Ultimate Time Travel
Books, Movies, TV Shows and Everything Time Travel


Classification: Alternate Reality

 

A Sound of Thunder is the movie version of Ray Bradbury’s famous short story. This short story is responsible for the term “the butterfly effect”… and now that I’ve told you that, you can probably guess the movie’s entire plot. The movie version is slightly different from the short story, though the basic idea is the same.

 

A couple of decades from now, in 2055, a company perfects a technology that enables sending people back in time. Primarily intending the technology to be used for money making, they offer a tourist package to wealthy people: pay a hefty fee, and go back with a tour guide on a great dinosaur hunting adventure.

 

As a side note, one can’t help but wonder why the inventors of this technology simply cannot go back a few days and – oh, I don’t know – buy lottery tickets that with the winning numbers (which are already known in the present). Nonetheless, this is generally a legitimate premise.

 

Back to the plot: there are two types of risks for the company. The first is that someone may get hurt: dinosaurs are exceptionally dangerous creatures, and even with a highly trained team, something can still go wrong. The second is subtler: during a trip to the past, there is a risk that something may be changed that will propagate through time and affect the present in catastrophic ways.

 

In order to ward off this dangerous possibility, the company has a very specific set of rules on how the tourists and personnel should act: they are only allowed to walk on a designated path, which is heavily monitored by the security personnel. Furthermore, they are only allowed to shoot a specific dinosaur that is already known to have died in the near future. Thus, they believe the timeline would be preserved.

 

But something goes wrong: when a tyrannosaurus rex fails to die, a client panics and leaves the approved path. Fortunately, the security team takes over and nothing bad happens. Everyone then quickly returns to the present, and are relieved to see all is as it should be. Phew!

 

But not long afterwards certain things begin to change… and not just once, but multiple times. A careful investigation finds that when the client went off the path, he accidentally stepped on a prehistoric butterfly-like creature, which is found, dead, on the tourist’s shoe. Apparently, this started a cascade of events that has enormous ramifications on the present. I won’t spoil the rest – you’ll have to see the movie to find out!

 

Bradbury’s short story is a classic, in particular since it illustrates a subtle point very well. In the story, someone accidentally steps on a butterfly, and when he returns everything is completely different – the entire society is transformed. In my opinion, this is really how the story should be told. However, since translating this story into film will only take 20-25 minutes, the movie drags the point much, much longer.

 

Even worse, the movie turns this rather imaginative premise to an action/horror movie… and not even a good one! Although the acting was not bad, the plot dragged way too long, the effects weren’t that good, and – well – it wasn’t that interesting! I don’t intend to spoil the movie, but the final scene was unintentionally comical (it was probably supposed to be horrific!). Really gave me a good laugh.

 

In summary, an okay action/sci-fi movie, if you have nothing else to do. Otherwise, skip it.

 


Link to the DVD on Amazon.com

 

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bonesoftheearth

Classification: Past Time Travel

 

Bones of the Earth introduces us to paleontologist Richard Leyster. One day, in the very near future, a government agent steps into Richard’s office and offers him the opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to study real, live dinosaurs. Using a time machine, whose mysterious origins are only given at the end of the novel, several researchers would be transported to the past, specifically, the several eras between the Triassic to the Cretaceous, and will be able to study creatures indigenous to these time periods.

 

Even though at this point the book may appear to be very similar to many other novels, the standard “paleontologist travels back in time to see dinosaurs” story, it has several unique subplots.

 

Many time travel novels fail to perceive the entire scope of the effect time travel technology could have. For example, if someone has a time machine, what’s to stop him from going to the future and finding the solutions of problems he’s currently working on? Bones of the Earth does not fall in this trap. For starters, since the agency organizing the expedition is going to exist in the future as well as the present, the researchers it sends back in time may come from many different times. Consequently, it is possible that knowledge that is widely available in the time of some members will not have been discovered yet in the others’ time. If a slip up occurs, it has the potential of changing the timeline, something the organization wants to avoid at all costs. Furthermore, it’s even possible that the two separate ‘versions’ of the same person from two different periods will work together, as long as the older version does not reveal anything to the younger version.

 

An additional subplot deals with a fundamentalist terrorist group that is determined to infiltrate the organization, and send objects through time so it could discredit archeology forever. These terrorists aim to send modern as well as fictional artifacts to the past, so that archeologists will find them in the present. Something like this has the potential of doing great harm.

 

The novel speculates a lot on the ecology and behavior of prehistoric creatures. This increases the realism of the plot, since the protagonist is a paleontologist, and also makes for a very interesting read. Whether or not the author is correct in his theories is besides the point.

 

All in all, the book is populated by a large number of interesting – and not so interesting – characters. Scientists, religious nuts, terrorists. Not to mention the “Old Man”, the enigmatic person who has total control of the organization. It’s a stimulating tale of time travel that offers a few new perspectives on a popular premise. However, some of the subplots were boring and overall, I felt the book was trying to accomplish too much (the love story and the sex scenes probably could’ve been removed!). It was definitely not an easy read – the reader really has to pay attention to all the details.

 

Although I recommend this book, I feel I could give it a higher ranking because I found some of the subplots to be boring, and in general, the book was a challenging read.

 


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bestimetravel

Classification: Anthology

 

This is an excellent collection of 18 short time travel stories. It includes work by some of the greatest sci-fi authors such as Larry Niven, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, and Robert Silverberg. Most of these short stories are fairly light, and none is a masterpiece, though some are quite good. My favorites include:

 

A Sounds of Thunder: Ray Bradbury’s famous short story (there’s even a movie!) tells the tale of a wealthy man gone on a time travel trip to hunt dinosaurs in which he accidentally steps on a butterfly. Once he returns to the present, everything is different. This is, by the way, the origin of the ‘Butterfly Effect’ theory. A classic.

 

Rainbird: tells the story of an accomplished inventor who goes back in time to teach himself the lessons he has accumulated during his life, so that he would reach even greater heights. But not always things go as planned. Possibly the best story in the collection.

 

Death Ship: Three astronauts are trapped in a scary temporal loop. Excellent.

 

Timetipping: Jack Dann’s excellent story describes a world in which everyone can time travel (or ‘Timetip’) in, except for the protagonist, Paley Litwak. Weird but amusing.

 

This is certainly a very good collection that all Time Travel lovers will like – even though I don’t think it qualifies for the title “The Best Time Travel Stories of the 20th Century”…

 


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timeships

Classification: Past and Future Time Travel

 

The Time Ships is the unofficial sequel to H.G. Wells’ famous novel, The Time machine.

 

Written more than a century after the original was published, The Time Ships directly continues where The Time Machine stops: The Time Traveler goes back to the year 802,701 to save his Eloi friend, Weena, from the bestial Morlocks. But the plot does not stop there: the Time Traveler continues his journey through time, visiting the year 1939 (the future from his perspective – remember, his present is 1891!), his own past (the year 1873: where he meets his younger self), the deep past (50 million BC!), an alternate reality of 1891, the far future again, and back and forth.

 

This book is a celebration for any time travel lover: the protagonist travels to the far future and the distant past, back and forth and back and forth, each trip being very different from the other, and yet all trips are highly imaginative and very original. Furthermore, it successfully captures the style and the ‘feeling of wonder’ created by the original – no simple feat! The only difference being that The Time Machine is hard-core science fiction (unlike the original), and as such, uses modern concepts and goes much more deeply into the underlying quantum physics than the original. This does not conflict with the story, but in fact greatly enhances the plot. To be fair, H.G. Wells couldn’t have written anything about quantum physics or Dyson Spheres in the 19th century without using a time machine himself!

 

In summary: fantastic! Certainly a must for lovers of the genre. I’m quite confident H.G. Wells himself would’ve liked the novel, and would’ve been proud to call it a sequel to his own work.

 


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corruptingdrnice

 

Classification: Past Time Travel

Corrupting Dr. Nice has a fantastic premise. Imagine that time travel is easily available and incurs very few complications. Even more interestingly, it is possible to travel to MUs – Moment Universes, which are like copies of our universe at a given point in time, and do anything we want without any fear of changing the future or creating paradoxes.

 

This means that effectively we have the ultimate “What If?” scenario generator: it is possible to travel to a certain point in time and behave in some way, and afterwards go to the same moment – only in a different Moment Universe – and act differently. Imagine: going back in time and killing Brutus when he tries to murder Ceasar in one universe, helping Brutus in another universe, and killing both in a third.

 

The book’s protagonist is Dr. Owen Vannice, a billionaire paleontologist. Owen is trying to smuggle a dinosaur to the year 2062. But things do not go well: he gets entangled with two con artists (a father and daughter) who trick people in different time periods. But that’s not all: one of these falls in love with Owen.

 

Until this point, I’m sure the book sounds good – no? Then why did I give it a low ranking?

 

Several reasons. For starters, the story is utterly filled with logic inconsistencies. The author constantly contradicts himself, and the most annoying thing is that the author simply avoids certain “problems” with his theories – he doesn’t even bother finding solutions for them… simply ignores them altogether. How can one take seriously a time travel novel which doesn’t even raise the possibility of traveling to the future? Or ignores the possibility of meeting yourself in the past? Or meeting time travelers from the future, who come to the present to visit YOUR Moment Universe?

 

Although reading sci-fi novels requires a certain suspension of belief, this is going to far. It was bad enough that it had a strong impact on my enjoying this novel.

 

But there’s more: instead of focusing on the interesting aspects of the premise, the book focused on the love affair of the main character. I know how to enjoy a good love story (particularly a good time travel story – see “The Time Traveler’s Wife”) – but this was just plain boring. The fact that I couldn’t stand any of the main characters didn’t really help this either.

 

Another wasted idea in the book: the kidnapping of historical figures and bringing them to the present. This is actually a really good premise. How would Abraham Lincoln react when he sees modern day America? What would Thomas Edison say about computers? The possibilities are endless. But what does the novel do with this premise: Mozart becomes a pop star, Jesus starts a talk show, Abraham Lincoln becomes a PR representative.. It’s as if these historical figures just wanted to drop everything, leave their families (and timeline), and come to the future to do silly tasks. Utterly ridiculous – completely unbelievable.

 

In summary: An excellent premise – but the book is bad. If you really find the premise interesting, read Joshua Dann’s Timeshare trilogy… it wasn’t a masterpiece, but certainly much better than this. Otherwise, avoid this book. It’s a shame, because it could have been really, really good.

 


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endofanera1

 

Classification: Past Time Travel

 

The last book I read by Robert J. Sawyer was “Calculating God”, which was a phenomenal book, and became one of my all time favorites. Hoping for another book of the same caliber, I got “End of an Era”. In my experience, it’s not often that an author writes two superb novels in a row – but Mr. Sawyer managed to do just that!

 

As for the plot:
Brandon Thackery, a Canadian Paleontologist (sounds familiar? Sawyer’s protagonist in “Calculating God” was a Canadian Paleontologist as well) receives an amazing offer. He – together with Miles “Klicks” Jordan, his best friend/nemesis (Miles stole Brandon’s wife) – are to travel back in time 65 million years in order to, potentially, resolve one of the greatest contemporary mysteries: discover what killed the dinosaurs. How can any paleontologist say no to such an offer? Of course he accepts.

 

Once Brandon and Miles arrive to the past, they get to witness, in person, the late Mesozoic era, and watch and interact with dinosaurs. But there are a few unexpected things… really unexpected things. First, the Earth’s gravity is about a third of what it should be. Second, there is a second moon in Earth’s orbit. Third, and most surprising, the earth is populated by enigmatic intelligent aliens, which apparently can control the dinosaurs.

 

Faced with this strange situation, Brandon finds himself investigating the original mystery he set to resolve – and in addition discover how the Earth could’ve changed so much in merely 65 million years.

 

I am sure this setting already has you intrigued, and trust me, this book promises and delivers!

 

“End of an Era” was a fantastic, fabulous story and I enjoyed every minute I spent reading it. It contains everything a good science fiction story should have: a great idea, great writing, fast pace, hard science, and themes which remain with you long after you finish the book. And believe me, you won’t forget this book for a while.

 

In my opinion, this book would literally appeal to everyone: to those who like action and adventure, as well as those who love serious themes. The book continues the ideas started in “Calculating God”, although is a bit lighter and less serious. All in all: a fantastic science fiction novel.

 


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Time Travel Movies