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

 

The protagonist of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is Captain William Anthony “Buck” Rogers, a NASA pilot who flies an experimental shuttle in 1987. But a life support failure causes him to freeze – enter suspended animation – only to be successfully revived 500 years afterwards, in the 25th century (specifically, the year 2491).

 

After recovering from the shock of discovering everyone he has ever known is dead, Buck starts exploring the new world of the 25th century, and this is the focus of the show. Buck’s pilot and military training immediately qualify him to serve in the Earth Defense forces. Together with Colonel Wilma Deering, they embark on numerous adventures whose goal is saving the world.

 

As Buck finds out, much has changed in this time: the Earth is now a member of an interstellar empire controlled by Humans, and alien species – both friendly and hostile – have been long discovered. Unfortunately, the world is still a dangerous place. Thus, Buck often embarks on various missions to save the Earth from the series’ main villain, Princess Ardala – A ruthless (and yet attractive) maniac who wants nothing except to conquer the Earth and make Buck her mate [very 70s, I know]. There are other villains, of course.

 

Later on, Buck embarks on a space mission whose goal is looking for lost ‘pockets’ of humanity that have been in hiding since the nuclear war that has occurred on Earth in the 20th century.

 

During his adventures, Buck is brought in contact with various friends and foes: Hawk, an bird-like alien who’s the last surviving member of his species. Crichton, an arrogant Robot. There was also this weird alien creature that could ‘phase’ – and pass through living object (he used to be my favorite) – can’t remember how he was called, but he always used to freak me out.

 

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is one of the TV shows I grew up on as a kid, so it’s possible this review is somewhat biased. It is also possible I’d view it differently if I were to watch it now. But as a kid, I absolutely loved every single aspect of the show: the adventures, the characters, the new universe, the fact Buck is 500 years away from home. It was all so super-cool. Not to mention that I used to think that Buck is the epitome of what a guy should be (hey, I was 7), and had an early crush on Col. Deering (well she WAS very pretty).

 

Since this show was made in the 70s, it is similar to many other sci-fi shows of the time, for better or worse. i.e. Buck has a new girl every episode, though Colonel Wilma Deering is always the ‘true love’ just waiting for him.

 

In Summary: I can’t promise the show has aged well – though I remember it as a wonderful, creative and fun TV show I used to look forward to every week. I’m pretty sure I would still get a kick out of watching it now (I’m actually thinking of ordering the DVD.. hmm). If you’re in your late 20s and above, you’re probably going to love the show. Younger audiences might feel it is somewhat outdated.

 

By the way, I always felt Farscape (that fantasticSci-Fi show was in one large homage to Buck Rogers – even the into was very similar to Buck Rogers’ intro. Now that was one good show).

 


Link to the DVD of the entire series on Amazon

 

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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.

 


Link to the book’s details on Amazon.com

 

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endofeternity

Classification: Future Reality

 

Eternity is a futuristic organization whose goal is maintaining a stable yet prosperous society by altering various timelines in a very precise, scientific, manner [this is a recurring theme in Asimov's novels when one considers the Foundation series]. Spanning many millennia – from the 27th century to the 70,000th century – Eternity exists out of time: all eternals, as the employees of Eternity are called, reside in their own separate environment, a necessary condition so that they would not accidentally affect the timeline they observe.

 

Andrew Harlan, originally recruited from the 95th century, works as a technician for Eternity. His job consists of monitoring society in a range of several centuries; if he discovers something wrong (as per Eternity’s specifications), he steps in and ‘corrects’ it using Minimum Necessary Change, as it is called, to achieve the desired change in the timeline. One day, against his better judgment, and despite the fact it is forbidden, Andrew finds himself falling in love with a woman of residing in the societies he observes and must correct. Unwilling to let her be ‘erased’ when her timeline is changed, and fully understanding the gravity of this actions, Andrew becomes determined to save her. This, however, may have such wide ranging repercussions that Eternity itself is toppled.

 

The End of Eternity is not just one of the best Time Travel books – it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, and can be considered one of the great classics of Science Fiction. Asimov, being the grandmaster that he is, has created a fascinating and imaginative futuristic society. Written in his usual terse style, which personally I find appealing, The End of Eternity is a joy to read.

 

Asimov tackles some interesting philosophical questions, such as the delicate balance between refining what society has, and the need to take risks and explore new grounds. Furthermore, he skillfully addresses many of the questions that result from time travel: suppose we obtain a log from the future which contains a record of a someone performing a task; what does this really mean: can we rely on future history to tell us what the man is going to do, or does it merely indicate that the author of the log believed the man did what is ascribed to him? These are subtle issues, not often mentioned in a sub-genre that, in many ways, is dedicated to them. This is what makes the book not just a great novel, but a timeless classic.

 

In summary, this is a book that should not be missed. Science Fiction at its very best!

 


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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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.

 


Link to the book on Amazon.com

 

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Time Travel Movies