A small, innocuous looking book with high aspirations that, sadly, doesn't even come close to meeting them.
The blurb at the back claims that the book was only recently discovered: moldering away in relative obscurity as a limited edition in Germany since 1946 until it was "discovered" by DAW Books and reprinted in 1972.
The editorial introduction reveals a couple of things: that Wells' himself may have read the book, and that the correspondence between Friedell and Wells that serves as the opening for the book may have actually took place. All of which just serves to whet the appetite and sadly makes the book that much greater a disappointment. We are left with the tantalizing possibility that Wells himself may have read and indirectly collaborated with the author in this "sequel".
Wow...it's...it's... canon !
And that is why the books is such a disappointment, it could have been so great...it would have been like finding a long forgotten scroll titled Odyssey II: Polyphemus Strikes Back in a cave somewhere...it had that chance.
1st thing...when you're undertaking to write a sequel to such a great (even then) story, one doesn't begin by undermining the character of the author of the original. The "correspondence" which opens the story consists of Friedell writing like any fanboy to the object of his obsession.
To paraphrase: OMG your such a great author, I'm an author too can I get your autograph and do you mind reading and providing input on this story idea I have. Oh and I have several question about TTM; is it a true story cause you were trying hard to hide the identities of the people and if not then the technique was so great and can I use that? You totally rock and I rock cause I wrote something like what you earlier wrote and OMG we ROCK.
...or something to that effect. Then the requisite devastating letter back.
To paraphrase once again: Mr. Wells is not available and is much to busy to answer crude letters from provincial nobodies (genius author that he is) like yourself. This is his secretary, and may I just say that to imply that Mr. Wells-Almighty would fabricate such a story without any shred of truth is just utter and complete blasphemy. Mr H.G.-He-Who-Dispenses-Rainbows-Wells is much too rational to use drivel like dramatic license and suspense to capture the readers' attention, he uses logic and scientific facts.
And lest you all think that all that was an exaggeration, here are actual quotes from that part of the book: "Mr. Wells lets you know that all poets can go to the Devil! Poetry is something for children and primates"... and ..."it is complete arrogance in your part to write to Mr. Wells telling him what he should and what he shouldn't do"
...now either that was meant as a joke; the author lampooning himself in the (unlikely) case that this was a real correspondence, or Friedell had some serious, Jupiter-sized, cojones.
And that's a mere 8 to 9 pages of the book itself. Friedell ends up trying to ferret out the people behind the characters in the original book and finally manages to track down Transic, the only named character in the original story, and it is his correspondent with Transic which reveals the story behind the subsequent trips of James Morton, the Time Traveler.
2nd thing...Friedell made a mess of the characters, I remember in TTM, the Time Traveler was curious to see what man had become in the millenia of time which he traversed, the character was enigmatic, curious, driven to know, a humanist, etc.: he was a perfect foil for an adventure into the unknown. In this "sequel" you won't ever guess what lofty goals of human advancement he puts the Machine to use for after his successful return from the Elois and Morlocks.
Quote from the book: After having disparaged all the ages of antiquity and futurity, Transic finally asks Morton why he constructed the Machine in the 1st place for. The lofty, earth shattering, humanity advancing answer was....
"Because I want to get to the year Eighteen Forty"...."In that year Carlyle delivered his six speeches about heroes, hero admiration, and the heroic element in history. How often I've wished to actually hear the warm and sure prophetic sound of that voice, the rich Scottish accent almost like music, that very special fiery flood of words..."
I almost tore the book in half after reading that, the Time Traveler reduced to a time tourist and the Time Machine boiled down to a work-around because the gramophone wasn't as yet invented. Also the way that the Time Traveler lambasted the follies of the past; the primitiveness of thought, the uncouthness of society, etc. he came of as a snobbish jerk... blegh!.
And we're just at page 46 in this 127 page disaster. Include: meandering, turn-of-the-century, groping about the nature of time, underdeveloped plot elements, an unsatisfying end, and a self-serving Epilogue which is nothing more than a comparison and advertisement of the author's own Culture History against Well's World History and this book adds up to my Worst Book of 2010 (and arguably ever).