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


Classification: Plot Device

 

Just in case some reader hasn’t seen any of the Terminator movies (is there such a person?). Here’s a quick recap of the series: In the very near future, Skynet, a super-powerful military computer gains consciousness and declares war on Humanity. It is a bitter and costly war, billions of humans die, and in the end we almost lose: but thanks to John Connor, a resourceful and intelligent leader, we manage to win. However, Skynet has many tricks up its sleeve: in the first movie, it sends a Terminator, a cyborg that looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger to kill Sarah, John’s mother, before he is born, hoping to alter the timeline and assure a victory. But future John is aware of this plan, and so, he sends someone, a trusted lieutenant, Kyle Reese, to protect her (which he does, quite successfully – and becomes John’s father in the process). In terminator 2, John is a young teenager, and Skynet sends a powerful, shape-shifting new type of Terminator (the T-1000) to kill him. However, future John sends a ’standard’, Terminator to protect his younger counterpart (again, oddly enough, one that looks like Schwarzenegger. A pretty bad idea, IMO).

 

Terminator – The Sarah Connor Chronicles is the television equivalent of the Terminator movie franchise. It takes place somewhere between the second and the third movies, and presumably, things will take a different turn of events than they have in Terminator 3. In the show we follow the life of Sarah Connor, and her teenage son, John Connor – future leader of humanity and its savior against the war against the machine.

 

As it turns out, Skynet sends numerous Terminators to kill John and other important figures in the future human resistance. An additional goal of these terminators is setting up operations: machines, weapons, explosives, so that when the war begins, Skynet will be better prepared. Future John is aware of this, so he sends two of his most trusted allies to the past: Cameron, a reprogrammed female Terminator, and Derek Reese, the brother of Kyle Reese – John’s father. He also sends additional agents that work independently – though occasionally the gang has some contact with them.

 

The first season was pretty bland. We follow John’s life as a high school teenager, and episode after episode, he, his mother and Cameron hunt the occasional Terminator sent to the past. It’s not that it was a bad season, but it was just – well – not too interesting. The series does have an additional story, focusing on Cromartie, a terminator sent specifically to kill John (unlike most of the others) that has proven to be quite persistent, resourceful – and very dangerous.

 

After finishing the first season, I nearly gave up the show. It wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t sure it’s good enough to justify spending time watching it. However, in the second season there was a dramatic improvement. The show stopped killing Terminators every week but started developing a much more complex plot, one that involves future flashbacks. The season included elements such as: a T-1000 (the shapeshifting new type of Terminator) being sent to the past and tries to build skynet – and strangely – teach him ethics. Riley, John’s girlfriend – who knows a lot more about the future than she lets John know. Jesse, supposedly a refugee from the future, but in reality following an agenda of her own. In the second season, Terminator – The Sarah Connor Chronicles became much better. In fact, it’s probably my favorite Sci-Fi TV show on the air (and that’s saying a lot).

 

What I particularly liked about the second season is that it became, darker, much darker – and also – what’s the word I’m looking for: philosophical. For example, there is an episode which focuses on Cameron (the reprogrammed terminator). Since she doesn’t sleep, she likes going at night to libraries to read books and watch old movies in an attempt to gain a better understanding of humans (always a smart thing to better know your prey). During one such visit, she spots an anomaly in one of the old movies from the 20s: she recognizes a Terminator that from some reason was sent there. This causes Cameron to initiate an investigation into the matter in order to discover why was a terminator sent to such a far point of time, and how could its mission be averted.

 

(Skip if you don’t like spoilers): as we later find out, this was not the goal of Skynet: as a result of a malfunction, the poor Terminator simply arrived in the wrong time, and accidentally killed someone in a fire, causing the timeline to diverge. Determined to achieve its mission, it spends decades doing various uncharacteristic things (starting businesses, driving competitors out of business, etc) only so it could restore the timeline to what it is supposed to be, and accomplish its mission: which is to kill someone.

 

This episode is completely unrelated to the main story. In fact, a viewer could skip it and not lose anything. However, including such a ‘minor’ plot adds so much to the series. Not only it is a very intriguing mystery (why was the terminator there?) and a compelling story (how did it restore the timeline?), but we also learn a lot about terminators in general, and Cameron specifically. In my opinion, including this type of episode in a show is what turns a good series into a great series. It’s taking the time to fill in the small details. (one comparable example I can think of is ‘Lower decks’, the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode that focuses on several junior officers).

 

Although the series is not over, and things may very well deteriorate, right now I’d give the first season 3.5/5.0, and the second season: 4.5/5.0. However, so far the second season just keeps improving: and I expect greatness from the next seasons. All in all, highly recommended. I just hope it won’t let us down like other shows that used to be good.

 


Terminator – The Sarah Connor Chronicles: the first season on Amazon.com

Terminator – The Sarah Connor Chronicles: the second season on Amazon.com

 

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Classification: Future Reality

 

Idiocracy begins when Corporal Joe Bauers, an average soldier (”Joe Average”), is picked for a top secret special experiment. And when I say average, I mean – scientifically average, on every conceivable scale. An additional participant in the experiment is Rita, a prostitute trying to run from her pimp (”Upgrayedd”).

 

As Joe finds out, because he has no family and no attachments, he could be put in a special hibernation device, in which he will sleep for exactly one year, and then wake up. The goal of this study is to enabling soldiers to stay dormant for long periods of time – something the military could find useful.

 

Agreeing to this deal, Joe goes to sleep. But unfortunately, the project gets abandoned somewhere down the road, and 500 years pass before he and Rita are revived – even this occurs purely by accident (the “Great Garbage Avalanche of 2505″).

 

After waking up, Joe is unsure what is going on. Feeling he should see a doctor, he goes to a hospital. But the hospitals are quite different from what he’s used to: the clerk uses a machine to diagnose him – one that is oddly similar to a McDonalds food order machine – and the Doctor’s diagnosis is simply that he’s “fucked up”.

 

Unhappy with this resolution, Joe quickly discovers he’s in bigger trouble. Unfortunately, he has no way to pay for the services he received, and is also no longer marked as a citizen. As a result, Joe is rapidly put on a trial, is found guilty, and finds himself in prison.

 

As Joe slowly discovers, the world of the 26th century is not what we have been dreaming about. It’s a world where commercialism and anti-intellectualism have been allowed to continue in their present trajectory. A world where literally, every single person is an utter idiot. Although the film does mock the future culture, this is not a slapstick comedy – the portrayal of the future is consistent and is quite serious when one thinks about it.

 

This world is in complete disrepair: enormous mountains of garbage, collapsing skyscrapers, food shortages – this is not because people don’t care (though they don’t seem to care much about anything except television), but because they simply don’t know how to maintain things anymore. For example, at some point Joe finds out that the food shortages are a result of the crops dying – which occurs because they are being watered with Brawndo, a Gatorade like futuristic beverage. When he suggests replacing this with water everyone protest because “It has electrolytes!” (they don’t know what it is, when he asks).

 

But Joe has one big advantage. In the 26th century, he is literally the smartest person alive – much smarter than anyone else. Joe must figure how to use his awe-inspiring intellect to get out of this predicament, and find a way to return to the past (his defense lawyer, Frito Pendejo, told him that one such “Time Machine” exists).

 

Although Idiocracy is in many ways the ultimate Dystopia, it gave me a chilling feeling that it is not that far fetched. The film examines the theory that we – humanity as a whole – are getting dumbed down as there’s no more evolutionary pressure exerted on us. Furthermore, as the modern intelligent person often doesn’t have time for making kids, and if he does, it’s only one or two, the overall result is increasingly levels of stupidity in the population.

 

The portrayal of the future felt very convincing, and even though the movie didn’t obviously try to be perceived as a comedy (although it clearly is), there are numerous moments that are purely hilarious. For example, in the 26th century, the best movie of the year is called “Ass”, and is simply a 90 minute movie about a person’s ass which occasionally farts. It gets absolute roars in the movie theater, and wins an Oscar.

 

Mike Judge, the creator of this movie (and of the fantastic Office Space – which unfortunately I can’t review since it has no Time Travel elements), has crafted a sharp satire about the way society is deteriorating. Although I believe (and dearly hope!) he’s mostly wrong, some of what we see in the future he suggests feel all too possible.

 

My summary: In general, I felt this is an excellent movie, and I really enjoyed it. That being said, I’m not entirely certain why it wasn’t more successful. Although at times it feels that many of the jokes repeat themselves, I doubt this is the reason. Oh well. Idiocracy is a funny, sharp and witty satire: highly recommended!

 


Link to the DVD’s details on Amazon.com

 

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aworldoutoftime

Classification: Future Reality

 

After finding out he has terminal cancer, Jaybee Corbell decides to place himself in suspended animation in the hope that in the future it will be possible to revive him and cure his cancer. After all, he is only in his mid 40s, and surely in the future it’ll be a simple matter to cure him. 200 years pass, and Jaybee wakes up in a world very different from what he remembers – strangely, in a body not his own.

 

As Jaybee quickly finds out, in the 22nd century, the world is controlled by a single totalitarian government, and he does not have any rights anymore. In fact, he has only been brought back from the dead (his consciousness placed in the body of a mindwiped criminal) to perform a task as ‘payment’ for his resurrection. His mission: pilot a spaceship towards unknown space, and find planets suitable for terraforming. He is informed that unless he complies, a different consciousness will be placed in the body he occupies – effectively, destroying everything that’s left of him.

 

Jaybee pretends to be complying, but when he is certain he could no longer be stopped, he redirects his spaceship towards a black hole in the center of the galaxy. His goal is to benefit from relativity, that is, reach a a spatial area where time travels slower in relation to normal space. Ideally, this will propel him enough into the future that he could return back without any repercussions.

 

His attempt is a success and when he finally reaches Earth, he finds out that 3 million years have passed. However, in this time the Earth has become a much worse place than it was before. In this terrible future, the Earth is controlled by the Boys, the immortal descendants of humanity (who look like children) who capture him. What will he do? I don’t want to spoil the book, so read the book to find out.

 

This is one of the first time travel books I’ve ever read, and I consider it one of the classics. It has many of the ingredients necessary for a good time travel story: a diverse journey to the future (or the past), interesting setting/s, and a driven protagonist. Although the book does suffer from a malady many other older science fiction novels suffer from, namely, poor characterization, it still makes a very fun read and is highly enjoyable.

 

In summary: Not Niven’s greatest creation (that would be “The Mote in God’s Eye”), but still an excellent book, I recommend this to anyone who wants to a light read and does not expect a masterpiece.

 


Link to the book’s details on Amazon.com

 

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chrnoliths

Classification: Effects of Time Travel Technologies on Society

 

Imagine that one day, a 200-foot indestructible blue obelisk suddenly appeared in your home town, killing hundreds and causing great destruction. Now what would you say if the inscription on the obelisk commemorated the town’s military conquest, and declared that this unpleasant future is only 16 years away? This is the premise of this novel: in the year 2021, one after the other, enormous obelisks (suitably named Chronoliths) begin appearing all over the world announcing its upcoming conquest by the enigmatic “Warlord Kuin”, a military commander no one has heard of.

 

Although the underlying premise is fictional, the novel focuses on what would’ve happened to society if something like this were to happen. Consider this: what would happen to the world, if everyone knew, for a fact, that in merely a few decades some previously unknown military organization would change life as we know it. Such a belief has powerful worldwide ramifications, in fact, these are strong enough to trigger unrest, and potentially result in the very future everyone fear coming true. Then again, who knows whether this future is fixed – perhaps there is a way for this impending disaster to be averted?

 

These issues, through the eyes of the main characters, are the focus of the book. It offers some of the best developed characters I have had the pleasure to read. Unsurprisingly, this makes for a very dark and depressing novel: it is not an optimistic novel that cheerfully describes a bright future. But that is also its strength: it just feels real.

 

In summary, this book will appeal to people who are interested in the “what if” scenario of such a cataclysmic event. If if you find that interesting, you will love the book.

 


Link to the book’s details on Amazon.com

 

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maroonedinrealtime

Classification: Future Reality

 

Although Marooned in Realtime continues the plot which begins with The Peace War, it is a completely separate novel. In fact, The Peace War only serves as the background: Marooned in Realtime is a very different novel.

 

As mentioned in my review for The Peace War, somewhere in the early 21st century, the Peace Authority, an unknown organization at that point, was able to conquer the world using an irresistible weapon, the “bobbler”, which creates an impenetrable force field that surrounds key areas, essentially freezing these areas in time. What the Peace Authority did not know is that these force fields eventually dissipate, thus, releasing their contents to the world. From the occupants’ perspective, no time has passed at all – they suddenly find themselves in the future. The length of the stasis can range from a few hours to thousands of years.

 

The story begins in the very far future: some 50 million years from now. The Earth has been long abandoned – something happened in the 23rd century which caused all humans to disappear – and several bobbles which were created in The Peace War and the centuries afterward are finally beginning to unfreeze.

 

The survivors of these bobbles find themselves stranded in a desolate place, and slowly begin to rebuild civilization in the empty world. In order to increase the population size, this group of survivors periodically bobbles itself for periods of time, looking for new survivors every time it unfreezes. However, after one such event, it is discovered that Marta Korolev, one of the most popular members, was stranded behind – essentially “Marooned in realtime”. Although for the group no time has passed at all, Marta has been trapped alone for many decades, and when the bobble finally dissipates, the group finds her long dead. Quickly it is discovered that this is no accident, and that someone has done this intentionally. This is effectively murder, made particularly malevolent by the fact in the empty Earth, every human is extremely precious. Who is doing this, and why?

 

This is the premise to Marooned in Realtime. Unlike its predecessor, the book is a murder mystery, and a very good one. Although it is based on The Peace War, it very different in story and tone. However, as before, the story is well written and the characters are well developed: one really starts feeling for them.

 

Marooned in Realtime also discusses a secondary mystery: why did humanity vanish? This introduces the reader to the Singularity: one of Vinge’s favorite topics, and makes for a very interesting back story.

 

Overall, I thought this is a great book: It’s intelligent, imaginative and enjoyable. I highly recommend it.

 


Link to the book on Amazon.com

 

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peacewar

Classification: Plot Device

 

I wasn’t sure whether I should review The Peace War. Although it is a fantastic book, it does not exactly involve time travel, though a time altering device is used. However, in order to understand the second novel – an excellent and worthy novel in its own right – it is important to be familiar with The Peace War.

 

The Peace War describes the near future: only a few years from today, the Peace Authority, an unknown organization until this point, appears and begins conquering strategic points using a new type of irresistible weapon: the “bobbler”. The bobbler creates an impenetrable force field that surrounds key areas, essentially freezing these areas in time. By very quickly creating bobbles around military bases and other strategic areas, the Peace Authority is able, surprisingly quickly, to take over the entire world.

 

The plot begins fifty years after the Peace Authority has conquered the world. By now The Peace Authority is a well established, tyrannical organization, that has banned all research in technology for fear that someone may be able to discover a way to defeat it. Although it appears that the Peace Authority cannot be stopped because of their ultimate weapon, small groups have began working in secret on research with the goal of discovering a weapon to defeat the authority.

 

The Peace War describes the story of Paul Naismith, the inventor of the Bobbler technology who’s now working in secrecy with the rebellion in an attempt to undo the harm he has done.

 

Overall, I thought this is a superb book. It’s very well written and highly enjoyable. The plot advances very quickly, and it’s very easy to imagine it being made into a movie (mark my words, it will happen!). Highly recommended!

 


Link to the book on Amazon.com

 

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timemachine

Classification: Future Reality

 

In The Time Machine, we are introduced to a British inventor (who is never named) living in London at the end of the 19th century. Using the technology of the time, he builds a machine capable of traversing time – a Time Machine. Out of curiosity and adventuring spirit, he embarks on a journey to the far future, namely, the year 802,701. This period is so far removed from our own society, that the human race has split into two races: the simple and peaceful Eloi, and the predatory Morlocks, both races clearly not as intelligent as an average 19th century human. The book chronicles of the adventures of the Time Traveler.

 

It may be hard to believe, but The Time Machine was written in 1895. It’s astounding to consider that this book – a book that attempted to predict the very far future – was written before World Wars I and II, before television, before computers, before commercial air flight. As a result of the enormous number of science fiction movies and books, we take such ideas for granted – but H.G. Wells was the first to come up with this concept. In fact, according to Wikipedia, H.G. Wells can be credited with inventing the very concept of a Time Machine, and certainly was the first to call such a machine a Time Machine. Consequently, as the first book in the Time Travel sub-genre, The Time Machine may feel like a cliche to modern readers. [Note that I've just found that Edward Page Mitchell wrote a short Time Travel story 14 years before Wells. Still, the fact this is a short story, and basically no one has heard of it, Wells still deserves the title]

 

Because of the book’s status, several authors have attempted to create unofficial sequels to The Time Machine. I review Stephen Baxter’s excellent ’sequel’, The Time Ships.

 

Judged on its own, the book is good but not great. However, put in context, namely, the period in which it was written, The Time Machine can and should be considered a classic. Considering the short length of the novel, I think every Time Travel lover should feel obligated to read it.

 


Link to the book on Amazon.com

 

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accidentaltimemachine

 

Classification: Future Reality

 

Matt Fuller is a graduate student at MIT. During one of his experiments in measuring quantum relationships between gravity and light, he finds out that the machine he used for testing has an unexpected – and unexplained – side effect: it’s (sort off) a time machine! To his delight, Matt discovers that every time he activates it, the machine sends itself and metallic objects connected to it to the future, and interestingly, every time the trip is 12 times longer than the previous trip. Meaning, the first time it goes 1 second to the future, then 12 seconds, then 144 seconds (roughly 3 1/2 minutes) and so on.

 

Not long afterward, Matt’s girlfriend decides to leave him, and his boss decides to let him go. Realizing he has much to gain by proving to the world he has a time machine, Matt decides to journey to the not-so-distant future by buying a used car and connecting it to the machine. However, things don’t go as planned: the car seller drops dead after seeing Matt vanish before his eyes. All evidence points to Matt, and once he reappears, he is immediately charged with murder. After receiving mysterious help, Matt is able to escape and begins exploring ever more distant futures…

 

The premise – to me – sounded very good. Furthermore, I really like Joe Haldeman’s books and style of writing (short and concise), so when I bought the book I was quite certain it’s going to be excellent. However, the book somehow missed out. For starters, none of the futures Matt reaches is too interesting, and many feel like Cliches (the Utopian future, the future where humanity has reverted to barbarism, the ‘weird’ future, etc). True, it is hard to come up with truly original material, but many of these futures felt like they were ‘borrowed’ from other novels. In addition, I thought the ending is very anticlimactic and really quite disappointing.

 

To summarize: in general, a fun book, but don’t expect too much, in particular if you’re familiar with other Time Travel novels.

 


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cronos

 

Classification: Anthology

 

One of the things that always appealed to me with science fiction novels is the ’sense of wonder’ one gets when the book is really good. I’m not sure why, but modern science fiction isn’t able to achieve this often. It’s something I really miss. Consequently, I was (very) pleasantly surprised when Cronos was able to capture this long lost feeling – and not only once, but three times!

 

Letters from Atlantis
Ranking: 4 Stars
The first story introduces the reader to Roy, who is sent 20,000 years back in time. However, Roy does not travel physically – only his mind makes the journey. Upon getting to the past he finds himself inside the mind of the prince of Atlantis (which hasn’t been destroyed yet) – and what he sees greatly surprises him… I’m not going to reveal any of the plot, just that it’s a good story – even though it’s my least favorite of the three.

 

Project Pendulum
Ranking: 5 Stars
The second story is definitely my favorite. It tells the story of twin brothers who are sent to a journey through time. But there’s a caveat: since matter has to be preserved, whenever one is in the future, the other must be exactly in the same ‘temporal distance’ away in the past (So, for example, when the first brother is 50 years in the future, the other brother is 50 years in the past). Furthermore, as a result of time travel physics, each time they travel, the length of their journey increases tenfold. Meaning, the first brother is sent 5 minutes forward, when the second brother is sent 5 minutes backward, and then the first brother goes 50 minutes forward, and so on: 500 minutes, 5000 minutes, 50,000 minutes, etc. This interval reaches 90 million years in the future and in the past, which is when their journey ends.

 

As you can imagine, since the brothers explore a wide variety of timelines, every jump is a story of its own. Robert Silverberg really managed to do this well – he kept every jump interesting while still not repeating himself. Fantastic story.

 

The Time Hoppers
Ranking: 5 Stars
The third story has a distinct Asimovian feel to it. If you liked Isaac Asimov’s “The End of Enternity” you will definitely love this story. The story introduces Quellen – a lowly crime investigator living in the 25th century. Apparently, the 25th century turns into quite a dystopia. Too many people and too few jobs cause most people to live unemployed and in quite bad conditions. Many have found that the best way to escape this is to jump into the past. However, the government isn’t all too happy about this, so assigns Quellen to investigate how this is accomplished and put a stop to this.

 

To summarize: Three excellent stories which capture the wonder of Sci-Fi. All quite different, but all good – I recommend this book to all time travel lovers, and even if you’re not really a fan of this sub-genre, you will still probably like these stories.

 


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Time Travel Movies