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Good fiction for traveling?
June 10, 2004 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Who can recommend some good time travel fiction? (Yes, I'm a geek)
posted by Robot Johnny to Media & Arts (46 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Island in the Sea of Time books by Stirling are fun.

Baxter's The Time Ships is pretty good, especially since it's somehow a Baxter book without multi-page diatribes against NASA.

Grimwood's Replay is very good.

I haven't read the book, but I wouldn't touch Chrichton's Timeline with a ten foot pole.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:09 AM on June 10, 2004 [1 favorite]


I thought pastwatch was very good. it's time travel but it involves huge amounts of history being changed rather than just local players. and it's got a cool full title, ha
posted by rhyax at 11:16 AM on June 10, 2004


I read Robert Charles Wilson's Chronoliths a couple years back and it wasn't bad. Wasn't outstandingly stellar, either, but it certainly wasn't terrible :)
posted by danhon at 11:27 AM on June 10, 2004


The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis is excellent. I honestly thought that Crichton's Timeline was a ripoff of this book when I saw the trailers for the movie (I don't make much of a distinction between Crichton's books and the movies they make out of them, since his books seem to read very much like screenplays or the "adapted novels" they put out AFTER movies come out).

Woman on the Edge of Time
by Marge Piercy is also good, but she may be an acquired taste.
posted by Cyrie at 11:36 AM on June 10, 2004


Connie Willis has some amazing books. The ones I have read include The Doomsday Book [my review] and To Say Nothing of the Dog. If you're not posting this question because you read The Time Traveller's Wife then go read it immediately. The Time Travel Forum has a books forum that might go someplace eventually, but hasn't yet [interesting weird place overall]
posted by jessamyn at 11:37 AM on June 10, 2004


The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold. Yes, the tribble guy. If something can be done with time travel, it's in there.
posted by kindall at 11:40 AM on June 10, 2004


In Flashforward, everyone on earth visualizes life 20 years into the future. As they come to realize that the Flashforward events were happening in real life, people start trying to change that future or ensure that it happens as visualized. Enjoyable, relatively quick read, but still thougtful.

Timeline was a guilty pleasure. Fun to read, but that's about it. Punt the movie.

I'm not sure if it counts as time travel, but Stephen Baxter also tells a good story in Manifold: Space as well as Time and Origin. And yes, he does vent about NASA quite a bit. I've no idea what's behind the strong feelings about the agency.

Other's have already brought up Connie Willis - both To Say Nothing of the Dog and The Doomsday Book were great, I preferred the latter.
posted by whatzit at 11:51 AM on June 10, 2004


You could also try some time travel short stories. This book is a little hit and miss (I think it's the same book I read years ago) but at least you get to sample different views of time travel. My favorite story in there was probably "Star, Bright" by Mark Clifton (which also appeared on radio on the great X Minus One show). Perhaps others MeFiers can recommend some better time travel anthologies.
posted by gluechunk at 11:54 AM on June 10, 2004


The Door Into Summer is absolutely a great, fun time travel book - Really would have made a good film adaptation. Heinlein, circa late 50's early 60s. Predicts all sort of future technologies...(like CAD drafting).

Great read.

Electronics engineer Dan Davis has finally made the invention of a lifetime: a household robot with extraordinary abilities, destined to dramatically change the landscape of everyday routine. Then, with wild success just within reach, Dan's greedy partner and greedier fiancée trick him into taking the long sleep--suspended animation for thirty years
posted by filmgeek at 11:59 AM on June 10, 2004


I always liked the short story "All You Zombies," by Robert Heinlein. It's very old, though, and many people detest Heinlein. The text of it is online at the top of google results for the title. I forget which anthology contains it.
posted by coelecanth at 12:01 PM on June 10, 2004


The 1946 short story "Vintage Season" (text here) by C. L. Moore is a favorite, told from the point of view of the visited, as opposed to the travelers.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:14 PM on June 10, 2004


I thought Time and Again by Jack Finney was a pretty good read.
posted by AmaAyeRrsOonN at 12:46 PM on June 10, 2004


"Up the Line" by Robert Silverberg is probably the best time travel novel I've ever read.

For "Sleeper Awakens"-type stories, Larry Niven's "A World out of Time" is also really good.
posted by interrobang at 12:53 PM on June 10, 2004


Moorcock's Behold the Man is good'n'blasphemous (and OP, but easy to find used). His Jerry Cornelius books have some elements of time travel to them as well. Sort of.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:57 PM on June 10, 2004


Dagnabit, rhyax beat me to the punch on Pastwatch. It's probably one of Card's best books (which you can interpret as praise or not depending on how you feel about Card.)

On the short story front, "Aristotle and the Gun" by L. Sprague de Camp is a fine story; and
"The Men who Murdered Mohammed"
by Alfred Bester is hilarious. (If only because I went to Unknown University myself.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:57 PM on June 10, 2004


"Behold the Man" is pretty funny, but I found it kind of predictable (and not just because it takes place in the past).
posted by interrobang at 1:02 PM on June 10, 2004


I also enjoyed Time and Again and Time Ships. I cannot stomach Connie Willis though.

I really liked Vernor Vinge's Across Real Time, which is a collection of short stories and novellas that share a timeline.
posted by ursus_comiter at 1:10 PM on June 10, 2004


Thanks everyone -- I'm going to need an actual time machine now to find the time to read all of these...
posted by Robot Johnny at 2:18 PM on June 10, 2004


Well, gee, the one I came here to recommend was mentioned in the second comment and even seconded already. A third vote here for Pastwatch.

If "time-travel" includes involuntary travelers, then Slaughterhouse Five and Timequake, both by Kurt Vonnegut (but very, very different books, despite the common involuntary-time-travel plot), are both good.

But you've read Slaughterhouse Five already, right? If not, run, don't walk, to the nearest bookstore or library.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:22 PM on June 10, 2004


I second JA's recommendation for Bester'sThe Men Who Murdered Mohammed. Don't let the title throw you off; it's an absolutely hilarious time-travel-story spoof.
posted by neckro23 at 2:51 PM on June 10, 2004


Gullible's Travels by Cash Peters - camp-as-a-boy-scout-jamboree 'journalist' with a cutting sense of humour, gets sent to really crappy places by his editor. Haven't read it yet, but intend to - it's supposed to be very funny indeedy.
posted by Blue Stone at 3:02 PM on June 10, 2004


Man I am so in need of a good lie down. that's the second time in five minutes, I've completely missed out something important in the post I'm replying to.

[grovelling appology here]
posted by Blue Stone at 3:04 PM on June 10, 2004


Try Audrey Niffenegger's 'remarkable debut, The Time Traveler's Wife'. Despite the ugly Americanism, very worthwhile.
posted by biffa at 3:16 PM on June 10, 2004


I can't believe nobody's mentioned Asimov's The End of Eternity.
posted by signal at 4:07 PM on June 10, 2004


signal: I just now saw the thread, and I was almost hoping nobody else had mentioned that!

Harry Harrison's A Rebel In Time doesn't suck either.
posted by bingo at 4:34 PM on June 10, 2004


Octavia Butler's Kindred (which is definitely in print).

And a lot of science fiction novels were recently re-released in the UK under the Gollancz print -- including Moorcock's Behold The Man (which was a little too one-trick-pony for my tastes), so if you can't find copies in the US, try looking for Gollancz SF Masterworks in the UK instead (and if you sweettalk someone over here, they might be able to find them for even cheaper -- I know I picked up some Silverberg for £3 rather than the £5-something Amazon's trying to sell it for).
posted by Katemonkey at 4:44 PM on June 10, 2004


Benford's Timescape isn't about time travel, but rather sending information through time.
posted by kindall at 4:45 PM on June 10, 2004


I have to agree that The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis is what you should read.

She's great and the book is fantastic.
posted by Argyle at 5:11 PM on June 10, 2004


Lest Darkness Fall is a classic, but now deliciously hokey. It's about a modern man holding off the fall of Rome. Light of Other Days is about being able to see and study the past, if not travel there. Geri Halliwell is head of the UN. There's a great dream for atheists in this book too. Kage Baker has an appealing series about a future company that sends immortals back to squirrel away loot from the unrecorded pieces of history. More votes for Pastwatch and Connie Willis. You can skip Turtledove's Guns of the South.
posted by Yogurt at 6:06 PM on June 10, 2004


Time and travel but not timetravel Tau Zero, by Pohl Anderson
posted by mss at 6:07 PM on June 10, 2004


I can't believe nobody's mentioned Heinlein's other classic time travel story, "By His Bootstraps": pdf here, cache here. Long and incredibly enjoyable.
posted by languagehat at 7:18 PM on June 10, 2004


i'm afraid you will have to wait a few years... E.L.Smithton's "Infinite Cloudling 4" released in 2079 AD is--in my time--widely regarded as being the gem of the entire genre.
posted by th3ph17 at 7:28 PM on June 10, 2004


Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates.

Larry Niven's Flight of the Horse.

James Hogan's The Proteus Operation.
posted by SPrintF at 7:39 PM on June 10, 2004


Have you read The Forever War? Its a classic.
posted by skallas at 8:36 PM on June 10, 2004


I'm sure the only reason no one's mentioned it is that they all assume you've already read it, but if you haven't, do read H.G. Wells's The Time Machine. I'm constantly amazed by how many so-called science fiction fans have never read a word of Wells or Verne.
posted by Acetylene at 9:49 PM on June 10, 2004


If you're gonna read Hogan, and some of his stuff is okay, do be aware that he's gone bugfuck crazy and is writing weird Velikovskian stuff about how Venus is a few thousand years old and was ejected from Jupiter, and the Earth used to be a moon of Jupiter which is what allowed dino-sours to grow so big. Serious crazy and L-Neil-Smith level preaching.

So whatever you pick up and like, don't go running down to the local bookstore and pick up his corpus, thinking it's all good. Approach with caution.

Still, it's all better than the hypothetical sequels to Rendezvous with Rama.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:00 PM on June 10, 2004


Still, it's all better than the hypothetical sequels to Rendezvous with Rama.

Those were awful. After reading them, and the sequels to "Riverworld"*, I finally learned the lesson of the "sense of wonder": it's better not to know what happens later.

*except for the second book, which I hear was supposed to be part of the first book but they thought it was too long.
posted by interrobang at 10:36 PM on June 10, 2004


I read something once, from a small-town library. It was subtitled "The time travel book to end all time travel books" or something like that.

It makes a point of playing up every paradox involved. As I recall, it has to do with the hero being given a belt that allows the travel. He gives it to himself, of course.

Anyone know what book this was? I'm the sort who loves to re-read favorites. A habit that tends to keep me out of libraries and makes publishers happy. Fun when I have to move (frequently!).
posted by Goofyy at 1:12 AM on June 11, 2004


what? no one has mentioned Timequake? what's going on?
posted by gravelshoes at 2:25 AM on June 11, 2004


btw - where's my mix robot johnny? eh? eh?
posted by gravelshoes at 2:29 AM on June 11, 2004


Ronald Wright's A Scientific Romance is one of my favorite time-travel novels.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:31 AM on June 11, 2004


th3ph17: Infinite Cloudling 4 was retroactively deleted from the timestream in 2241 as having had a deleterious effect on the field; neither you nor anyone outside the Time Patrol should be aware of its existence. A Patrolman will be knocking on your door as you read this. You will let him in. This thread will be deleted and everyone's memory wiped. You time travelers cause too damn much trouble, and all for what? So you can impress the rubes with your knowledge of the future? "Hey, guess what, that horse ain't gonna win the Triple Crown, and your presidential candidate is gonna lose!" Is it really worth it?
posted by languagehat at 7:54 AM on June 11, 2004


It makes a point of playing up every paradox involved. As I recall, it has to do with the hero being given a belt that allows the travel. ... Anyone know what book this was?

It was David Gerrold's The Man Who Folded Himself, which I mentioned uptopic.
posted by kindall at 8:41 AM on June 11, 2004


languagehat and th3ph17: Anyone remember the time-travel story behind the title of Heinlein's Gulf?

If not, I'm afraid I'll have to notify Officer Walker concerning this thread.
posted by Stoatfarm at 11:09 AM on June 11, 2004


Stoatfarm: I've always loved that story, and I may have the "predicted" issue of ASF somewhere in my dad's overstuffed garage -- I can't remember what I have any more. (I really should put all those magazines in protective envelopes -- they're forty to sixty years old by now.)
posted by languagehat at 6:05 PM on June 11, 2004


"Timequake" is terrible; Vonnegut's worst book, even worse than "Slapstick".
posted by interrobang at 11:05 PM on June 11, 2004


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