time travel


A stand-alone time travel story. Part of Storybundle’s Race Against Clock bundle this year.

Publication year: 2013
Format: ebook
Publisher: WMG Publishing
Page count in GoodReads: 160

Thomas Ayliffe is a thief who wants to commit the jewel robbery of a life time: to steal the Crown Jewels of Britain. And he’s going to do it by swindling his way to a team which is going back in time to the White Tower in 1674. This isn’t his planned time spot but he must use what he can get. He couldn’t care less about the historian’s goals. In fact, he finds them very strange.

Neyla Kendrick is a historian with an obsession with the murder of the two princes, the sons of Edward IV. She can’t get to their supposed bones now, but Portals Inc has been testing a time traveling device and they need to send a team back in time to test the system. Neyla and her team of handpicked four men are going to do it. However, the day before they’re leaving, one of Neyla’s team members becomes violently ill and needs to be quarantined. To make matters worse, their patron practically forces a complete stranger to join the team. The stranger’s name is Thomas Ayliffe. In 1671 a Thomas Ayliffe was caught trying to steal the Crown Jewels. Neyla has a bad feeling about him, but has no choice but to accept him.

This was a quick and enjoyable read. The characters worked well and the plot was fast-paced. However, I was surprised and a bit disappointed by how little time the characters spent in the past.
Also, the bodies of the princes didn’t play a large part, after all.

The characters are very distinctive for such short tale. Neyla’s very confrontational when required while Thomas is focused on his job. She isn’t looking forward to having a spend a whole month in 1674. In fact, she’s prefer it if she could come back as soon as possible. But for research, she’s willing to risk disease and food poisoning. The past was described vividly.

Portals Inc plans to commercialize time travel. I’d love to read more stories set in this world, but this seems to be the only one.

The hosts of SciFiMonth have gathered cool prompts and top ten lists. Today, I’m going to talk about my favorite time travel stories.

Time travel is one of the SF tropes I love. However, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish time travel from another trope I also adore: alternate universes. That’s not strange because according to some theories if you time travel and change something, that creates an alternate timeline.

Different stories (and franchises) have different rules for time travel. In most, the travelers can change the past and by changing it, change their own present (the future). They’re often warned against it but end up changing something anyway. In some singular stories you can’t change the past but that’s far more rare. Apparently it makes for less exciting story unless it’s about time travel tourism.

I love time travel in series because what I most like about it is a chance to see characters I know and love to be different. That’s why I’ve split this list in two: series and more stand-alone works.

1, The Days of Future Past comic by Chris Claremont and John Byrne
This is one of the first time travel stories I ever read and I was very young and impressionable then. 🙂 In the original comic, it’s fourteen year old Kitty Pryde who had just joined the X-Men only a couple of issues before who receives the mind of the 30 years older Kate Pryde. She convinces the current day X-Men (Storm, Angel, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Wolverine) to try to save senator Kelly from assassination and so change the future.

Seeing the older and much, much sadder Storm, Colossus, and Wolverine of the future was just gut-wrenching. The original story is only two issues long bu it’s very powerful. Also, later Claremont brought Rachel Summers from that future.

2, Star Trek TNG: Cause and Effect
I had really hard time choosing just one ST episode because I love many time travel episodes (“Yesterday’s Enterprise”, DS9’s “Trouble with Tribbles”, Voyager’s “Year in Hell”, Star Trek: First Contact just to name a few). But this episode has somewhat different mechanic than the others mentions on this list, specifically the crew is caught in a time loop and repeats some hours.

3, Legends of Tomorrow: Raiders of the Lost Art
This show just gets better all the time. Since the whole premise of Legends is for a group of misfits traveling through time, it has a lot of time travel. In the first season, they have an immortal bad guy whom they’re trying to catch at different time periods. Later, they try to mop up breaching through time. In this episodes, they’re in Hollywood, reinspiring a certain young movie maker.

4, Back to the Future
While these movies are part of a franchise, there are only three of them, so I can’t really compare them to a long-running series like Star Trek. In this series, Doc Brown constantly tries to warn us not to use time travel for material good or for trying to alter the past. Except from Marty’s past.

I love especially the second movie where returns to 1955 and we have two time traveling Martys running around at the same time.

5, Doctor Who: Blink
One of the best time travel series around is Doctor Who where time is a “big ball of wibbly wobbly time-y wimey stuff”. In Blink Doctor and his companion Martha Jones are trapped in 1969. They try to communicate through video tapes with a woman in current time. It also introduces the most scary villains in the series, the Weeping Angels.

6, Avengers Forever by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco
This is a twelve issue maxi series where Kang and Rick Jones pull a group of Avengers from different timelines. Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne are from the “current” timeline (1998), Captain America has super strengh but has just been disillusioned, Yellowjacket who is Hank but he’s had his nervous breakdown, Hawkeye from just after the Kree-Skrull war, Songbird so far in the future that she’s not yet an Avenger in the current time, and Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell’ son Genis) from further in the future. This series explores and tries to make sense of various inconstancies and gaffes in the Avenger’s history. It’s a love letter to the continuity and wonderful for us old fans.

7, The Flash: The once and future Flash
In this episode, Barry travels to a future where he wasn’t able to prevent Iris’ death. In consequence, the whole team disbanded and the future Barry is depressed and no longer a hero.

The Flash has many, many time travel episodes and it explores their consequences in fascinating ways.

Stand-alones:

8, Connie Willis: To Say Nothing of the Dog: or, How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last
Technically, this too is part of a series, the time traveling historians from Oxford. However, the time traveling main characters Ned Henry and Verity Kindle don’t appear in the other books. Neither do the characters from 1880. Ned Henry is the narrator of the book. He’s from the future Oxford and has been time traveling trying to find the birdstump for an obsessed American financer. Now, he suffers from slippage and the don sends him to Victorian times so that he can rest.

It’s one of my favorite humorous books, right next to Terry Pratchett. The time lag effect, which is similar to jet lag, gives poor Ned confusion and difficultly in hearing and makes it all the more hilarious.

9, Looper
In this movie, mafiosos use time travel to kill without a trace. The changes in the past instantly appear on the character’s future self.

10, Source Code
In this movie, captain Coltair Stevens is sent back to a train which is about to explode, again and again. He has eight minutes at a time to find a way to stop the explosion.

12 Monkeys probably deserves to be on this list but it’s been too long since I saw it. Time for a rewatch.

A stand-alone SF book with time travel.

Publication year: 2014
Format: Audio
Running time: 7 hours 46 minute
Narrator: Kevin T. Collins

Jacob Morgan has been appointment as an adjunct professor of history of science at the University of Virginia and so he’s determined to leave behind his lifelong obsession with Einstein’s final moments. Einstein died in April 18th, 1955 after saying a few words in German which the nurse, who was with him, didn’t understand. He also wrote some equations. However, Jacob is convinced that Einstein wrote instead some sort of confession which could change the world. Despite researching it for 12 years, Jacob hasn’t been able to find out what’s in the note. Now, with a job he loves, he’s ready to stop chasing Einstein’s last words. However, at the campus he meets Eddie Bellington who collects 50s memorabilia. Eddie also knows things about Jacob’s theories which Jacob has never shared with anyone. Eddie hints that he knows something new about Einstein’s secret and despite himself, Jacob is intrigued. Also, Jacob meets a beautiful woman and falls in love at first sight. A short while later, Jacob is fired and when Eddie asks him to visit a man who is supposed to know what Einstein wrote on his deathbed, Jacob agrees. A wild ride begins.

Jacob is the first-person narrator. The time travel in this book squashes the alternate universe theory and makes history (somewhat) mutable. It, of course, makes the story much more immediate but it also opens a can of worms, especially concerning the ending. The story works, as along as you don’t think about it too much. As the characters say “time travel is messy”.

This was a great mixture of fact and fiction. It also has surprisingly small cast of characters which makes it easier to follow the time travel. The only thing I didn’t like was the treatmeant of the story’s only female character, Laura. (Well, ok, the story has another named female character who is Einstein trusted assistant.) Jacob insists on “protecting” Laura by not telling her what’s going on, even when her life in danger. So, she’s left in the dark and even lied to.

Otherwise, I rather enjoyed this story.

A stand-alone science fiction book.

Publication year: 1895
Format: print
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1979
Finnish publisher: Kirjayhtymä
Page count for the Finnish translation: 120
Translator: Matti Kannosto

The Time Machine has two first-person narrators, both nameless but both male and at least relatively well-off. The story begins with the first narrator who comes to the house of the time traveler and meets other people there. The time traveler talks about traveling through time and the others think the whole idea is ridiculous. The people leave.

Later, the first narrator returns to the time traveler’s home and again meets other people and later the disheveled time traveler who tells the others about his journey to distant futures.

The traveler is so sure that the future will be good for humans that he doesn’t take any equipment with him. He just has a box of matches in his pocket but that’s all.

The time traveler tells about the year 802701 in the future where he first meets small, beautiful but not very smart humans. They live in deteriorating buildings and eat mostly fruit. They don’t work; instead their time is spent frolicking in meadows and rivers. But they fear the dark. Soon, the time traveler meets another race of small, ape-like people who live underground in darkness. He makes observations but also draws conclusions based on his own biases and expectations, as a wealthy man in Victorian England. Later, he briefly travels further in time to witness the end of Earth.

While the story has some exciting passages, it’s not really an adventure story. The traveler draws very intricate conclusions from small evidence. Also, he sees only a small part of the world and yet supposes that everywhere is the same.

The story doesn’t really have character development; in fact the future seems to confirm the traveler’s expectations and ideas, that strife and hardship are good for humans and if they’re done away with, the human race will degenerate.

This a perfect example of idea based story. It’s the first time travel story so Wells is focused on showing off his idea rather than on the story and characters. However, these days most, if not all, readers are already familiar with the concept so they expect more. The influence of the idea is, of course, great. It’s now an accepted part of not just science fiction books, but TV-shows, movies, comics, plays.

The story is available for free at Project Gutenberg as are all of H. G. Wells’ books.

Collects Fantastic Four issues 347–350, 352-354.

Writer: Walter Simonson
Artists: Walter Simonson, Arthur Adams

The first three issues are drawn (gorgeously) by Adams and inked by various people. The FF have returned to their own world and time, and are relaxing. Well, except for Sharon who is depressed because she’s now again the Thing rather than a woman. Ben tries to comfort her but in vain. A mysterious woman crashes her space ship to Earth and heads for the FF so that she can find what she came to Earth to find. She manages to subdue the FF one by one. However, she’s not successful in finding her prize.

Meanwhile, a skrull space ship has landed, looking for the woman. Instead, they find Monster Island. They managed to use their tech on the monsters and send them to various cities to attack humans.

The mystery woman keeps her disguise as Susan Richards and sends a message to four humans: Wolverine, gray Hulk, Ghost-Rider, and Spider-Man. To them, the woman claims that the FF are dead and the killers can be found with a hand scanner. The four head off to the Monster Island.

This was a fun little story with monsters, the Mole Man, and skrulls.

Then Dr. Doom attacks… Latveria. He defeats the Doombots and Kristoff who has apparently been posing as Dr. Doom ever since the real doc left. He examines the FF and realizes that he can use Sharon’s need to become human. So, he meets with her in New York and makes the offer to turn her back to a human. Sharon agrees and leaves with the doc to Latveria. Of course, Dr. Doom pries secrets from Sharon’s mind. Meanwhile, Ben uses Reed’s machines to become the Thing again, so that Sharon wouldn’t be so lonely. Awwww… that’s very sweet of him.

Dr. Doom sends an ultimatum to the FF who hurry to Latveria to rescue Sharon. While the rest of the FF fall victim to Dr. Doom’s traps, Reed and the doc battle each other using devices which allows them to jump around in time. Well, at least inside 30 minutes.

The Time Variance Authority gets involved. Their job is to monitor the multiverse and try to stop people from time traveling too much. However, they don’t really seem very effective. They arrest the FF and try to put them on trial for time traveling. Things don’t go well for TVA.

This was a bit wackier story than the previous ones, thanks to the TVA. In the ends, Simonson largely returns the FF to the status quo with Sharon back to a human and Ben again the Thing. The TVA is a wacky concept, especially considering how truly powerless they are to actually prevent time travel. They seem more like a bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake than anything useful. Which could well be the point.

Another fun collection!

A stand-alone time travel story.


Publication year: 2014
Format: Audio
Running time: 12 hours and 8 minutes
Narrator: Peter Kenny
Publisher: Redhook

Harry August is born with the ability to live his life over and over. The first time he’s born, he doesn’t know it, of course. But when he’s born the second time, he thinks that he’s going mad and quickly kills himself in an insane asylum. The third time, he starts to sort of adjust to it.

Harry August is born on New Year’s Day 1919, in Leeds. He’s an illegitimate child, born of rape. His mother dies in the childbirth and he’s raised by foster parents. But he doesn’t know about his real mother until in later lives. He chooses different paths in different lives so he ends ups married to different people (the very few times he does get married), sometimes serving in the army and sometimes not. The chapters are rather brief and jump around to different lives. There’s not really a linear plot at all until near the end.

I enjoyed this book and the rambling style of jumping from event to event and from life to life but it’s certainly not to everyone’s taste. There are also some problems with how the time travel is presented. Because Harry isn’t the only one who does this. Yet, he and all the others seem to live different lives pretty much every time. Anyone who is interested in time travel probably knows what sort of hideous problems that would create. None of them are seen here. Also, the others seem to have gone through this loop many, many times before Harry is born which also seems, er, strange. You see, Harry at least claims to remember every life he’s ever lived. And for Harry time resets when he dies. However, the “loopers” don’t all die at the same time. So just what, or whose, reality are they living? I also really didn’t care for the multiple uses of torture.

So, I enjoyed this story as long I didn’t really think about the underlying assumptions or how things are supposed to work. Oh and the time travel aspect is never explained.

First in a dystopian time travel series.

Publication year: 2015
Format: Audio
Running time: 15 hours and 37 minutes
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Kevin T. Collins

James Griffin-Mars comes from the far future where the Earth is a horrible place to live, suffering from a plague that affects not only humans but plants and animals, as well. Those who can afford it, have moved off-planet. But James is one of the elite who doesn’t have to worry about that. He’s a chronman who travels to the past in order to salvage technology, information, and other resources needed in the present to ChronoCom, the corporation which owns the time traveling technology. James is forbidden to bring anyone back from the past and so he’s used to thinking about the people he inevitably meets, and can’t help, as long dead. There are other rules, too, but that’s the most important one. The Chronmen suffer from lag-sickness if they jump too often but ChronoCom takes care of that by scheduling the jumps far enough apart. Also, jumping to the past can be directly dangerous, too.

James and his handler Smit have gotten a gig which should bring them enough riches that they can retire. But on James’ final mission he meets Elise Kim and is fatally smitten. Elise is going to die so James brings her back with him. After that, they’re fugitives. Both ChronoCom and Volta, the very powerful corporation behind it, are going to hunt them down.

There are several POV characters. In addition to James and Elise, there’s handler Smit and an antagonist Levin Javier Oberon who has a personal grudge against James and also works for the Evil corporation.

James isn’t a nice protagonist; he’s cynical and seen far too much death and destruction to be anything else. He’s had to bury any instinct of wanting to help other people deep. His past also troubles him; he had a mother and a younger sister who died when James was young. He’s forbidden to help them with time travel. Elise is pretty much his opposite. She’s a scientist who was working in the 21st century to fix the pollution in the seas. She was working for a non-profit organization so the world she’s yanked into is pretty horrible to her. Also, everyone she’s known are dead. She’s not sure if she can trust James.

Compared to “Just One Damned Thing After Another”, “Time Salvager” is much grimmer and less fun. But the world-building holds together better. Most of the cast are also… well, assholes. The book does have a lot of clichés: the most groan worthy might be the evil megacorporation whose employees are also evil… to everyone all the time or James’ decision to save Elise at the expense of his career and possibly life… after literally knowing her for just one day. After that scene I seriously considered just dropping it. I won’t regret finishing it but I won’t continue with the series.

I was also not a fan of the narrator. It’s hard to say what it was specifically. I just had hard time concentrating on the book.