Tag Archives | time travel

Wanderers of Time | John Wyndham

The cover of Wyndham's Wanderers of TimeGolden Age science fiction science fiction is fascinating. Imagine the challenge of writing about space travel when no human had yet escaped our planet’s atmosphere!

In “Derelict of Space,” one of five short stories in Wanderers of Time, Wyndham describes just what it’s like to match velocity and trajectory in an atmosphere-free environment. You can forgive Wyndham for imagining an almost-breathable oxygen level in the bottom of some of the moon’s craters (“The Last Lunarians”).

In “Child of Power” and “The Puff-ball Menace,” Wyndham first writes in short-story form about the ideas which would form his full length novels, Chocky and The Day of the Triffids. The title story, “Wanderers of Time,” takes cues from H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine in portraying a world no longer governed by homo sapiens.

Like much Golden Age science fiction, Wyndham doesn’t develop his characters (although he does attempt a secondary love story in “Wanderers of Time”). What these stories lack in character development, they repay in nineteen-thirties novelty.

Wyndham, John. Wanderers of Time. London: Coronet Books, 1973.

The Time Hoppers | Robert Silverberg

The cover of Silverberg's The Time HoppersI suppose even legends can write a stinker or two.

Robert Silverberg certainly qualifies as a legend. He is one of the writers (along with Asimov, Pohl, and handful of others) who brought the genre of science fiction into the popular consciousness. He has won multiple Hugo and Nebula awards for his copious writing.

Time Hoppers is not one of his best stories.

The book promises to explore the paradoxes involved with time travel (a topic that’s interested me since I watched Back to the Future as a kid and one we’re still exploring today in movies like Looper). Instead of fleshing out these paradoxes, the book devolves into a cautionary tale about classism with an unlikable protagonist at the helm.

The most interesting part of this book was considering how a person in 1967 thought society would develop. With the rise of the super-rich and the growing divide between rich and poor, he may have been on to something.

—Robert Silverberg, The Time Hoppers (New York: Belmont, 1974).

Phoenix in Obsidian | Michael Moorcock

Second volumes rarely live up to the first. Setting aside some obvious exceptions (like The Empire Strikes Back), you expect sophomore efforts to lack the originality of the first. In the first volume you build the world, in the second volume you work within it.

Fortunately, Phoenix in Obsidian bucks this trend. This second book in Moorcock’s Eternal Champion series feels like a new start. While the characters still feel unidimensional, the world they inhabit is fleshed out in intriguing detail. Where the first volume focused on hack-and-slash style action, the second book is more of a metaphysical mystery.

After finishing this volume, I quickly found a second-hand copy of the third book in the series and ordered it online. Now I need to see how John Decker’s story arc ends!

The Eternal Champion | Michael Moorcock

It was only a matter of time before I started exploring Michael Moorcock’s works. Just listen to the list of people he is compared to: Tennyson, Tolkien, Edgar Allan Poe, William Burroughs, Charles Dickens, James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, Ray Bradbury, H. G. Wells, and George Bernard Shaw to name a few!

The problem with Moorcock is figuring out where to start. He’s a fantasy author of well over fifty books that all tie together in a sprawling multiverse. I finally made my decision when I found the first two volumes of the Eternal Champion series at Value Village.

The Eternal Champion is a character that goes by many names and is summoned across the multiverse to lead people to war. I had two basic reactions to the book:

I was intrigued by the multiverse setting. Another one of my favourite fantasy cycles—Stephen King’s The Dark Tower—was based on the same idea. Moorcock’s lead character, Erekose for the majority of this book, is a creature of fate, pulled into different times and parallel universes. Unlike the characters in some of Moorcock’s other books, The Eternal Champion is able to recall many of his former incarnations which becomes a curse. There are some big philosophical questions raised by this plot: free will verses fate and the question of morality to name a couple.

Moorcock’s depiction of war, on the other hand, angered me. He glorified the idea of honourable warfare—that somehow being honest with your enemy makes slaughtering them okay. This is obviously my Christian worldview speaking!

In the end, I’m not sure whether I enjoyed the book or not. Since I bought volume two at the same time, I’ll keep reading and make a decision after the next one.

Consider Her Ways and Others | John Wyndham

If your only experience with Wyndham was being forced to read The Crysalids in high school, it’s time to pay this science fiction master another visit. In addition to rereading all of his major books (The Day of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes, The Chrysalids, The Seeds of Time, Trouble with Lichen, and The Midwich Cukoos), I’ve been reading through his lesser known forays such as Chocky, The Outward Urge and Web. I recently continued this journey with his collection of short stories entitled,Consider Her Ways and Others.

As with most collections, there are highlights and lowlights. The novella, “Consider Her Ways” is the shining light here. It’s a disorienting horror story about the future of men and women with a distinctive Wyndham twist at the end. Many of the stories in this collection deal with time travel, Wyndham’s bread and butter, in some form.

Wyndham falls short when he stretches too far from his base such as “Oh, Where, Now, is Peggy MacRafferty?”, a cultural satire where prospective movie starlets are groomed and modified to the point where they are all indiscernible.

The final story, “A Long Spoon,” was a clever surprise. It’s quite a twist on the old idea of selling your soul!

These stories are well worth reading.

The End of Eternity | Isaac Asimov

Reading 50 year old science fiction is an entertaining experience. Not only do you have to envision the future with the author, you have to view it through a dated lens.

Asimov’s The End of Eternity is a great example of classic science fiction. You get an archetypal mystery/love story mix set in a world of time-travel.

Asimov’s science-fiction creativity is superb. How, for example, did he think up a time-travel system energized by the power of our sun in the distant future as it goes nova? The paradoxes that are always explored in time-travel books are well worked into the mystery.

Unfortunately, the character development is as bad as the science-fiction is good. These people feel like little more than artificial devices invented to carry the plot forward—which, of course, they are.

If you’re feeling nostalgic, this book provides a few interesting hours of escape.

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