come, and for what purpose was it sent? The answers to these questions--though not to an even greater mystery connected with the machine's appearance--are contained in a letter written by Wells on May 2, 1946, which falls into the hands of one David Lambert on the eve of the millennium. Lambert, an industrial archeologist, reads the letter foretelling the arrival of the machine and, half convinced the whole thing is a hoax, goes to the address Wells provides, where, at the appointed hour, the time machine materializes. Thus begins Ronald Wright's fine and fantastical novel A Scientific Romance.

Romance can refer to an affair of the heart; it can also describe a heroic tale of extraordinary events. In A Scientific Romance, Wright plays on both possible meanings as he weaves a tragic story of betrayal and lost love into a larger narrative of time travel. Lambert, having lost the woman he loved, is reckless enough to test Wells's machine himself, catapulting 500 years into the future, where he finds London--indeed, all of England--a deserted, semitropical landscape. As David explores the future, he also sifts through his own past, creating in this Möbius strip of time and relationship a chilling cautionary tale about the limits of science and human ambition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


An elegant novel...gripping and lyrical; you struggle to slow down but find yourself rushing forward. -- THE NEW YORKER

Powerful...cunningly fashioned...A fresh take on an old formula -the dystopian post-apocalypse novel -and a profound meditation on the nature of time. -- John Vernon, NEW YORK TIMES

Pure pleasure...Deeply seductive and brilliantly sustained...enthrallingly descriptive, fragile scary, easy to take seriously...A compelling cultural satire. -- Julie Myerson, OBSERVER

The most apocalyptic dystopia since Russell Hoban's RIDDLEY WALKER, achieving the same eerie fascination...In 100 years' time this book should be a classic. -- Tom Shakespeare, GUARDIAN

There is teeming life on every page of this remarkable novel...Themes are brilliantly adduced...Absorbing, dynamic, intricately clever. -- Rachelle Thackray, INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Future perfect 7 Oct 2003
By A Customer
This novel's attraction is summarised by its title: the notion of a 'scientific romance' is superficially perhaps oxymoronic, but invites exploration of the multiple meanings of both these words. Wright is hardly writing 'science fiction' as such; rather, the strange future landscape he creates serves as an arena in which David Lambert is forced to confront the role in his life of both 'scientia' and 'romance' - acquired knowledge, and the narratives of emotion. David's oddysey is moving, thought-provoking and often comic (such as in the incongruous notion that Scotland lives on only in Gaelic-speaking Episcopalians!). His journey of learning and reflection, however, is probably closer to Dante's than Odysseus's - albeit a mournful, aimless, secular Dante, if such a thing can be imagined. No ascent from an earthly to a true paradise here.
It is perhaps unfortunate that readers of SF may well be disappointed, while readers who think they dislike SF may well not bother picking it up. This book deserves a broad readership!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Impressive Debut 8 Jan 2003
By A Customer
Ronald Wright's literary debut is one of the most engrossing novels I've read recently, and lives up to the promise of its bold title. It is an adventure story, on one level, but on another level it is a thoughtful and insightful look at a very ordinary narrator flung into very extraordinary circumstances. What makes Wright's debut so impressive, however, is the power of its imagery. Wright has commented that he thinks smells - specifically, fictional descriptions of smells - are of great importance to novels, because they remind the reader of specific emotional moments. They are triggers for the imagination. In 'A Scientific Romance' Wright uses smells - and textures, colours, tastes, among other real, physical sensations - to create in the minds of the reader a future world that feels true and tangible. It is world containing history and futurity, memory and desire: Wright has created a world, and a narrator, to really believe in.
'A Scientific Romance' is also full of references to other books: the Time Machine used to transport the narrator into the future is the Time Machine that was 'actually' witnessed by H. G. Wells, inspiring him to write his infamous novel about time travel. Wright is happy to play these intertextual games: throughout the narrative the narrator refers to other works of apocalypse and abandoned English lands, using these references to better communicate vivid picture of the world the narrator sees before him. It is a novel about novels, a book about how our imaginations are built upon traditions of literature: and it is more besides. 'A Scientific Romance' is about science fiction, about history, the future, and our debt (both imaginative and emotional) to both the future and the past. It is an absorbing and beautiful book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science Fiction for grown ups. 27 Feb 2000
A proper novel with credible characters, and a thought provoking plot. Wright's vision of UK in AD 2500 is coherent and believable. He points up how lucky we are in our current affluence and social order, and how fragile that might be. A real "can't put it down" book for me - I was completely immersed in the future for a few days! A small gripe - if you had to pack for a time voyage, sure you take antibiotics, laptop, gun, your money in gold... but why not a radio? With that you'd instantly know if there was any civilisation still intact.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
If I was being uncharitable I would label this book "science fiction". Like HG Wells, however, the author effortlessly transcends the boundaries of genre. This is a book about humankind, *now*, and about how we are on the verge of sending our world spiralling into ecological destruction. It is also a moving love story, an ironic elegy for the human race, a brilliant adventure yarn and a rigorous and thoughtful read. I have re-read it several times: every time I return to it I get out of it something fresh and new. The closing quotation from Tennyson embodies the sweetly elegiac tone of the book:
The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,/ The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,/ Man comes and tills the fields and lies beneath,/ And after many a summer dies the swan./ Me only cruel immortality / Consumes: I wither slowly in thine arms,/ Here at the quiet limit of the world.
Highly recommended for all eco-warriors, romantics and lovers of excellent modern literature!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Time Machine" meets the human condition 8 Dec 1998
By A Customer
If you have read Wells' "The Time Machine" and thought what you might do if it returned now, then read this. If you haven't, but are interested in seeing how a modern disease could affect the human pshyche, then again, read this. If on the other hand, you simply wish to be enthralled by the story of an explorer in time seeking the answers to questions of his life, then you will not be able to put this book down. I would not hesitate in recommending this first novel to anyone.
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