By Charles Stross

Rating: 4 stars

I enjoyed this novella that covers some of the more intricate nature of time travel. The Stasis is an organisation that has access to time travel and uses it to shape human history, preserving the human race, and reseeding it on Earth after it goes extinct, as it inevitably does.

Our protagonist is Pierce, someone plucked out of time in the early 21st century after he fulfils the initiation of killing his own grandfather and we follow him as he progresses through his training to a full agent of the Stasis, his loves and lives (yes, lives: time travel, remember). The palimpsest of the title refers to time being overwritten and the creation of unhistories as it is done, something that becomes important later.

The scope of the ideas in this short novella are amazing, as two competing futures are described, each spanning deep time, and the kinds of mega-scale engineering required for both is quite brain-popping and jaw-droppingly impressive. It takes some concentration to keep on top of the timey-wimey stuff but it’s totally worth it.

Book details

ISBN: 9781596064218
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Year of publication: 2009

Rainbow Mars

By Larry Niven

Rating: 3 stars

Hanville Svetz travels in time to bring back long-extinct animals to his time period, and so what if they’re somewhat different to those described in the history books: maybe horses did have a single silver horn and maybe snakes did have feathers and wings. But the Secretary General has died and his successor isn’t interested in retrieving animals from history, but in exploring space. This leads to an interesting collaboration between the Institute of Temporal Research and the Bureau of Space which discovers life on Mars in the past, and a beanstalk that is, er, a beanstalk.

This was a rather odd book, and it took me a while to get into its mesh of sci-fi and fantasy, as the human travellers find various mythological Martians, from Burroughs through Bradbury and Heinlein to Wells, but once I got past that I found it quite enjoyable, even if I did need the author’s afterword to recognise all the various Mars references. Time travel usually gives me a headache, but it was handled quite well here and I found the central characters interesting and well-written, people I was quite happy to spend a few hours in the company of.

There are other stories in this “atomic era” universe which detail some of Svetz’s adventures in bringing back historical/mythological animals and I would quite like to read some of those now that I know what to expect from this universe.

Book details

ISBN: 9783404242900
Year of publication: 1999

The Time Machine

By H.G. Wells

Rating: 4 stars

One of the great classics of SF, this remains a gripping and moving novel. The unnamed Time Traveller tells his story of his visit to the far future in a style that still feels eminently readable. The future he visits is, upon first glance, a Utopia, but it hides many secrets. The Eloi who live in what appears to be a Garden of Eden have lost the intelligence and cutting edge that made the Human race masters of the Earth. The Morlocks who live underground, tending the machines have devolved into cannibalistic monsters, the serpent in this Eden.

Wells has extrapolated his (and our) society to the nth degree and yet it’s plausible enough to be uncomfortable. Wells’ musings on the future of society are interesting but never get in the way of the story, which is well-paced and easy to read.

Aside: It’s mildly amusing to think that if someone left the house today with the stuff that the Time Traveller (or indeed, any hero of a book written up to the second half of the last century) carried routinely, matches, pocket knife etc, he’d probably be regarded with great suspicion.

Book details

Publisher: Signet Classics
Year of publication: 1895

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