The Rock
by Ted Stephens

"There were plenty of bush noises but no more of that desperate, heart-rending call for help."

Over one hundred and twenty years ago H. G. Wells wrote The Time Machine. It became a classic and has spawned multiple variations of complicated contraptions that have been employed in science fiction writing ever since. This novel too has a device that goes back and fourth in time. The book itself also manages to simultaneously straddle multiple genres from sci-fi to young adult to mainstream fiction.

In this incarnation, three teenage science students in a small Australian town have put together a device of their own—a replica of Nikola Tesla’s gravitational energy converter that they store in the school science lab. When they’re asked to perform a routine experiment for a term exam, their homemade device inadvertently cranks up and the boys vanish—only to emerge in the prehistoric Australian outback. There follows suspenseful encounters with curious Aboriginal tribesmen and ongoing attempts by the lads to get back home.

Stephens fills his adventure yarn with a cornucopia of physics and chemistry tricks the voyagers employ to reproduce the exact elements that were in play when they spirited themselves away to another century. They, along with the devoted teacher who never gives up hope of their return, comprise the novel’s central characters.

The author tells his story straightforwardly, not attempting to gild the lily with even more fantastical events than those time travel itself would engender. Keeping his feet on the ground stylistically proves an engaging way to tell this tale of slipping not only the surly bonds of earth, but also the final frontiers of space and time.

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