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


Classification: Plot Device

 

Donnie Darko, the protagonist of the film, is a seventeen year old strange teenager living in Virginia suffering from some serious mental issues (for which he takes medication). Donnie is a social outsider: he has difficulties interacting with his teachers. He is also not very good at making friends. The only person who understands him – at least more than the rest – is his girlfriend, Gretchen.

 

One night, while sleepwalking, Donnie goes outside his house. When he wakes up, he sees a man-sized, horrific looking bunny. The bunny, who calls himself Frank, tells him that in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds, the world will end. The strangeness doesn’t end here: while Donnie is speaking to Frank, an engine falls of a plane and crashes on the roof of Donnie’s house, destroying his room in the process. This bizarre sleepwalking incident saved Donnie’s life!

 

In the next few days, Donnie’s life turns even more surreal than it is. He begins hallucinating about Frank: at first Frank instructs him to vandalize the school mascot. Then he tries to convince Donnie that he can’t get into trouble anymore. Despite taking medications, and even undergoing hypnotherapy, Frank continues appearing to Donnie. Donnie is confused, more so by the fact Frank hints he can see him by usage of Time Travel, thus, making Donnie obsessed with the subject.

 

This is where I stop. I don’t want to say anything anymore, since the rest may spoil the plot.

 

Donnie Darko has one of the most unusual premises I’ve seen. When I first heard of it, I knew I absolutely had to watch it. And it doesn’t disappoint. Although it basically describes the life of one (almost) average teenager in high school: it’s not the average teenage movie by a long shot. Instead, Donnie Darko is a highly atmospheric, gloomy, creepy film, populated with grotesque characters. On top of that, the acting is superb and the soundtrack is exceptional (have you heard Gary Jules’ Mad World?).

 

While watching the movie, at first I was hooked by the big mysteries: Is Frank real? And if so, who is he? Why does he look like a large mutated bunny? Will the world really end in 28 days? But the film is memorable for other reasons. Although I don’t normally like surreal movies, Donnie Darko can be said to be a spiritual journey: it’s as if we are going on a journey with Donnie; during the course of the movie, we start to deeply care about the pitfalls he faces and his overall fate. I rarely get this feeling from movies or books (in fact, the only other example I have is of a novel I reviewed, An Exaltation of Larks).

 

The best part is the ending. It’s the kind of emotional yet unpredictable ending that makes you want to watch the whole thing again. Better yet, if the message speaks to you, you are changed by this story. Uplifted by Donnie’s journey.

 

I know some consider Donnie Darko to be highly overrated. Perhaps that may be true. But it is definitely one of my all time favorites. it is also quite hard to understand at times. Some say that to completely understand it, one must watch all the extra scenes in the special edition DVD – a claim I agree with.

 

In summary, Donnie Darko is not a cult movie by accident: it is thought provoking, surreal and beautiful. Unusually bizarre, and yet highly compelling, Donnie Darko is a must for lovers of the genre. That being said, it is likely that many would probably not like the film for these very reasons.

 


Click to see Donnie Darko (The Director’s Cut: Two-Disc Special Edition) on Amazon

 

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tosaynothing

Classification: Past and Future Time Travel

 

It is the year 2057. Lady Schrapnell is a wealthy patron of Oxford’s university time travel research unit (time travel being already an established science). She promises to provide ample funding, if the unit can help her build an exact replica of Coventry Cathedral, which was destroyed by Nazi bombing in 1940. The unit is so eager to get her endowment, that every member is going back and forth in time, looking for items which existed in the destroyed cathedral. One particular item, an esoteric piece of furniture called the Bishop’s Bird Stump is proving exceptionally hard to track down: was it stolen? burned during the bombing? No one manages to find an answer.

 

Ned Henry, the protagonist of To Say Nothing of the Dog – together with his teammates, repeatedly finds himself going to various periods in search of the elusive object. It’s almost as if someone is trying to keep this object from them. But the lady’s search eventually proves to be too much for poor Ned; after numerous jaunts to the past, Ned contracts a severe case of “Time Lag”. Thus, he goes for two weeks of rest in Oxford circa 1888. There he meets another time traveler, Verity Kindle, and realizes that he must fix a time anomaly accidentally caused by Verity when she brought something from the past.

 

Even worse, Ned’s very presence accidentally causes two lovers to never meet, and unintentionally he introduces someone to the girl whom she quickly falls in love with. He and Verity must to fix this as well, but the problem is that they are not exactly sure whom the girl was supposed to marry – her diary (which they’ve seen in the future) was unfortunately damaged in exactly the section describing these events.

 

Somehow the events of the missing Bird Stump related to what’s going on in 1888. But how? And can this be fixed?

 

To Say Nothing of the Dog weaves a very complicated story, with very memorable characters. I admit it took me three separate occasions to get to the hang of things, and I almost gave up. But I’m so glad I pulled through as it has become one of my all time favorite novels. It involves comedy, mystery, romance, Victorian etiquette, time travel, science and unresolved paradoxes. At times it can get confusing, but I advise the reader to bear with the novel – it’s absolutely worth it.

 

One of the novel’s strength is its humor. It is very hard to create a serious and believable story, and yet continue seeing the funny aspects. This is more the case when it comes to time travel stories. But the author successfully captures the ridiculous aspects of time travel and the Victorian era (and there are so many). More so, the humor feels right at home historically speaking (it’s often a comedy of manners, think “The importance of being Earnest”).

 

In terms of time travel, this is one of the few novels that is able to create multiple threads the reader knows must eventually be tied together, and yet do this in a satisfying – and unpredictable – manner without resorting to cheating or some pseudo-mystical solution. It’s a novel that constantly keeps you guessing.

 

In summary: To Say Nothing of the Dog is a very witty, very funny time travel novel. Despite being a highly ambitious novel, when one considers the number of things it’s trying to achieve, it does not disappoint for a moment. Highly recommended!

 


Link to the book’s details 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.

 


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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anubisgates

Classification: Past Time Travel

 

In 1983 a wealthy man, J. Cochran Darrow, discovers a way to travel to the past. He hires Brendan Doyle, an English professor who’s an expert on Coleridge, to take a group of ten tourists – each having paid a million dollars – to 1810, specifically, to attend a lecture given by Coleridge himself. To Doyle, a scholar researching the biography of the mysterious poet William Ashbless, this is a dream come true – a once in a lifetime opportunity – and he, of course, accepts the offer. However, the plan goes awry: just before attempting to return to the present, Doyle is kidnapped and is unable to return.

 

To his amazement, Doyle discovers that in order to get back, he must overcome a band of gypsies, magic-wielding Egyptian sorcerers, and the perils of 19th century England. Not to mention an ancient, body-switching, werewolf. During these trials, Doyle gets to live in Victorian England – a dream come true that turns into a nightmare – and attempts to find the enigmatic Ashbless (the rationale being: as long as he is there, why not make the best of it?)

 

The book is very well written, the characters – historical and fictional – are fully fleshed, and the level of detail in describing the period and historical characters is astonishing. Powers has clearly done his research, and it shows.

 

To me, one of the favorite aspects of complex Time Travel novels is the mental attempt to guess how the various time periods connect. Many books attempt to do this and simply fail. Even worse, other books become cryptic and ‘mystical’, thus, avoiding the need for a convincing conclusion. The Anubis Gates pulls off this feat admirably: all elements tie out perfectly, and the best aspect, some parts clearly came – to me – as a surprise.

 

To summarize: there are a lot of ingredients in this book: Time Travel, Historical Figures, Complex Interweaving of Past and Present that need to be wrapped up in a convincing manner. The Anubis Gates is one of the few books able to pull this off together. It’s simply a masterpiece: one of the best time travel books I’ve read.

 


Link to the book’s details on Amazon.com


 

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chronospace

 

Classification: Past Time Travel

 

Chronospace was one of the novels I really couldn’t wait to read. In fact, I dedicated an entire day to just sit at home and read it, something I haven’t done in years!

 

Imagine: UFOs are really not extraterrestrial vehicles but are actually time machines used by historians from the future who want to study the past. Sounds good, even if somewhat unoriginal, no? Well, the entire book was a mixture of good ideas, but the end product was bad. It’s as if the author couldn’t make up his mind what he wanted to write about. Time Travel, aliens, paradoxes: these all sound like fine ingredients for a good story, but somehow the author has managed to get it very, very wrong.

 

The plot: Franc Lu, a 24th century historian, is being sent back in time to view what happened on the Hindenburg: witness first hand the destruction and what caused it. But somehow, he makes some changes, causing history to diverge and a paradox to be created. A parallel storyline follows David Zachary Murphy, a scientist working for NASA at the end of the 20th century. David comes up with the (correct) theory that UFOs are really time machines. How do both these threads join together? Just barely, and not in an interesting way. Read the book if you want to find out.

 

In summary: Very, Very Disappointing. I don’t recommend this book. There are far better time travel stories, which cover very similar ideas in a superior way. (check out Joshua Dann’s Timeshare novels if you want a glimpse). The reason I’m not giving this book one star is because it did capture my attention for about a third of it – until this point I was still convinced it might turn out to be a decent novel. But sadly this hope shattered.

 


Link to the book on Amazon.com

 

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Time Travel Movies