Saturday, April 11, 2009

About Time


My pal Lanny and I were discussing Philip Jose Farmer's book Time's last Gift, which Lanny just finished and really enjoyed. Like myself he loves a good time travel yarn. I'm going to list my top time travel favorites here. Some are books and some are short stories, but all are great time travel tales.

Time and Again.

Jack Finney's amazing illustrated novel is perhaps my all time favorite time travel story. The amount of detail he puts into the descriptions of another time is simply amazing, plus the book has period photographs and illustrations of what the narrator is talking about. The plot features mystery, romance, and the whole nine yards. At one time Robert Redford's production company had purchased the film rights, but nothing ever came of it.

The Ugly Little Boy

Isaac Asimov is know as a writer of 'hard' science fiction and isn't usually thought of as an author who produces sensitive character pieces, but his short story about a Neanderthal child brought into our time and the doctor who looks after him proves that the good doctor's work could have an amazing amount of heart. Later expanded into a novel by another writer, but get the short story. You won't be disappointed.

Time's last Gift

I've already reviewed this one at length on the blog, but let me recommend it yet again. The story of the first team of time traveling researchers is a fascinating look at prehistory and also a terrific adventure story with a major twist. One of Philip Jose Farmer's best and that's saying something.

The Time Machine

Hello? It's H.G. Wells and the original Time Traveler. The first chapter is still great. The build up to the disappearance of the model time machine and the explanation of time as the fourth dimension. Amazing.

Lest Darkness Fall

L. Sprague de Camp's justly famous novel about a man who gets thrown back to ancient Rome and decides to try and avert the dark ages. In many ways de camp is the father of the alternate history genre. A little dated, but still a strong piece of work.

Behold the Man

Michael Moorcock's gutsy and controversial tale of a man who travels back in time to meet Jesus. Not to be missed.

Bid Time Return

This novel by Richard Matheson was the basis for the Christopher Reeve film Somewhere in Time. The novel is better and the end makes a bit more sense, but I do like the movie a lot. Reeve and leading lady Jane Seymour were both perfect for the roles. The movie has a neat bit that's not in the book where the college professor who helps the hero go back in time is professor Finney. That said, this is one of those films where it's better to turn the movie off before the last ten minutes.As I said, the end of the book is a little better. Mostly though it's a great read. Like Finney, Matheson makes you see the period.

A Sound of Thunder

Ray Bradbury's hugely influential time travel story and the origin of the term 'The Butterfly Effect'. The end still packs a jolt 57 years after it appeared.

By His Bootstraps

THE recursive time travel story. Robert A. Heinlein takes a look at some of the paradoxes which would logically occur if time travel was possible. Heinlein also wrote a novel called The Door Into Summer, which has time travel as one of its themes.


That's all the literary time travel that comes to mind. Poul Anderson wrote some great stories in his Time Patrol series, but I can't seem to locate my collection of his stories so I can't recommend any one in particular. In other media, my favorite time travel movie is Time After Time with Malcolm McDowell as H.G. Wells, tracking Jack the Ripper to 1979 San Francisco. I have a soft spot for George Pal's 1960 adaptation of H.G. Wells' novel The Time Machine. Star Trek 4, The Voyage Home is another favorite.
On TV, the Star Trek episode, the City on the Edge of Forever is a classic. The original story was by Harlan Ellison but it was pretty much butchered by Gene Roddenberry. Still turned out to be possibly the best episode of the original series. Ellison's Demon with a Glass Hand, another story about time travel, fared a little better and is to my mind, definitely the best single episode of the original Outer Limits. The effects and make-up seem laughable now, but I remember being scared out of my wits by the bad guys with their shadowed eye sockets when I was six or so.
That's it for the moment. I'm sure I'll think of some more stuff right after I post this, but feel free to chime in if you have any favorite time travel stories, be they books, movies, or whatever. There's no hurry. Time is on your side.

3 comments:

Lanny said...

Planet of the Apes almost qualifies as a time travel movie and Escapes from the Planet of the Apes certainly does.

Lanny said...

ESCAPE not "Escapes"...

Ice Capades from the Planet of the Apes is not a bad idea for a travelling skate show, I guess...

cliff said...

Up the Line by Robert Silverberg is an incredible time travel novel, and one of the best explorations of the whole time travel paradox phenomenon. I think it's my favorite Silverberg book of all time.