The Time Traveller's Almanac by Anne VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer
|The Time Traveller's Almanac by Anne VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer
|Reviewer: Louise Jones
|Summary: The definitive collection of time-travel tales by award-winning authors.
|Date: November 2013
|Publisher: Head of Zeus
|External links: Author's website
From H.G Wells to Doctor Who, there is something about a good time-travel story that has the power to ignite the imagination in a way unique to the genre. Perhaps it is due to the fact that when dealing with the subject of time travel, literally anything is possible. Well, almost anything...apart from going back in time and killing your Grandfather, which we know would cause an almighty paradox and probably destroy the universe.
The Time Traveller’s Almanac is a mighty (948 pages!) tome containing a plethora of short stories by some of the biggest names in science fiction, including Isaac Asimov, Douglas Adams, Ray Bradbury and of course, Mr H.G Wells himself.
The book is separated into four sections:
The first section, Experiments, is a collection of tales about those taking their first, tentative steps into the world of time travel. Death Ship, a story that was later adapted for TV as an episode of The Twilight Zone, sees a group of space-travellers landing on a strange planet to find a crashed ship, identical to their own, containing corpses that look a disturbingly familiar. Young Zaphod Plays it Safe is a prequel to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker series, and gives the reader a glimpse into the life of a young salvage worker, Zaphod Beeblebrox, years before he became President of the Galaxy.
The Reactionaries and Revolutionaries segment is filled with stories of those who wish to go back and change the past, usually for political or academic reasons. This section contains my favourite story in the book: “The Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury. This classic tale coined the term The Butterfly Effect and shows how just a small action in the distant past can have profound implications on the future. Forty, Counting Down is one of two stories told from different perspectives, by a man who travels back in time to meet his younger self in the hope of saving his marriage. We see how his younger self views this intrusion in Twenty-One, Counting Up, which appears later in the book, although I have to confess to indulging in a little time travel of my own, flicking ahead several hundred pages in order to read it!
Mazes and Traps was my favourite section in the book, as it is all about paradoxes. The Waitabits is a humorous tale of would-be invaders landing on a planet where time works in a completely different way and the inhabitants move at a mind-numbingly slow pace. Fish Night is a surreal tale of portals between dimensions with a shock ending that really took me by surprise. Yesterday Was Monday is another gem from this section; a story of a man who wakes up between days and gets a glimpse of all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.
The final section is Communiques and is all about people trying to get a message to someone out of their own time stream. What If? by Isaac Asimov is all about a loved-up couple, Norman and Livvy, who believe that they would have always have ended up together, as they are soul-mates. When a strange man on a train offers them a glimpse of an alternative past where they did not meet, can they really hope to get their happily ever after? The final story, Palmimpsest, starts with a man going back in time to kill his own Grandfather. Didn’t I warn about that?
The huge volume of the book means that inevitably, there are going to be a few turkeys thrown into the mix, but most of the stories manage to be entertaining, engaging and thought provoking. I should also give a special mention to the Introduction by Rian Johnson. I am not usually in the habit of praising introductions to books, but in this case, the praise is well deserved, as Rian has managed to create a time-travel device within the book by means of a little-known symbol on the Mac keyboard that really does allow the reader to travel in time.
You don’t believe me? Well maybe you need to get hold of a copy the book and see for yourself....
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Time Traveller's Almanac by Anne VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer at Amazon.com.
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