Time Travel Selection

Hi, readers!

Below is a list of six time travel related books from which to choose. To recap our new system, we will be reading two books a month regardless of length. This means that, until I find a better voting system, you will be able to choose two books each time a poll goes up. I’ll take the top two results and we will read the shorter one first. If you have ideas for a better way of doing it, do let me know! Thank you for the excellent submissions, as always. đź’™

Our first meeting will be on October 2nd and the second will be October 16. Remember that there will not be another book meeting after the 16th until November 6th so as to avoid meeting on Halloween. There will be social hangouts.

Based on your responses to the t-shirt poll, it looks like it will be a go! I will get details to you when I have them. In the meantime, please keep sending in your wonderful design ideas.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

A funny, often poignant tale of boy meets girl with a twist: what if one of them couldn’t stop slipping in and out of time? Highly original and imaginative, this debut novel raises questions about life, love, and the effects of time on relationships.

Audrey Niffenegger’s innovative debut, The Time Traveler’s Wife, is the story of Clare, a beautiful art student, and Henry, an adventuresome librarian, who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder: periodically his genetic clock resets and he finds himself misplaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity in his life, past and future. His disappearances are spontaneous, his experiences unpredictable, alternately harrowing and amusing.

The Time Traveler’s Wife depicts the effects of time travel on Henry and Clare’s marriage and their passionate love for each other as the story unfolds from both points of view. Clare and Henry attempt to live normal lives, pursuing familiar goals—steady jobs, good friends, children of their own. All of this is threatened by something they can neither prevent nor control, making their story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

Notable Review by Julie

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a controversial novel, and when my book club discussed it, there were burning pitchforks, buckets of hot tar and glasses of Pinot Noir being splashed in faces. The room was like a parking lot after a football game between contentious rivals. It was awesome.

I give a HUGE amount of credit to the ladies of my book club. For 11 years they have suffered through having me, both a Lit teacher and a writer, as a member, and they have put up with A LOT of my empassioned opinions. When I don’t like a book, I make it ABUNDANTLY clear why it sucks and when I love a book that others don’t, I verbally knock them out of my way.

And I love this book. Boy howdy, do I love this book. I originally read it 11 years ago (then re-read it, and took a bunch of notes), and the characters and the plot just hopped on into the synapses of my brain, curled up there and have remained comfortably in that position, forevermore.

In my opinion, you can read this book for its surface value (as a romance or an adventure), or you can go deeper. This novel is loaded with metaphors, and you can get both Biblical here and/or follow the story with Homer’s Odyssey by your side.

For Henry is a modern day Odysseus. He’s a Christ-figure as well. He represents the spring, the adventurer, the one who is both sacrificed and reborn.

And his love, Clare, is both the archetypal mother and the wife, the perpetual autumn, and Penelope, the one who waits.

Niffenegger’s plot point of time travel is immense. It serves here as a lush metaphor for the cycle of life: the living, the dying, the what comes after. And it doesn’t hurt that Henry loves my kind of music, too.

The ladies of book club who passionately disliked this book cited several reasons. They complained that Niffenegger’s style was not linear, they had a hard time following the plot, and they found Henry’s relationship with Clare bordering on predatory or creepy. I acknowledge that they experienced these problems, but they just weren’t an issue for me.

And the ending. . . my God. I cried to the point of embarrassment, even though I was home alone as I finished. I actually GASPED at the end, and my steadfast rule is. . . if a book makes me GASP, it automatically earns 5 stars.

It is truly one of the best, most heart-breaking endings to a novel that I’ve ever encountered. My sweatshirt was soaked by the end and I ached and mourned and grieved all over those final pages.

I actually started to cry while writing this review, just revisiting that ending. A decade later. Damn!

Singularity Sky (Eschaton #1) by Charles Stross

In the twenty-first century man created the Eschaton, a sentient artificial intelligence. It pushed Earth through the greatest technological evolution ever known, while warning that time travel is forbidden, and transgressors will be eliminated.

Distant descendants of this ultra high-tech Earth live in parochial simplicity on the far-flung worlds of the New Republic. Their way of life is threatened by the arrival of an alien information plague known as the Festival. As forbidden technologies are literally dropped from the sky, suppressed political factions descend into revolutionary turmoil.

A battle fleet is sent from Earth to destroy the Festival, but Spaceship engineer Martin Springfield and U.N. diplomat Rachel Mansour have been assigned rather different tasks. Their orders are to diffuse the crisis or to sabotage the New Republic’s war-fleet, whatever the cost, before the Eschaton takes hostile action on a galactic scale.

Notable Review by Apat

My first attempt at reading a Stross novel was Accelerando. I abandoned it after about 50 pages, we just did not get along. I had some problems with the prose style, the characters and the confusing plot. Still, I have always intended to give this author another try as I have been reading his blog for a while and I like them, no problem with the writing style there. Also, he is one of the most respected sf authors of the newer generation working today. He comes highly recommended by David Brin and others.

I have always been interested in the subject of singularity, especially as a science fiction theme. As mentioned earlier I attempted to read Accelerando and failed miserably. Happily I found Singularity Sky much more to my liking, and shed much light upon the ramifications of the singularity for me. The story is set in a post singularity universe where a posthuman species called the Eschaton wield God-like power and scattered a vast proportion of the human race to the four winds, across space and time on planets light years apart forcing said human to colonize wherever they are placed. The story starts when a totalitarian and backward human colonies is visited by a transhuman race called Festival. The Festival offer the colonist absolutely anything they want in exchange for “entertainment” in the form of stories, philosophies, jokes or any information they find interesting. The goods they give in exchange for “entertainment” are produced by “cornucopia” machines which remind me of the nanotechnological assemblers from Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer. As anything can be had practically just for the asking, the planet quickly reaches an economic singularity where possession, employment, property and commerce is no longer meaningful.

This is a fascinating scenario where a single event causes huge planet wide changes, and it is just the tip of the iceberg where outlandish scifi ideas are concerned. Including a question of human sapience, where a posthuman creature hilariously poses the question of whether humans are “zombies or zimboes?”, not to mention the Eschaton outlawing of “causality violation” which is basically cheating by time travel via Faster Than Light technology. A lot of the hard science went right over my head but it did not hamper understanding the plot as far as I can tell.

The writing style is somewhat workmanlike for the most part, but enriched by some witty dialog. The main characters are likable without being particularly noteworthy. While not an “sf comedy” the book does have a lighthearted feel to it. The whole endeavor is worth about 4.5 stars for me.

The next Stross book I read will most likely be The Atrocity Archives which looks like a hoot. I may get back to Accelerando once I have accumulated sufficient goodwill for Mr. Stross.

Millennium by John Varley

In the skies over Oakland, California, a DC-10 and a 747 are about to collide. But in the far distant future, a time travel team is preparing to snatch the passengers, leaving prefabricated smoking bodies behind for the rescue teams to find. And in Washington D.C., an air disaster investigator named Smith is about to get a phone call that will change his life…and end the world as we know it.

Notable Review by Mark Schlatter

It’s a odd duck, but it quacks quite nicely….

First off, this is a Time Travel novel (capitalization intended). We have paradox and consequences and rules and messages from the future and chronal instability and characters seeing the same events in different orders. It’s more than a puzzle story, but the puzzle emphasis is huge (think Connie Willis for a more modern example).

Secondly, there is a large emphasis on mortality. Our two protagonists are Bill Smith (an employee of the NTSB) and Louise Baltimore (our time traveller). Bill is examining a crash between a DC-10 and a 747 in which everyone died. Louise travelled back in time to snatch the soon-to-be-dead passengers off the planes and help resuscitate a far future where lifespans are short and disease rampant. In short, the first third of the book has a lot of death. Nothing too gory, but directly viewed and fairly sobering.

Thirdly, we have a romance. The novel (and some of the characters) try to make it up as a “meet cute” — the term is actually used by the book — but our two heroes are broken people, not Hepburn and Grant. And the romance is more yearning for meaning and connection than watching sparks fly. But, it’s still a romance and a pretty strong driver throughout the book.

Finally, we have an ending — or actually, several endings — that addresses the whole cosmic issue of playing with time. The end result is a work that totters on a knife edge between cute (puzzle aspects, romance) and meaningful. As a whole, it worked for me. I read very quickly, enjoying the plot, and I’m still pondering the book now. In some sense, it’s a spiritual cousin to Heinlein’s Job, which has the same strange balance of humor and cosmic perspective.

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

Connie Willis’ Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Doomsday Book uses time travel for a serious look at how people connect with each other. In this Hugo-winning companion to that novel, she offers a completely different kind of time travel adventure: a delightful romantic comedy that pays hilarious homage to Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat.

When too many jumps back to 1940 leave 21st century Oxford history student Ned Henry exhausted, a relaxing trip to Victorian England seems the perfect solution. But complexities like recalcitrant rowboats, missing cats, and love at first sight make Ned’s holiday anything but restful – to say nothing of the way hideous pieces of Victorian art can jeopardize the entire course of history.

Notable Review by Carol

If ever there was a symphony as book (Beethoven’s 8th?), it would be this one. Like a symphony, To Say Nothing is a wonderful composite that is almost impossible to deconstruct. In many books, there might be a chapter that stands out, whether due to brilliance or failure; this is largely a harmonious, excellently written whole, with only one or two incongruous passages near the end.

Then there’s the writing: amazingly developed and interwoven, it takes a number of disparate themes and juxtaposes them. Like a flute soaring above the rest of the orchestra, there are playful little giggles throughout, largely due to reoccurring motifs. Particular favorites include Ned’s bemusement at hearing anarchoristic words (“poppycock” and “drat”), unfortunate couples that end in disaster, Ned’s inability to read a Roman numeral pocket watch (“I dozed off again at half past V”) and the fickleness of cats. There are serious undertones, and a sense of urgency; the characters need to achieve their personal mission, but are also extremely concerned about their detrimental impact on history. And, to be completely honest, like a symphony, one needs to be in the mood and willing to pay attention, otherwise it just becomes so much soporific background noise.

The almost-impossible summary: in the year 2057, Lady Schrapnell (is there a more perfectly named character?) has come to England, determined to rebuild Coventry Cathedral, where her exponentially-great grandmother experienced a life-changing event. In her zeal, she’s determined to make every detail perfect (“God is in the details”) and has enlisted the Temporal Physics department of the University to make it happen. The story is told by temporal historian Ned Henry, who has most recently been in 1940, looking through the burned ruins of the Cathedral for the ‘bishop’s bird stump,’ a hideous paragon to the lack of Victorian taste (“It did, however, have twining ivy and a bas-relief of either Noah’s ark or the battle of Jericho.”) His partner pulls him back to normal time when it is discovered he’s suffering from time lag, evidenced by “one of the first symptoms of time-lag is a tendency to maudlin sentimentality, like an Irishman in his cups or a Victorian poet cold-sober.” His interview in the Infirmary always makes me laugh (“Infirmary nurses usually resemble something out of the Spanish Inquisition, but this one had an almost kindly face, the sort an assistant torturer… might have.”)

Ned is sent to 1888 with the dual purpose of recovering in the pastoral Victorian English countryside and returning an object to 1888 restore an incongruity and preserve the historical timeline. He meets an Oxford undergrad, Terence, and takes a idyllic boat ride down the Thames with him, only to discover Terence is intent on meeting a new infatuation, Lady Schrapnell’s great(s)-grandmother, Tossie. While she has not attained the bossy demeanor of Lady S., she nonetheless has almost everyone falling in line with her ridiculous plans that include a seance and a jumble sale.

What follows is a comedy of errors as the time-traveling historians attempt to keep the young would-be lovers separated. The historians are convinced Tossie needs to fall in love with an unknown man with the initial ‘C’ and begin combing the countryside for eligible (and not-so-eligible) bachelors. Accompanying them is a genuine Oxford don distracted by fish and history, a tenacious and fierce bulldog named Cyril, and a black cat. As cats are extinct in the modern era, poor Ned is particularly unskilled in managing them:

“I set her down, and she walked a few feet across the grass and then took off like a shot and disappeared round the corner of a wall.
I told you so, Cyril said.
“Well, don’t just stand there. Go after her,” I said.
Cyril continued sitting.
He had a point. Our chasing after her in the woods hadn’t been a roaring success. “Well, what do you suggest then?”
He lay down, his muzzle against the milk bottle, and it wasn’t a bad idea.”

A caveat: this is not hard or traditional science-fiction. The most science fiction-like aspect supposes that time travel is possible, but only in ways that don’t effect the past or allow travelers to bring objects into the future. The field is known as temporal physics, and it while it is still being explored, incongruities–artificial changes to the timeline–could “theoretically could alter the course of history, or if it were severe enough, destroy the universe.” Luckily for us, the universe is self-repairing, and has lines of defense that might manifest as an increase in coincidental events. We learn this in brief scenes between the time travelers and it’s artfully done.

Characterization is wonderfully done. The historians are well-developed and multi-dimensional. I confess I especially love Cyril, who is completely dog-like but provides a silent foil for Ned’s thoughts.

While I recognize the style and pace won’t appeal to everyone, especially the action-adventure reader, I’m ridiculously fond of this book. I’ve re-read it numerous times, especially when I want to be in a book holding pattern, reading something familiar and enjoyable that didn’t keep me up until 2 a.m. reading. I’ve read it so many times that I find myself quoting it, even if no one else gets my references. In fact, I once slightly embarrassed myself by exclaiming, “a genuine Oxford don!” courtesy of the passage, “I sat there watching him examine the fish and marvelling at what we’d caught. A genuine eccentric Oxford don. They’re an extinct species, too.” Well, he was a genuine eccentric don, after all–he studied voodoo and death practices.

Anyone who reads my reviews knows I have a fondness for the well-turned phrase, but while I often smile reading this book, the humor is built up over repeating passages rather than the the standard quip. This is gentle, suspenseful, silly, romantic and sophisticated reading. Filled with literary references and philosophizing on the importance of individuals in history versus scientific principles, someone with a classic background might best appreciate the wide-ranging references, but despite my own infirm education, I didn’t find them inaccessible. If you enjoy Bertie Wooster, Shakespeare, Agatha Christie and Lord Peter mysteries, history, gentle comedic romance and literary references, the sly wit in this book will keep you entertained.

Cross posted at http://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2012/1…

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

To save his daughter, he’ll go anywhere—and any-when…
Kin Stewart is an everyday family man: working in IT, trying to keep the spark in his marriage, struggling to connect with his teenage daughter, Miranda. But his current life is a far cry from his previous career…as a time-traveling secret agent from 2142.
Stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s after a botched mission, Kin has kept his past hidden from everyone around him, despite the increasing blackouts and memory loss affecting his time-traveler’s brain. Until one afternoon, his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late.
Their mission: return Kin to 2142, where he’s only been gone weeks, not years, and where another family is waiting for him. A family he can’t remember.
Torn between two lives, Kin is desperate for a way to stay connected to both. But when his best efforts threaten to destroy the agency and even history itself, his daughter’s very existence is at risk. It’ll take one final trip across time to save Miranda—even if it means breaking all the rules of time travel in the process.
A uniquely emotional genre-bending debut, Here and Now and Then captures the perfect balance of heart, playfulness, and imagination, offering an intimate glimpse into the crevices of a father’s heart and its capacity to stretch across both space and time to protect the people that mean the most.

Notable Review by K.A. Doore

This book. THIS book. THIS BOOK.

Here and Now and Then is a perfect little sci-fi gem, with just a touch of literary. When time traveler Kin gets stuck in the 20th century, he does what any reasonable person would do: fall in love and start a family. This turns out to be a perfectly good plan – until suddenly the rescue team shows up, almost two decades too late. Now Kin is back in the 22nd century, where for everyone else it’s only been a week, but for him it’s been an entire life. He really tries to settle back in, but when the daughter he had in the past is threatened, well, he’s not about to let that slide.

It’s a poignant story written with a deft hand. There’s a heckuva lot to unpack emotionally when you’re dealing with two lives and two families, and a heckuva lot of ways to go wrong, but Chen lands each emotional beat with not only style, but a punch to the gut. I’m not usually one to cry while reading (A Fault In Our Stars was the last one to get me, so it’s been years), but I went through half a box of tissues in those last few chapters.

Moreover, the women are all fully formed, fully realized characters, with just as much depth as the men, and there’s no Big Bad Wolf, just people being people. It’s morally gray in the best way and the technobabble is just enough to be believable without going overboard.

Tense, exciting, emotional, and full of heart – this one’s going in my rec-to-everyone list.

Recursion by Blake Crouch

Memory makes reality.

That’s what NYC cop Barry Sutton is learning, as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome—a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.

That’s what neuroscientist Helena Smith believes. It’s why she’s dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious memories. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent.

As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face to face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds, but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it.

But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them?

At once a relentless pageturner and an intricate science-fiction puzzlebox about time, identity, and memory, Recursion is a thriller as only Blake Crouch could imagine it—and his most ambitious, mind-boggling, irresistible work to date.

Notable Review by Chelsea Humphrey

“Everything will look better in the morning. There will be hope again when the light returns. The despair is only an illusion, a trick the darkness plays.”

I’m convinced that Blake Crouch is THE science fiction/fantasy author of our time. You know, the one that readers pre-order their books without reading the description, the one that 50 years from now people are still talking about, dissecting his plot points and their dual meanings? Yeah, that’s Crouch. If you don’t agree, then that’s ok, I’ll respect your opinion. But also, FIGHT ME. While I’ve enjoyed all of the author’s novels to date, Dark Matter is the one that sealed the deal in making me a life long fan. (But also Desert Places) Recursion is another worthy entry in Crouch’s SFF productions, and one that felt reminiscent of Dark Matter, which made me a very happy Chelsea. Yes, the plot is unique in it’s own way, but it still gave off those complex vibes that are a cross between “exciting, high concept thriller” and “deep, emotional family drama”.

“How would I know if one had changed? What would it feel like?”

The premise of this novel is simple: What would happen if the memories contained inside your mind had never occurred? I’m not entirely sure how the author devised the plot for this book, but I imagine it stemmed from a simple question, not altogether different from the one presented above. Once you’ve read the book, it’s easy to see how an entire novel could spring from such an innocent thought. It’s clear that Crouch has a way with writing sagas that pull the heartstrings, because all of his ideas that evolve into stories are a delicate balance of intellectually stimulating action and moving, emotional love mingled with loss. The kicker is that the author knows how to write a science fiction that seems so dangerously close to reality, you find yourself turning the last page, shaking your head and chuckling because that could NEVER happen, but secretly wondering if it possibly could.

If you enjoyed Dark Matter and its extraordinary premise, you’ll likely fall head over heels for Recursion as well. A few of the same concepts are used in both novels, but each of these books are truly a labor of love in their own, unique way. Once again, I have found myself floored at how a person’s mind could concoct such a brilliant scheme, and I’m looking forward to finding out where Crouch chooses to take us next.

Another Review Just Because by Chai

me: finishes reading any book by Blake Crouch

me: what the fuck…..
me: [at dinner] what the fuck…
me: [trying to sleep] what the fuck….
me: [in the bathroom] what the fuck….
me: [breathing] whAt tHe FuCk

Vote Here

Which Time Travel Books Would You Like to Read? (Choose 2)

  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (27%, 7 Votes)
  • Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen (27%, 7 Votes)
  • Recursion by Blake Crouch (19%, 5 Votes)
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (15%, 4 Votes)
  • Singularity Sky (Eschaton #1) by Charles Stross (12%, 3 Votes)
  • Millennium by John Varley (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 13

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