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


Classification: Personal Alternate Reality

 

In The Butterfly Effect we follow the life of Evan Treborn, a kid – later a teenager – with an unusual condition. Occasionally when Evan is highly stressed, he blacks out for several minutes. What this means is that he has no memory of what has happened in these periods. But it’s not as if Evan falls in a coma: during these minutes, Evan does and says things – he just has no recollection of what it is he did.

 

When Evan grows up, he begins suspecting these are repressed memories, and he tries to deal with the emotional scarring by reading his childhood diaries. To his amazement, after reading one specific entry that mentioned a blackout, he finds himself back in time – precisely during the blackout period he has just read about. Even more shocking is the discovery that the actions he makes in the past have can change history: and this has the potential of propagating through time and eventually affecting the present.

 

As Evan later trains himself, by focusing while reading his diaries, he is able to travel to those moments he blacked out as a kid, and make different choices – returning to a world often very different from what he left. This is actually far more dangerous than it sounds: often these moments of high stress (where he blacked out) were pivotal moments in Evan’s life, so a tiny change can have an enormous effect on his entire future [which is precisely the meaning of the term 'The Butterfly Effect', by the way].

 

After becoming comfortable with his new found ability, Evan becomes obsessed with using it for a specific goal: he become determined to save Kayleigh, his childhood sweetheart, from her abusive father. For this he repeatedly journeys back through time.

 

Unlike many somewhat similar movies (i.e. Back to the Future), The Butterfly Effect is a very dark film. Some even may even say it is scary. During the course of the movie Evan travels multiple times, to various periods in his life. I’m going to give somewhat of a spoiler, so please skip this paragraph if you don’t want to read it. The point is, although Even repeatedly tries saving Kayleigh, he just seems to make things worse. Every attempt results in a worse and worse reality. In one version he’s in prison, in another he’s an amputee. But every situation is different – diverse – creative! This is what makes time travel books and movies so compelling – and The Butterfly Effect does a very good job at this.

 

Another thing I liked about the Butterfly Effect is that it is filled with mysteries: since we see things from Evan’s perspective, there are many gaps in the plot which are slowly revealed later in the movie. For example, during one of his first blackouts, Evan is playing with his friends, a very peaceful situation. Suddenly, finding himself after a blackout, Evan and all his friends are running away in terror. We know something terrible has happened. But they refuse to discuss this, even years afterwards. What just happened there? This is a pivotal moment in Evan’s life, we later find out. The plot is very well written in this respect, building mysteries gradually and slowly unraveling their secrets in a satisfying way.

 

Admittedly, when I first heard of The Butterfly Effect I had mixed feelings. The premise sounded superb, but then again, Ashton Kutcher playing a time traveler… I don’t know. But I have to say, Ashton did an admirable job.

 

An additional criticism is that there are quite a lot of holes in the plot. Although I’m really not a stickler when it comes to movie details (suspension of disbelief is required for watching any fictional movie), here the number of plot holes is rather large. Nonetheless, I can’t say it interfered with my enjoyment. Just keep this in mind.

 

In summary: A must for a time travel lover. Although the movie didn’t do that well, and I suspect many people would disagree with the high score I gave it, personally, I loved it. I thought it’s a fantastic and worthy addition to the growing collection of time-traveling movies. Highly recommended! Too bad the sequel was quite lame.

 


Link to the DVD on Amazon

 

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Classification: Alternate Reality

 

In Einstein’s Bridge we are introduced to George Griffen and Roger Coulton, two physicists who attempt to get the SSC (Superconducting Super Collide) up and running in order to discover the elusive Higgs Boson. Once operational, they notice a curious side effect in their experiment: a heavy particle (which they name ‘the Snark’), emerges through a microscopic wormhole – a “Bridge” – created by the collider. This should have been impossible. Even more strangely, this particle emits radioactive pulses in prime number sequences [this is in fact one way we look for Extra Terresterial Intelligence: by sending codes that could not occur in nature randomly, such as the sequence of primes). This can only mean that some kind of extra terrestrial intelligence is behind this: but from where?

 

As George and Roger manage to find out, these are messages sent by the Makers, alien beings from an alternate universe with a single goal: make contact with whomever they find and get them to stop doing such experiments.

 

How could this present any danger, George and Roger ask? The problem is that this type of experiment opens a wormhole, which – for contemporary human technology – is virtually useless, but for more advanced civilizations, it is possible to send multiple nanobots that quickly replicate and recreate whatever the aliens wish to create on the other end. Unlike the Makers, who are a friendly civilization, the Hive, a malevolent alien insectoid collective entity living in yet another alternate universe, preys on civilizations that open these wormholes. Once this occurs, quickly the planet is taken over by replicas of the Hive.

 

In order to assist in the preparation (and the necessary political convincing to close such a huge project), the Makers send a representative through the bridge. But is is too late: just a few days after the Maker’s arrival, the Hive discovers the bridge as well and starts sending legions of nanobots through the opening. It looks as if the Earth is doomed. But then, at the last minute, the Maker uses a capability he has not shared until this moment: he sends George and Roger back in time, gives them a few extra abilities (through alien nanotechnology) and asks them to change future events so that the SSC is never built, and thus, the Earth never meets the Hive.

 

Einstein’s Bridge had a very interesting plot, in particular since it combines several concepts in a unique way (aliens, alternate universes, nanotechnology, collective intelligence and time travel). The characters were interesting, and on top of that, the author clearly understands the science involved: this was truly a hard core sci-fi novel. Overall the first half of the book was really quite good.

 

BUT, and this is the first time I’ve ever given such a criticism: the book’s structure was simply bizarre. The weird thing about the book is that it reaches the climax somewhere halfway through the novel. The rest of the plot just.. ties loose ends (no mystery or anything). And then the book ends. Just like that. No twist, no surprise. Nothing. I’ve never read anything like this. Regardless of the plot, this is no way to write a novel! It’s quite a shame, because other than that, the book is really not bad. It just ruins much of the fun.

 

In summary: until the middle of the book, it is really quite good. Later it quickly deteriorates. I’d recommend either getting the book and stopping in the middle (you’ll know when you reach the part). OR come prepared for some frustrating reading. Then again, maybe the book is simply not worth it – this depends on how much the premise intrigues you.

 


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Classification: Past and Future Time Travel

 

In The Time Tunnel, we are introduced to a secret government research facility buried deep in the (Arizona?) desert. There, a team of scientists has built a time machine called ‘The Time Tunnel’. Why exactly is this machine built is never explained: conveiably, the government envisioned some sort of information gathering abilities.

 

As often with this type of expensive program, there comes a time when a political hotshot attempts to shut it down. Growing alarmed at this prospect, one of they key scientists, Dr. Tony Newman, sends himself back in time in order to prove that it works. His plan succeeds: he finds himself in the past… on the sinking Titanic! (Out of all the places..)

 

Unfortunately, from some unknown technical reasons, the team in the present discovers it is unable to recall Tony: pull him back to the present. They do, however, maintain the ability to witness what Tony is experiencing, but that is no help. Tragically, it seemed Tony is doomed to go down with the Titanic!

 

But Dr. Doug Phillips, Tony’s colleague and good friend, refuses to accept this. He, too, activates the Time Tunnel and sends himself to the Titanic. I’ll stop here. You’ll have to see the first episode to find out how it resolves.

 

During the rest of the show, we see that the research team is unable to recall Doug and Tony. However, as said, they are able to view what is going on with them, as well as occasionally send the odd useful item to the past. Although they keep attempting to recall them, this never works. Though at times someone else, a native of the current time, is occasionally pulled to the present. That being said, they are always eventually able to transport Tony and Doug to other periods of history in the hope that they’ll eventually return home.

 

Strangely enough, Doug and Tony have a knack of finding themselves in historical situations, usually just about the time things are about to go wrong. But fortunately, both are quite knowledgable about various historical eras, so they usually manage to come out unharmed. Truly bizarre, no? I’ve always wondered why can’t Doug and Tony find themselves stuck in a really good time for a while, sipping Margaritas on the beach ;) . But no can do. Let’s just say it is this way: if The Time Tunnel: The Next Generation is ever to be made, in the first episode, Doug and Tony would find themselves on the top floor of Twin Towers during 9/11. Mark my words.

 

As someone who did not grow up in the United States, for me The Time Tunnel represents the ultimate time travel show. When I was a kid, whenever a new Time Tunnel episode was released, I – together with all of my friends – would watch it in awe. Although it is quite possible that from a grownup’s perspective it won’t seem the masterpiece that I remember it to be, I’d take that risk any day. It really was a very good show – me, my friends, our parents – we were all glued to the screen.

 

During their adventures, Doug and Tony visit the Titanic, a future expedition to the moon, the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US Civil War, Nazi Germany in WW 2, the French revolution, Troy (before it fell), the old west (when Aliens took over!) and many more places. This offered a truly diverse set of stories, settings and historical characters.

 

What I particularly loved about The Time Tunnel is the seriousness in which it was made. It’s almost as if the producers wanted to us to learn history – the plot never turned into Kitsch or slapstick (as too many modern shows do). It just felt real.

 

In summary: Interesting, fun, serious, diverse, challenging, scary at times (ah, the episode where Aliens took over the present), the Time Tunnel is the ultimate Time Travel television show. Although it will definitely look outdated (it was made in the 60s), if you can let that fact go, I’m sure you’ll have a blast.

 


The Time Tunnel – Volume One on Amazon

 


The Time Tunnel – Volume Two on Amazon

 

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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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Classification: Historical Characters

 

Voyagers! begins with a Jeffrey Jones, a boy living in 1982 with his uncle after his parents died. One afternoon, a man suddenly appears before his eyes. Extremely surprised, the shock causes him to fall out of the window. But instead of dying, the man jumps after him and – miraculously – transports them both somewhere safe.

 

It seems Jeffrey was rescued by Phineas Bogg, a member of the society of time travelers who are responsible in maintaining the timelines in the event that they go wrong (something that happens all the time). Since Phineas doesn’t know much about history, and Jeffrey does (his father was a history professor), they both go together on various temporal journeys. This often brings them in contact with various historical characters.

 

As a kid, Voyagers! used to be my favorite show. I used to have dreams about the Omni, the watch-like device Phineas uses to transport himself in time. Although it looked a bit outdated when I recently watched a couple of episodes, I still really enjoyed it.

 

As a side note, Jon-Erik Hexum, the actor who played Phineas Bogg tragically died at the end of first season by a stunt prop. It’s a real shame.

 

A second side note, last I read, Meeno Peluce the kid who played Jeffrey, now works as a history teacher. I guess he really was the perfect casting!

 

In summary: highly recommended: Adventure, history and time travel – you can’t go wrong with this combination!

 


The show’s DVD 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!

 


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enchantment

Classification: Fantasy

 

In 1975, when Ivan Smetki was 10 years old, his family was forced to stay for a while in his uncle’s farm, which is located next to Kiev. One day, Ivan went on a small excursion in the woods and stumbled into a small clearing. When the wind pushed moving leaves, Ivan saw the pale shape of a sleeping woman. But there was something else – something malevolent. Panicking, Ivan ran away in fear. Not a long time afterward, the Smetski family moves to the US.

 

Many years pass, and Ivan is now a Ph.D. student working on a thesis dealing with Russian fairy tales. Although in the years since he stayed with his uncle Ivan always believed what he saw was a hallucination or a dream, he couldn’t forget it. Thus, when his research takes him back to Russia, he decides to look for the clearing he saw when he was a kid. To his great surprise, he finds it. And indeed there is a woman sleeping underneath the leaves. There is also something malicious guarding her – a huge bear.

 

Before he realizes what is going on, he is informed that the bear will kill him unless he agrees to marry the woman. This will break an enchantment that is placed on her (which is what kept her sleeping for so many years). Naturally, he proposes on the spot, and suddenly he – and the beautiful princess Katerina, apparently the source of the Sleeping Beauty tale – are living in 10th century Russia. Shattering romantic expectations of a trip through time, Ivan finds himself in a place where all his skills are worthless (what would a modern Russian scholar do in the 10th century?), and needs to prove himself to the locals.

 

The plot thickens when Ivan and Katerina find themselves back in the 20th century, fleeing the wrath of the Baba Yaga – the mythical Russian witch that actually placed the curse on Katerina – and Bear, the spellbound personification of Russian winter.

 

Enchantment combines elements of Folklore, Modern Fantasy and Time Travel. This is a really hard thing to do: very few novels manage to do this successfully, but this is one of those cases. There were also a lot of unexpected twists: time and again the novel managed to surprise me with original plot elements. A fantasy novel becomes great if it manages to convince you that there is a great universe in existence beyond the novel, with its own rules and limitations. This is the strength of Lord of the Rings. Here, too, the author manages to do a superb job in creating a highly believable universe. What I thought was weak in the novel is the characterization. The character of Ivan was not very realistic, and seemed to exist only to advance the plot. Sleeping Beauty, Princess Katerina, was also a one dimensional character (I also could not stand her!). However, the Baba Yaga is a fascinating villain, I greatly enjoyed the scenes told from her perspective. Bear was even better, and was my favorite character in the book.

 

To summarize: highly recommended. One of the most original stories I’ve ever read, extremely enjoyable. Although it is more a fantasy than a time travel story, it will appeal to lovers of both.

 


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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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falling

Classification: Personal Time Travel

 

In Falling we are introduced to Jude, a young woman living in future London who was born with a special ability: Jude is a ReTracer, a person who can travel to any point in her own history. This special ability confers many advantages, so unsurprisingly Jude works as an agent for the government.

 

But someone wants to kill Jude, someone who also has the ability to jump through time. This person has attempted to kill her in several different periods – and will eventually succeed if not stopped. Who is this person and why does he want to kill her? And so, Jude starts traveling to various points in her own history in an attempt to discern who her nemesis is.

 

Although the premise is excellent, and the author has created a near-future setting that is both believable and intriguing, I can’t say I liked the book, mainly because of the disjointed and confused writing. The writing is also very fast paced, normally something I’d find appealing, but because of the problematic style, it made the story hard to follow at times.

 

Do I recommend this book? I really did not enjoy reading it, but perhaps I should give this book a second chance, as frankly, all the components were promising.

 


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timegates

Classification: Anthology

 

This collection is a part of a themed series of anthologies (an anthology about AI, about Clones, about Nanotechnology). I have some of these, and usually they are quite good. This particular anthology includes 12 time travel short stories by authors such as Ursula LeGuin, Charles Sheffield, James Tiptree, Jr, and Joe Haldeman. Most of these stories are decent if not great. My favorites include:

 

Arachon: this story, written by Damon Knight, tells the story of two brothers who invent a time machine and attempt to use it for illegal purposes. Although their scheme appears foolproof, they discover not all is as it seems. Excellent story – my favorite in this anthology.

 

Anniversary Project: in this short story which was written by Joe Haldeman, a married couple, Bob and Sarah Graham, are transported to the far future. To their relief, they discover that the future beings do not wish them any harm, but rather only desire to scan their minds while they read books. As Bob and Sarah find out, in the future, there is no longer a need to read or write, thus, wishing to experience reading firsthand, the natives of the time were forced to transport someone from an early period. Very cute story.

 

To summarize: A decent collection that time travel lovers will like. Although most other anthologies I reviewed are better, this one is still worth obtaining.

 


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Time Travel Movies