The Technicolor Time Machine by Harry Harrison

The Technicolor Time Machine by Harry Harrison
The Technicolor Time Machine by Harry Harrison

The novel “The Technicolor Time Machine” by Harry Harrison was published for the first time in 1967.

Climactic Studio is about to shut down, also because its owner L. M. Greenspan has always used the income for his personal purposes. Barney Hendrickson is too poor a director to hope for a good job and is forced to come up with what seems like an absolutely insane project: shooting a movie in the past transporting the crew in a time machine created by progessor Hewitt.

L. M. Greenspan is persuaded to give Barney Hendrickson a minimal budget for a movie about the Vikings to be shot in the year 1,000. After their arrival, they capture a Viking named Ottar and, despite the language problems, convince him to work for them as a local contact to procure the services of other Vikings to act in the movie. However, complications in the present and in the past risk wrecking the project.

Throughout his long career, Harry Harrison also wrote novels with strong humor elements and “The Technicolor Time Machine” is basically a comedy based on the production of a movie in the past using a time machine. A mediocre director, the owner of a production studio interested only in exploiting the profits, a particular inventor, a Viking who speaks only his language are over the top characters who find themselves in various ways at the center of the story. They and the settings between past and present are the ingredients of the story of an unprecedented film production.

For director Barney Hendrickson it’s an opportunity to associate his name with an important movie, but the production quickly start getting struck by various problems. In some parts of the novel the comedy tones, with some satire on film productions, give way to moments of tension when the situation becomes difficult for the crew in the past.

Harry Harrison makes good use of the premises to tell an unlikely film production carried out even with temporal paradoxes. Certain dialogues between the characters explicitly address these paradoxes in a way that is easily understood by readers with a minimum of knowledge of time travel. However, to fully appreciate this element you need to understand how the various pieces of the plot fit together, so it’s best to pay attention to them. In essence, the novel is a comedy but it’s also well constructed.

The plot is a bit fragmented between past and present, but overall it flows well. There are a lot of dialogues, so the pace isn’t always fast, but Harry Harrison was already an expert author and he put them into the story so they are a strength and funny. “The Technicolor Time Machine” is quite short by today’s standards, which means it’s not unnecessaryly stretched out.

“The Technicolor Time Machine” can be considered a clever science fiction comedy as there’s a storyline that is both humorous and carefully constructed so that time travel is consistent. Humor always has a subjective component in reactions while the part linked to time travel seems to me to have an objective quality. A second reading could help to grasp all the details that can be significant in handling temporal paradoxes, but the plot didn’t seem particularly intricate. For these reasons, it’s a novel you might like if you appreciate humorous science fiction or you’re a fan of time travel.

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