the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘time travel

I’ve been on a time travel kick lately.  And who doesn’t like time travel, in all it’s wibbly wobbly timey wimey wonderfulness?   I love it when authors think to themselves “let’s travel through time, what could possibly go wrong?”.    You don’t need a Delorean or a TARDIS to travel through time. Sometimes time travel isn’t exactly what you thought it would be, and that makes it even better.

 

This post is simply a love letter to my favorite time travel stories.  Shout out to your favorites in the comments!

 

Permafrost by Alastair Reynolds (2019) – I love how this book explains what happens when a time traveler successfully changes the past.  The actual machinery used to travel through time doesn’t always work as planned, either. To say more would spoil this unique time travel story.  Just a damn good, edge of seat, time travel thriller!

 

The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (1992) –  Everytime I read this I cry buckets at the end. Kivrin is a historian at Oxford, and she travels back to England in the 1300s. While she’s gone, a terrible flu-like virus hits Oxford, putting her time travel technician in the hospital.  If he’s not at the lab, she can’t come home. There’s another, much worse reason why she might not be able to get home.  This book reads like a much shorter book, the pages fly by.

 

Blackout by Connie Willis (2010) – Four more Oxford time travelers. Let’s go to London during World War II, what could possibly go wrong?  Umm . . .. how about everything? The last hundred pages of this book I nearly chewed my fingernails completely off. Blackout is the first book in  a duology, I recommend if you’re going to read this that you purchase the 2nd book in the duology, All Clear, at the same time.  Got a teenager at home who hates history class? These are the books for them.

 

Time Was by Ian McDonald (2018) – I loved the characters and their different voices.  Lovers separated by time, trying to find each other. They leave notes for each other in bookstores all over the world, always in the same book.   This is a love story told via Klein bottle.

 

Household Gods by Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove (1999) – A thoroughly modern woman wakes up in an ancient Roman frontier town.  Is she hallucinating? Is she crazy? This is, actually, the best escape from her modern life, so maybe she could get used to being a tavern keeper.  For your friends who think scifi is too weird, give them this book. It reads like a historical fiction. And why yes, there were dentists ancient Rome!

In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker (1997) – this is the first book in her Company series.  In the future, The Company sends their cybernetic operatives into the past to . . .   do what exactly? Baker plays a very long game, and she was a storycrafting genius. Start at the beginning with Mendoza in Garden of Iden (and be prepared to cry), and a few books later when things start to feel a little repetitive, trust me, just keep reading.  One of these days, I will finish this series, I promise. Actually, no, I don’t. I don’t *want* to finish this series. Because then it will be over.

 

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers (1983) – A historian thinks he’s getting paid to give a lecture. As a surprise from their host, the entire dinner party goes through time to London in 1810.  In my opinion, The Anubis Gates is Powers’ best work. Time travel mixed with paranormal, mixed with using your knowledge of the present to work your way around the past. A must read!

 

I feel certain that this list is missing books I’ve loved, and can’t bring to mind.  😦

 

If time travel movies and TV shows are more your thing, I highly recommend:

 

Dark – the 2nd season of this German thriller just dropped on Netflix.  Think Twin Peaks meets time travel.  also? the music is fantastic!

 

Kate and Leopold – I usually find romance stories to be overly cheesy, but I loved this movie so much!!

 

Steins;Gate – this anime came out a few years ago, and it is dark, nerdy, hilarious, addictive, heart breaking.  Because time travel – what could possibly go wrong?

 

 

what time travel stories have you enjoyed?  Why do you enjoy time travel stories?  Let’s chat!

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Permafrost by Alastair Reynolds

published in March 2019

where I got it: purchased new

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Time travel is quickly becoming my favorite science fiction subgenre.  I blame Doctor Who, who made it look fun, safe, and something that can be resolved in an hour.  I blame my love for the phrase “what could possibly go wrong?”. So yeah, time travel is the best!  Novellas? Also my new fave, and the best.

 

If you enjoy time travel stories, if you want a novella that’s excellently paced and grabs you on page one, a story that’s packed full of smart information but never info dumps, a story will great characters and a compelling story line, Permafrost is for you.

 

50 years from now,   we’ve just about killed the Earth, our crops are dying, our soil can’t grow anything, seed banks that we thought would sustain us have either failed or the seeds won’t grow in our dead soil.  The last generation of humans has already been born. It’s looking pretty grim.  Remember the opening of the movie Interstellar? It’s a little like that, except we don’t have space travel, we don’t have a black hole, and we don’t have any other planets we can maybe colonize.  We don’t have any of those things, but what we do have is math and a fledgling time travel project. The goal is to go back in time, get viable seeds, and bring them to the future.

 

Except you can’t send people or objects back and forth through time.  But you can send pairs of particles. The goal of Dr. Cho’s Permafrost project is to send messages back in time so that seeds can be placed somewhere, so that in the future his project can find them.  Cho recruits the elderly school teacher Valentina to his cause, her connection to his work is even more vital than the fact that her mother invented the mathematical equations that time travel hinges on.

 

Ok, so what really happens if you do successfully change the past? No one ever put a cache of seeds somewhere,  but then time travelers go back in time do exactly that. Once upon a time, did that event never occur?  On a smaller scale, if the time travel math shows that in five minutes you will drop your pen, and then the moment comes and your purposely drop two pens, what happens?

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Blackout by Connie Willis

published in 2010*

where I got it: purchased used

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I finished reading Connie Willis’s Blackout shortly after blogging about how much of a Lobster this book is.  When I wrote that blog post, I was about half way through the book, I am pretty sure I read the 2nd half in a non-stop reading marathon.

 

That post, and this post has minor plot spoilers for Blackout.

 

I’m a sucker for time travel thrillers,  and I especially love it when the premise of the thriller is “what could possibly go wrong?” and the author has correctly answered that question is “everything!”,  thus the thrilling storyline.

 

Willis’s Doomsday Book is one of my favorite time travel novels, and I’d heard the sequel was To Say Nothing of the Dog.  I recently bought a copy of TSNofD, and don’t tell anyone I said this, but i DNF’d that book about 50 pages in. I wasn’t getting any of the Three Men in a Boat jokes (yes, I am a midwestern heathen with no education. More on that in a bit, actually),  I wasn’t connecting with any of the characters. So back on the bookshelf that book went. But I still wanted my Connie Willis fix? So I picked up Blackout.

 

Blackout takes place about 5 years after the events of Doomsday Book, and who were the first two characters I met?  Dunworthy and Colin!! This was the sequel to Doomsday Book I’d been looking for!! Colin is nearly college age, and as adorable and puppy-like as always,  Badri knows not to let Colin anywhere near the net, and Dunworthy is his usually curmudgeonly and rushing all about self. Dunworthy cares deeply for his time traveling students, he’s just real good at showing it.  And he keeps rescheduling everyone’s drops and driving the net techs crazy.

 

Just joining us for Connie Willis time travel?  Here’s some context: It’s the year 2060, time travel exists (but somehow smartphones, e-mail, and pages do not**),  and Oxford University sends historians back in time for weeks or months, so the historian can embed themselves in the time and location they are studying.  The language and accent you need will be imported into your implant, you’ll receive tons of training on how to act and dress, and when your drop date arrives, you go to the Net with your props, and the net techs send you through. To avoid anyone being able to change history, the net simply won’t open to let you go through to a moment in the past where you’d have any ability to muck things up. To return home, you got to the “drop” site at specific pre-arranged times when the net will open for you. Pretty cool, right?

 

Minor spoiler:  Dunworthy and Colin are not major characters in Blackout. I think I cried with joy to get to see them again, and even 20 pages with them was enough for me to be OK with not seeing them for another who knows how many pages.  The novel follows four time travelers/historians who I hadn’t met before, and they have all gone back to different areas of England at different points during World War II. They each have an assignment to observe different places.  The good news is that while some things do go wrong, this book is nowhere near as brutal as what all went wrong in The Doomsday Book.

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I’m about half way through Blackout by Connie Willis.

 

Someone told me that To Say Nothing of the Dog is the sequel to The Doomsday Book?  I disagree!! Who is the first person I meet in Blackout? Colin! And who is he looking for? Mr. Dunworthy! And who does Colin run into as he’s running around Oxford? Badri! And who knows to not let Colin anywhere near the net? EVERYONE.  Blackout is the sequel to Doomsday Book says I, as all my fave people are in the first chapter! Don’t at me!

 

Anyway,  I love time travel stories that go a little like this: Let’s go back in time! What could possibly go wrong?  In fact, let’s go back to the London Blitz, and then go to Dunkirk!

 

Um, everything could wrong? Didn’t Dunworthy already learn that the hard way?

 

I’m about half way through and Blackout is a damn Lobster.

 

It’s super intense, and scary AF, and I can’t put it down, it freaks me out to read it, it freaks me out to not be reading it and not know what is going to happen, i want to poke it I’m afraid to poke it.  I call books like that Lobsters.

 

I was so into this book, and being so affected by it,  that when my husband asked me something super basic about dinner, it took me a good 60 seconds to realize that I wasn’t in 1940 London and that I was perfectly safe.

 

What books have been lobsters for you?

 

(this post has minor spoilers for Blackout by Connie Willis)

 

What’s doubly scary is that all our time travellers – Polly, Mike, Eileen, and Mary, they KNOW exactly what happened in England during World War II.  Our time travelers are in fact, historians studying at Oxford in the year 2060.

 

And while the time travellers are on assignment observing people,  if they need to learn something (like how to drive), they can pop through the net back to the future, learn whatever they need to learn, and then pop back right moments after they left. Time travel is neat!

 

But they people they are with, they have no idea where and when the bombs will fall, they have no idea how much war is yet to come.

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The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

published in 1992

where I got it: purchased used

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I’ve read this book before, and I mean that both figuratively, and literally.  This is my or second or third time reading The Doomsday Book, and it’s a book about time travel that asks the question “what could possibly go wrong?”, which is a story trope I’ve read before.  Not a spoiler, but everything goes wrong. Oh, the name of the book sounds familiar?

 

And since this book was written in 1992, I don’t feel bad about spoiling certain plot points. Click here for my spoiler-free, original book review of this title.   Because this blog post? It rambles. It has mild spoilers. And it gets a little personal.

 

In late January, I found myself in a reading slump. I had a lot going on, and I was struggling to relax and just fall into a book. I needed a book that would grab me on page 1, throw me about, transport me, allow me to escape into someone else’s life for a few hundred pages, and then not break my heart into a million little pieces at the end, because damnit, i wanted something with a happy ending for once.  I did cry at the end of The Doomsday Book, but not from a broken heart.

 

If you’ve never read this book before, it’s got a lot of death. A lot of people die, a lot of people are helpless in the face of death, some people lose hope.  I’m not gonna lie, there is a lot of sadness and a lot of fear of dying in this book. You might cry. But oh, this book is full of so much hope! So many people who are doing everything they can to save their friends, people who refuse to be helpless, people whose compassion knows no bounds, characters who spend every waking moment caring deeply about other people, even if they don’t quite know how to show it.  There are scenes that are sad, but this is not a grim book. What is the opposite of grimdark? Hopebright? The Doomsday Book is hopebright.

 

In the near future, we’ve discovered how to travel into the past. The technology is mostly utilized at universities, and they send historians back in time, with the goal of avoiding the most dangerous times in history.  Kivrin will be the first historian at Oxford who is sent to the Middle Ages. She’s been working towards this moment for the last 2 years. Her advisor James Dunworthy has never been so worried in his entire life.

 

Something I love about this novel is how Willis starts the book when the action starts. There is no preamble, hardly any character introduction, plenty of British banter, and before page twenty you know the characters are anxious about sending a historian back to the thirteen hundreds, you know people are nervous and vulnerable and worried.  By page 30 you know something has gone horribly wrong. And that’s when the character development starts – after you’ve been hooked.

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Time Was, by Ian McDonald

published April 2018

where I got it: purchased new

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Stories tell us who we are, but books are the vehicle. Physical books are vehicle, medium, and method,  a metaphor unto themselves, they are both particle and wave.

 

I’ve read Time Was by Ian McDonald twice now, both times started out exactly the same: A quick glance at cover art that communicates nothing, a quick skim of the back cover copy, a quick shrug. A few pages in an immediate annoyance with Emmett, who speaks quickly and with little context, a man who isn’t ready to let anyone in. Then I meet Tom, who I immediately feel protective over as I imagine his quiet smile and puppy-dog eyes.  In the moment that Tom’s eyes meet Ben’s, I feel honored just to be in the same room with that beautiful blossoming emotion of their immediate chemistry.

 

When Emmett stumbles upon a battered and slim volume of poetry at the death of a local bookstore, he find a folded and faded love letter inside.  Entitled “Time Was”, the book has no copyright date, no publisher information. Used bookstores lucky enough to have a copy appear to be under strict instructions to never sell the book, only to always have it on the shelf.

 

Emmett has grazed the edge of the mystery of Ben and Tom,  two men who were forced to discover a means of communicating across time by leaving letters in specific books in specific bookstores. To sully something beautiful, a particular book was their dead drop. But it’s been decades since the war, why are the instructions still being followed to the letter?

 

Whoever is writing Doctor Who these days could do a lot worse than writing an episode based on Time Was.

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Open Road Media is publishing the complete short fiction of Clifford Simak’s short fiction, so far there are twelve volumes. From what I can tell, the first three volumes are available in print, and right now the rest are only e-book.  The short fiction isn’t in chronological order, for example, this first volume, titled I Am Crying All Inside and other stories showcases fiction from as early as 1939’s “Madness from Mars” to “I Had No Head and My Eyes Were Floating Way Up in the Air” that was written in 1973, but hasn’t been actually published until 2015.

 

I bopped around the table of contents in this collection, and read whatever caught my fancy. Some stories really grabbed my attention, and others were great fun, but forgettable.

 

I quite enjoyed “Small Deer”, in which a mathematical genius and an engineer create a time machine, and the engineer goes back to the days of the Dinosaurs. He discovers something horrifying about the history of life on Earth. What he learns is so outlandish, who would possibly believe him?  Can a horror story be gentle? This one is.  I always get a kick out of time travel stories, especially when weird Kage Baker or Ijon Tichy stuff starts happening.

 

“I Am Crying All Inside”, is well worth a read, and deserving of being the title track. What will happen, generations from now, when we’ve all left Earth for somewhere better? What will happen to the people and robots who get left behind? What kind of society will they build? Told from an obsolete robot’s point of view, this poignant story feels a little like the movie Wall-E, only much, much sadder.

 

“Ogres” was a super fun, and super smart story about what a vegetable society might be like. We’ve landed on a planet and are trying to figure out what we can exploit, sort of “Little Fuzzy” style. The intelligent species on this planet are all plants. No bones, no vertebrae, no central nervous system, no wheel, no invention of fire. Lots of telepathy and strange music. Maybe we can export the musical trees!  Nothing is what it seems, and the human explorers eventually figure out something fishy is going on. But what threats could we possibly make that would scare a planet full of trees and vegetables? Hmmm…   I loved the evolutionary ideas in this story, and I got a laugh out loud chuckle out of the end.

 

Usually fun, smart, and gentle, Simak stories always feel timeless. Give him a try if you haven’t.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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