A relatively simple lunch

People say that we are all time travellers because we move through time at a rate of 1 second / second.

I pointed out in my definition on what is time travel that this is not the case…if time is like a river and we sit on a boat floating on that river, we have an analogous case – we flow down-stream but we’re not in control. We drift; we don’t travel (except relative to the river bed).

A friend pointed out that maybe describing time as a river isn’t strictly correct. According to the general theory of relativity (GR) time is relative and should be viewed on a local scale, whereas the picture of a flowing river is holistic (and therefore not covered by GR).

However, the counter argument is that the river of time can be viewed – or indeed changed – on a local scale. A sand bank, or a large fish can locally affect the flow of water.

And as a colleague pointed out – as in GR, a moving fish can eat a smaller fish and gain mass.

“It makes sense” he added. “When I’ve eaten a large lunch my perception of time definitely changes.”

I don’t think much more can be said on that subject!


Dancing back in time

If you’ve been following my blog (under “Timely Thoughts”) you’ll be aware that I have a couple of young daughters who spent just as much time in educating me as I try to teach them. (For example, see Direction on direction or A Picture Paints a Thousand Seconds.)

At least, this is my cover story for watching “Dora the Explorer’s Ballet Adventure” last night !;) (This post isn’t a plug by the way!)

The main ‘plot’ is that the delivery duck delivered the wrong package to Dora and her friends just before they were about to perform a dance show; he delivered scuba flippers instead of dance slippers.

Dora’s mission was to leave her friends to go to the dance school, collect the dance slippers and bring them back in time so that the dance show could go ahead.

I know that the DVD is aimed towards young children, but I must admit that I was hoping it was also aimed for their parents who might be interested in time travel!


Direction on direction

I can’t help wondering if our perspective on direction – including time’s arrow and direction of the flow of time – needs a little readjustment.

In this post I commented how we often tend to think primarily in the spatial direction before the temporal field. My daughter already tries to turn that on it’s head, and at times thinks Outside the Temporal Box.

Here’s another a conversation I had with her a few nights ago when I was reading her a bed time story. Whilst not technically related to time travel it’s perhaps an initial start to getting thinking more openly about direction:

Daughter: “Daddy, you’re reading backwards!”

Me: “No I’m not! I’m reading forwards – see?”

I fan the pages in a visual effort to explain.

Daughter: “But that’s the back over there.”

She’s pointing to the back of the book – the part where invariably in stories for 4 year old girls the princess lives happily ever after.

Me: “Yes, this is the front [pointing], and this is the back. So I’m reading in this direction.”

Daughter: “That’s what I’m saying, Daddy. You’re reading backwards to the end!”

As always, she has a point!


Some time in Holland

What is it with Holland and time travel?

A lot of people think that the first time travel novel is The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, published in 1895.

Aside from the fuzzy logistics of what “being first” really means in time travel, the above statement is incorrect. Indeed, H.G. Wells had already published a short story called The Chronic Argonauts in 1888, thus scoring an own-goal in beating himself to the title of First Time Travel Author.

A little less self-plagiaristic is The Clock That Went Backward, a short story by Edward Page Mitchell which was published in 1881, and as far as I can tell, the ‘first’ piece of fiction involving time travel.

I’ll get round to reviewing it later, but the point I wanted to make is that the story is set in Holland; a small country with a complicated language. I can’t help but wonder why Holland was chosen as the setting for this ground-breaking piece of work!

Yes it’s true…the time2timetravel HQ is situated in Holland too, where if you search hard, you can end up in some pretty quirky places!

Dutch Clock
“Dutch Clock”. Fancy one on your wall? Image courtesy: clockmasterinc.com

And there is the “Dutch clock”. I wasn’t even aware there was such a thing until they kept popping in in various novels I’ve been reading, and here was a surprise…that the picture of a clock face used as a header on this site is actually of a Dutch clock…although I hadn’t realised it when I took the picture!

(Rather ironic…I live in Holland, and took this picture of a Dutch clock during a holiday in France!)

I don’t have a picture of the above clock in all of it’s full Dutch chronological glory (…in France πŸ˜‰ ) but descriptively it could be described as a short and stumpy wall mounted grandfather clock. Or at least, one with its legs cut off (see image, right).

Given the story line of The Clock that went Backward irony again hits us in the face, in that there is a Dutch saying that the Dutch people are tall so that if the sea dikes break then they can keep their heads above the water.

Tall people, short clocks. But I guess they are not the only ones short on time!


Review: The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold

The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold

Wow, wow and wow!!! This is an absolute “must have” for the time travel enthusiast! Even if I’m wrong, it’s easy reading and only some 130 pages so you may as well give it a go!


Dan inherits a time belt from his Uncle Jim. By setting the controls on the time belt Dan is able to move from one point in time to another. On his temporal travels Dan meets and interacts with himself causing countless time loops and potential for quirky paradoxes. Whilst there is no specific plot, the reader is carried along with the main character in his search for perfection in himself and in his environment.

The time travel element

The mechanics of the how the time belt works is not revealed. This is not an omission, but I think deliberately left out so that we can empathise more with Dan and his own confusion into essentially a black box time machine. How it works, or what the consequences are of its use (or misuse) is not known, and to a large extent is learnt ‘on-the-job’.

The idea of a parallel universe where time lines diverge is played through and often this leads to an alternate version of Dan coming back (or forward) to (re/post)visit himself to warn of possible dangers. This seems to be the only instruction manual.

Time loops and strange realisations of cause and effect are bountiful…but interestingly there are no paradoxes. This is because whilst there are several versions of Dan the book is written from the viewpoint of only one of them. What happens to the others is not completely known to the writing version him and so the paradoxes are not explicitly mentioned.

However, Dan does think about them and we are privy to his thoughts…which are very interesting, though by his own admission may not be correct!

Writing style

This is yet another first person time travel novel but in this case I don’t think that the book could have been written in any other way. In fact the first person narrative allows for a very clever alternative to description by relating introspective thoughts to the reader which serve as thought experiments playing through scenarios and consequences of time travel.

Naturally this brings about a feeling of loneliness – Dan primarily interacts only with himself and doesn’t seek or ask for help from friends – there are very few other characters in the novel. In a way this is a little like Audrey Niffeneger’s “The Time Traveller’s Wife” where the time traveller also suffered loneliness in that he was the only one ‘afflicted’ with time travel and was disappointed that there wasn’t an army of fellow time travelers.

Other notes

The copy of the Man who Folded Himself that I read included a foreword by Robert J. Sawyer. I feel compelled to mention that I found this is to be pretty lame and shallow, and to be honest, more self serving than anything else. Of far more interest (and of intelligent thought) is the afterword by Geoffrey Klempner and is well worth a read [caution: After reading the novel – it contains spoilers!]


The Man who Folded Himself is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com (affiliate links) and comes with the highest of my recommendations – an easy 5/5 stars!


Time to eat

Some time ago I took a short break to Texel – one of the Wadden Sea Islands off the coast of Holland.

Quite by chance (or so I thought…) I ended up in a cafe called “De Tijd” (“The Time”).

Pancake cafe "De Tijd"
Pancake cafe “De Tijd”

The walls were absolutely plastered with clocks! The waitress told me that they were all gifts, donated by patrons over the years. Now (sadly) there is not enough wall space for the tradition to continue, but instead notebooks lie on each table for visitors to jot down any thoughts they might have (regarding the food they’re eating, where they’ve come from, etc.).

wall of clocks
wall of clocks…with yours truly!

Above my head in the shot above is a plaque with a poem, “De Tijd”

Dutch Time Poem "De Tijd"
Dutch Time Poem “De Tijd”

Here’s the translation (thanks to google translate…my own Dutch isn’t up to the task!):

Whatever one does, the time passes
though it does not, time passes
whether they are impoverished or enriched
uitslooft themselves or sailing stroke
been doing it wrong, though it does well
‘t they awake or asleep, and nothing suspect
yes, which one also gets rid of
elapses from the time, time!!!

And talking of things above my head (and I’m talking quite literally here!) did I mention that the ceiling space was also used as efficiently as the wall space?

Ceiling of watches
Ceiling of watches

And what of the food? It was served on plates like this, which get a thumbs up from me for not displaying the annoyingly presumptiously happy ten-to-two (or ten-past-ten…)

Dinner time!
Dinner time!

Whilst we were waiting for the food to be prepared, my wife reminded me that we’d been here the previous year. I’d forgotten all about it! We were having about to have a ‘Deja Eat’!

So my wife as reliving her past I was living the present, and as the food was brought in, served on a time-plate, I couldn’t help thinking of Plato (sorry…! πŸ˜‰ ) and his wish to remember the future.

Maybe we’ll be back next year…but I can’t remember!



I have a doppelganger. He looks a bit like me and he behaves a bit like me. But he’s not me; he’s a little taller but not as scrawny, he’s a bit less bald, and he doesn’t wear glasses. He wears a black coat as I do and slings a small grey rucksack on his back. As I do.

And he really gets on my nerves.

Like me, he doesn’t talk to other passengers on the train and avoids them by fixing his focus on glitzy but intellectually dull pages on a free newspaper. Reading about characterless celebrities with non interesting lives. Loser. At least I read books. Or write in my journal.

But sometimes he likes to watch real people.

The first time I caught sight of him I thought he was a pillock and best avoided. The trouble is that it seems he’s everywhere I am – and can’t be avoided!

The routine

He catches my train every morning. And he cycles to his office on the other side of the road as mine, pedaling the same speed as me – either just in front or just behind. He leaves his office when I do, and cycles again either just in front or just behind me, back to the train station where he catches my train to take him back to his home.

The train

He waits on the same part of the platform every day so that he’s best positioned for his favourite seat – a single seat towards the back of the carriage where he can sit without the elbows and knees of an adjacent passenger protruding into his personal space.

I like to sit on the seat at the side with the back to the window. Many don’t like it as it means a sideways motion when travelling and that means I have space. No arms or legs or bags or large newspapers invading my personal space. And I can watch him trying not to let me see him watching me!

He observes everything with silent disdain; a scowl or disapproval of any facet of life he may encounter in his unchanging sphere. And yes, I have caught him eyeballing me too, through the corner of his eye – I have seen it!

(Non) Contact

I’ve never spoken to him, but he’s never spoken to me either. He started it.

A couple of times I have tried to make contact; to break the strange awkward aversion, but it never pans out. When I make a deliberate sustained look directly towards him, that’s when he sneezes, or reaches for his phone, or looks the other way. There’s always some excuse to not look at me directly. What am I…Medusa?

It seems that there is an unspoken battle between us, although I cannot say over what. Maybe for our very own existence.

I wonder. I read something a while ago that doppelgangers can’t share the same space or time – it is a paradox of causality. Some explain that multiple versions of a person exist in multiple parallel universes which are created at “bisection points” – when alternate outcomes of momentous or key decisions have been made.

Personally I don’t believe in the instantaneous creation of mass and energy out of nothing on a whimsical decision.

But if it were true, maybe a crossing or an intersection of these [not-so-parallel] universes would allow a person to meet an alternative version of himself? Or would interaction cause one or both of us to disintegrate? Or the universe?

I don’t know. But I do think it would be painful to find out.

(Too much) Contact

I’ve only ever seen him smile once. Perhaps. Actually, it was more of a smirk. I hadn’t seen him for a few days since the weekend. I wondered where he was because he wasn’t waiting on the platform at his usual place. He must have been ill because on Thursday he was back and letting me know about it as he was coughing loudly on the train. And he wouldn’t stop.

It was strange because he wasn’t on his favourite seat – he was sitting behind me. I bet he did it on purpose as my side bench wasn’t free and I was sitting on a regular forward facing double seat. I could almost feel his germs flying through the stuffy train atmosphere in a direct but statistically random walk to the back of my own bald head.

I stood up early to leave the train so I was facing him whilst he remained seated. He decided to sneeze at that moment to avoid eye contact, but I’m sure I saw a smile of smugness, content that he’d infected me; an invasion of my physical and personal space.

As I stepped off the train there was a cough behind me. Too close behind me. It was him.

He followed me, as he always does, on his bicycle on the way to work. Some may call it slip streaming, but I find his close proximity disturbing. Shadow cycling. He was right there by the mudguard of my back wheel…so close I could hear him sniffing.

I increased my speed, and he matched it. I slowed, as did he. Why won’t he just overtake me? In desperation and frustration I weave from side to side in a futile attempt to shake him off. Get in front! S**t before shovel!

But I couldn’t get rid of him. I never can. He’s always everywhere I am.

All the time. Day after day.

Another day. Another time.

It’s another day and I’m on the train again. I’ve forgotten my book and I have nothing to read. I’m bored. I need to do something to pass the time on this hour long train journey. Lying nearby is one of those ridiculous free newspapers. I thumb through a copy, bored as hell, but there’s nothing else to do.

I glance at a few other passengers but they’re immersed with their phones. One is making notes and looking a bit peeved about something. I’ve seen him around quite a bit. He’s always looking at me. Must be a nutter, so I try to avoid him.

I’m not feeling too well, I think I picked something up from some cretin in the train. And I think I know who. The last few days I’ve stayed at home; he’s probably aware of that and noted it down in his journal. But today I’m feeling a bit better and I’m back, but this stuffy air in this carriage isn’t doing me much good. It’s busy today, God knows why, so I’m sitting in a regular seat and already I’m blocked in and I can’t get up to walk to the train entrance where the air is fresher.

It’s a really tickly cough that won’t go away. If I talk, it gets worse. I can’t get out.

He’s come and sat in front of me now. He’s always around. I can’t get rid of him.

Argh. I’ve got nothing to do! I’m so bored. I can’t even look through the window as my seat is by the broad metal window frame. I can look forwards at the back of the chair in front. That’s it.

I’ll check my phone; it has pictures of my wife and girls. They cheer me up. I’m looking down at my phone. I’m trying hard not to cough but I need to sneeze. I can’t sneeze looking down, but as I inhale and look up he’s standing in front of me. He’s always there! Wherever I am! No matter. It’s my stop, and I can lose him. Besides, my wife loves me. So do my girls. I smile at the thought and stand up.

When I get my bike from the bike shelter he’s there, looking at me. I always think he’s going to say something to me, but he never does. It’s very awkward.

Thankfully he’s in front of me. I hate it when he’s behind me; I can feel his eyes bore into the back of my head. But it’s difficult with him in front too. He wobbles, and does unpredictable things. I’ve tried overtaking him, but he speeds up! In desperation I free wheel, but he slows down! Anyway, I guess I’m still recovering – I feel weak and my nose is running.

I want to overtake him; to pass him and get shot of him, but I can’t. He wobbles all over the place making it impossible for me to do so.

He’s in front of me again when I cycle home from work. I’m tired and not in the mood for this nonsense. He’s tailing me again. I’m nearing the end of my journey. I’m approaching the level crossing near the bike shed where I’ll leave my bike and catch my train home to my girls.

It’s not far to go, but now I’ve had enough. I’m running late, and maybe I’ll miss my train. Surely it’s close. I urge the rubber of my front tyre to touch his back wheel – he can’t avoid me now!

I call out. I can feel the pressures of two parallel universes twisting and contorting, striving to make contact at a single moment in time, at an elastic point in space.

Let me pass!

He looks behind, glaring at me. He slows, but doesn’t make space. There is a wailing and amber light engulfs us.

Stay back! he hisses.

Of course I have no choice but to stay back. As usual. He won’t let me pass. I try again to move to one side.

Now he’s slowing down, but he’s holding out his arm. The noise is deafening. Whining. Screaming.

He’s looking back at me.

It’s not safe!

Within the amber lighting I can see a blur of blue and yellow. My train! It’s hurtling past me, a massive tonnage of metal relentlessly responding to electrical charges initiated on an atomic level and upwardly scaled to the real and tangible motion of matter of the train.

I squeeze hard on my brakes; friction from the rubber on the front wheel losing its purchase on the ground which slides out from underneath me. When I roll over and get on all fours I see my bike in pieces near the rail track.

No. My bike is still in one piece. That’s his bike; a twisted frame with sheared rough edges of metal agape.

I stand and walk towards it. Blue light is flashing, but it’s hardly doppler. He’s nowhere to be seen.

Doppleganger's empty seat.
Was he ever really there?

He saved my life; my current existence is because of him. But I’ll never seen him again. It’s ironic that I never wanted to see him but now I want to, at least just to say thank you. But that can’t ever happen.

There’s his chair – empty, as if he never existed. Just a ghost through a train window.

But my own existence still goes on.

Doesn’t it?


Time travel train: moment of proof!

So here it is!

All of my seemingly endless journeys and musings about time travel on my daily train commute – has it all pointed towards this moment of proof?

The moment

I’m on the train which is slowing down for the next stop. I glance at the information monitor on the wall in front of me…

The proof

proof for a time travel train?
Current time 18:03…expected arrival 18:02

The irony

The train was delayed! I’m confused though…was time lost, or made up?


Live review: The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter

Stephen Baxter’s The Time Ships is the authorised sequel to H. G. Well’s The Time Machine.

How does this ship fare?


The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter is pretty poor as a sequel to the original The Time Machine by H. G. Wells. This is mostly because the the Time Traveller displayed very different characteristics in each book, and the underlying messages and meanings in the original were not followed through. Indeed, the only ties between the two books were contrived references at the start of the novel and the Time Traveller’s attempt to rescue Weena at the end.


As a novel in its own right, this is brilliant! Yes, it is clearly Baxter-esque with his Baxterisms of astro-engineering and Watchers etc., but there is some great science, and of course, elements of time travel.

Whilst multiple and alternate universes are core to this novel, it didn’t strike me as an easy get out of jail free card as used in several other time travel novels (e.g. The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma). Actually, the idea was followed through really nicely and was internally logical and consistent with a brilliant ‘application’ at the time-space singularity at the beginning of time.

The main character is a complete and utter pillock which for made for me some pretty angry reading (I must admit that in the first person I was reading Baxter as the Time Traveller) but at the same time I think it helped to nurture a real fondness for Nebogipfel through whom Baxter expresses his fascinating insights.

Although this novel deserves 0/5 stars as a sequel to The Time Machine, I’m giving The Time Ships a full 5 stars as a time travel novel in its own right.

The Time Ships is available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (affiliate links).

A new approach

The Time Ships book cover

I’m going to try something new with this review – I’m going to write it as I read…pseudo live, if you like!

Perhaps I should first confess that I’m approaching The Time Ships with a little bit of prejudice…not simply that I’ve already read The Time Machine (and The Chronic Argonauts – arguably the predecessor to The Time Machine), but also that I’ve read some of Baxter’s works before and find many of them immensely irritating.

This is because (subjectively speaking) I find much of his writing has googled science crow-barred into patronising narrative, as well as more than a few prods to NASA, which is probably related to him not being selected as an astronaut.

Anyway. Let’s see how this goes!


OK. So I’ve read The Map of Time which depicts a fictitious story around H. G. Wells, and I was moved to (re)read The Time Machine as it’s written in first person, implying, in a way, that the main character is Wells himself, and now I know a little bit more about him.

I’ve also read The Chronic Argonauts (a very short story written by Wells, and predating The Time Machine) which some argue forms the basis of the more well known novel.


* The Time Ships commences with an “Editors note” to introduce the novel itself as part of a bigger picture. This reminds me of The Planet of the Apes by *Pierre Boullon which also starts (and finishes) in a similar manner.

* Baxter is trying to stay close to Well’s first person style of writing and using archaic and flowery language. I’m finding it a little unnatural and it reads almost like a young child’s description of events. I went here. I did that. I then found this… and so on. Actually, it’s a bit like Fred Hoyle’s dreadful style of writing (e.g. In October the First is too Late; The Black Cloud). Nice ideas, but you get rushed through.

* Baxter clearly has a copy of The Time Machine next to him. He’s pulling out small occurrences from the Time Traveller’s dinner with his friends, and forcing them them into the narrative to give an impression of continuity. I know it’s a sequel…I don’t need to be rudely prodded as a reminder and have it spelled out.

* Ah, the mechanics of the time travel! There’s a nice idea about twisting the 4 dimensions such that the temporal dimension lies on a spatial axis, meaning that motion through time can be achieved in much the same way as motion through space. A physical twisting of time.

The Time Taveller therefore feels dizzy when he time travels because he’s being twisted and subjected to centrifugal and Coriolis forces.

At first I thought this was stupid as he’s not physically twisting, and certainly, Coriolis force in some ways is the (imaginary) force opposing centrifugal force (also imaginary)…

Centrifugal force is simply an object obeying Newton’s first law of motion and that it will move in an straight line at constant speed unless an external force (such as a twist) is applied to it. Coriolis force is the apparent force that an object seems to follow when it’s linear motion is viewed from a rotating frame. So you have one and not the other – you can’t be flung out from rotation in a straight line (centrifugal force) whilst experiencing Coriolis force which acts to give you a lateral motion (measureable from the rotating frame that you’re being flung out from!).

* Second thoughts, I might let Baxter off. Centrifugal and Coriolis forces are 2 different ways of describing the same thing, but from two different (reference) viewpoints. A bit like time and space! OK…I’m now thinking it was a clever idea!

* The time machine itself is powered by a substance called Plattnerite – a substance delivered by a mysterious visitor. Much as I don’t like the idea of a fuel cell of some description to activate time travel, I’m toying with the idea that this mysterious visitor will be seen later on in the novel!

And into the far future…

* There seems to be an over-play of how bad Morlocks are. I think this is again another reference to the original book, but here it’s not fitting, and I should think that such prejudiced feelings from the Time Traveller are not in keeping with the original character.

* And here we are…Baxter hasn’t let us down with his precious Gaijin. Page 34 (of 630) and the Time Traveller is faced with A Watcher. So the Gaijin are back.

* I’m getting quite angry. The Time Traveller is behaving like a complete and utter prick towards a Morlock who is clearly looking after him. This is not in keeping with the original character, though I should confess I’m probably most upset because I prefer to identify with characters (especially in first person novels), whereas this one is more like a stroppy teenager than the thoughtful and respectful scientist of the original book. For example, whilst there may be a hint of shame, there’s no real apology or outward show of remorse when he’s told that he’s killed children.

No wonder the Morlocks appointed him a day carer. That’s a nice touch!

Still. I’m going to make a deliberate effort to read this book as a separate piece of work, rather than as a sequel with consistent characters and characteristics. I know that’s not in the spirit of the book, but then again, this book seems to be more of a piece of dodgy fan fiction than a sequel…

“We have harnessed a star.”

* And now comes Baxter’s idea of the future – astronomical engineering, just like in his Manifold Trilogy, and Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey series (the latter having a spaceship which revolved to induce artificial and spatially gravity with distance from the hub…a theme repeated here in The Time Ships.)

* OK, I’ve just checked – the Manifold Trilogy was published after The Time Ships, so I suppose I should moan about his repetition of ideas if I was ever to re-read and review that Manifold Trilogy.)

I’ll let him off again here though, except to say that it seems that he’s to take many ideas from The Time Ships and developed them further in subsequent novels – much the same, as some believe, H.G. Wells did with taking ideas from The Chronic Argonauts, and developing them further in The Time Machine.

Which brings me nicely onto the next point:

* The Morlock’s name is Nebogipfel. i.e. the same name as the mysterious scientist in The Chronic Argonauts who later goes on to be a time taveller. Is this a coincidence, or opening the possibility of a temporal loop? I don’t think it too far to expect that many readers of The Time Ships will have also read both The Time Machine and The Chronic Argonauts!.

* There are pictures in this book!! What!! Much as I disliked Time and Again (Jack Finney), the inclusion of pictures there sort of made sense. But here? I’m no artist, but I don’t find the illustrations particularly good, neither do I think they add anything. I’d rather let narrative description and my imagination paint my pictures…

Back to the (near) present

* The Time Traveller ‘escapes’ from the future (Nebogipfel follows him into the time machine) and ends up a few years before his original time frame. He meets himself (as a slightly younger version) and this is an interesting read.

* The younger version of himself is “Moses” – his little used first name…as well as the first name of the time traveller in The Chronic Argonauts Dr Moses Nebogipfel. Another possibility of a temporal loop?

* Things are very different in 1944, thanks to war with the Germans. It’s an old and boring story line of alternate history which I find very exceedingly unoriginal.

* Introduction of the term time technology – research into time travel, time machine construction etc..

* Quantum mechanics is used to explain the idea of parallel universes and alternate histories. Even though I don’t like parallel universes and find them an easy escape from some of the complexities of time travel paradoxes, I must admit that the uncertainty and probability underlying quantum theory make it very novel and almost makes the chance of parallel universes possible!

* OK, the trouble with the Germans started on p198, and it’s taken till p314 to finally get past it. Dull dull dull. The section is full of names which I didn’t recognise (my own failing) but it turns out that these are key people in history, such as pioneers of bouncing bombs and soforth.

Into the deep past

* p323. Oh b***dy hell. The Watcher is back.

* The Time Traveller and Nebogipfel find themselves so far back in history (the Paleocene) that the climate is now tropical. The Time Traveller notes that in his own time he never ventured to tropical regions. I found this to be an interesting side nod to the connectivity between time and space!

* The possibility of causing an event in the past which will cause ripples into the future is astronomical. The Time Traveller kills an ancestor of a monkey, and Nebogipfel points out that this could significantly change the future. He then shows remorse at his action…notably more so that killing child Morlocks.

* During his stay in the deep past, the Time Traveller seems to become increasingly a pillock towards Nebogipfel, about whom I must say that I’ve developed quite a liking.

* Baxter shows a nice insight: the forest that the Time Traveller and Nebogipfel find themselves in is “self engineered” to withstand heavy flooding, by channelling water through grooves in the bark of tree trunks. This was well-written in the narrative, and not heavily levered in as in so many other cases.

* Soldiers from 1944 come back to deep history and find The Time Traveller and Nebogipfel. Again, names of characters are mentioned who are key in history. This is getting tiresome and, dare I say, unrealistic…that one character should meet so many other well-known characters.

* On the subject of names, the name of the main character in the original is not divulged, and Baxter tries hard to maintain this in his novel…but it’s done so very heavy handedly:

“Good morning, Mr ___ ” he said, calling my name.

So irritating! In the original, the name simply didn’t come up, whereas now it’s deliberately withheld. Very contrived, and weak. In one case, a character insinuates that the Time Traveller’s surname is Livingstone. That section of prose sticks out like a sore thumb!

* Other named characters are given a huge fanfare of phoney intriguing introduction, culminating in the name being given at the end of the chapter. It’s nothing more than a nod to alternate histories (of which I am no fan). Certain that the inclusion of so many names must be of some significance, I had to approach google (it’s my own failing that I have a poor knowledge of history), and indeed, most of the names were historically significant. It makes it unrealistic that so many well-known (not to me! :; ) should come together at one place, one time and be connected to the Time Traveller. It got really tiresome, and predictable.

* There’s a forest fire, and just as I’m thinking this is similar to the original, the Time Traveller ties grass to his feet and is reminded himself of his ‘earlier’ excursion. It’s a nice natural link between the books!

* It’s sad that the boring war story line extends into this portion of the novel, but I suppose that’s a bit of the point. I especially like the football match (similar to the Christmas Day match during WW1). Needless to say a well known footballer from the past was involved.

Back to the present (1891)

* The Time Traveller and Nebogipfel set the time machine to take them to the year 1891. This present is different from the present that The Time Traveller knows as it is populated by descendants of man from the Paleocene several millions of years ago. Baxter gives an account of the new ‘human’ species which has evolved, often referring to ants and ant-like motion. This reminded me of a sci fi novel I’d read but can’t for the life of me remember who wrote it (possibly John Wyndham) where ants occupy large metal structures because otherwise they are limited by their small size.

* As expected from Baxter there is plenty of astro-engineering, but by now I think I’ve got used to it and it’s par for the course.

* There is a fantastic copying of Arthur C. Clarke’s space elevator (from one of the Space Odyssey books, forget which one). Heaven knows why Baxter is called ACC’s heir – he just rewrites his ideas (with a touch more story line). Baxter’s only original contribution to the elevator is that if it’s made of glass, then it won’t be good for vertigo sufferers. Then again. Glass elevator sounds a little bit like Roald Dahl’s novel of the same name, doesn’t it…

* The new species are named The Constructors. Nebogipfel understands them better than the Time Traveller who of course is embarrassingly narrow minded and thick. Nebogipfel adapts well and is able to learn of the plans in time travel the Constructors have in mind, with help from a billiards table which serves as a demonstration of the role of time travel and multiple universes. I thought this was a very clever insight.

A hop into the future

* The construction of the time machine will take half a million years, so the Time Traveller and Nebogipfel time travel forwards in time by that amount when the Constructors’ own time machine is ready. During this travel, the physical space which they occupy is maintained by the Constructors, again, a brilliant insight from Baxter, from whom by now, I’m starting to forgive…whilst his ideas are repetitive (e.g. the vastness of time and space, watchers, astronomical engineering, ideas from other sci fi authors), I must admit that he’s b***dy good!

The beginning of time

* The Constructor’s plan is to go back to the beginning of time, and they take the Time Traveller and Nebognipfel with them. The descriptions from Baxter of the astronomical occurrences are really impressive, as is the final outcome – that the Constructors reach the singularity in time and space, and are able to disperse themselves in all universes of the multiplicity.

* The Time Traveller and Nebognipfel are taken into an optimal universe (for the Constructors). The Time Traveller is again visited by his Watcher which is when he realises that the Watchers have been monitoring him all along, and have been engineering the artificial universe in which they find themselves. Having waited for so long in the book for some information about the Watchers, I felt the description came over as very rushed and without much back up. It is also soaked in pre-material for the Manifold Trilogy.

* The Time Traveller at this point is experiencing total eternal infinity and is at a deep peace with himself…although there doesn’t seem to be any sense of peace conveyed – just bland, vague, and despite the overbearing brightness…dull. That said, it is interesting that after a while the Time Traveller recaptures his inquisitivity, showing that despite a change in his physical form he is still human.

* The Time Traveller and Nebognipfel are returned to human form and placed in an alternate history. I thought Nebognipfel would get reconstructed a little more human like (i.e. of the Time Traveller’s form) and go back to Wales to close the circle from The Chronic Argonauts. (Why did Baxter give him such a name?) Instead he’s simply left by the Time Traveller who with no surprise at all turns out to be the mysterious visitor who bears the initial vial of platternite at the beginning of the novel.

* The Time Traveller admits earlier that he is not one for long goodbyes, and Nebognipfel is a no nonsense kind of a guy, but I really expected something more. The paragraph really seems like an unfinished note that needs a little more expansion.

It’s a real shame that Nebognipfel leaves the novel. He gives some really interesting insights, or I should say, Baxter describes his insights through Nebognipfel) such as how the point of singularity at the beginning of the universe works, or the possibility of multiple multiplicities. Staggering stuff, actually!

The quest to save Weena

* The Time Ships now remembers its origins as a sequel, and the Time Traveller goes forward in time to rescue Weena from the Morlocks. It is another sad note that he does this alone; it would have been interesting to read how Nebognipfel would have reacted to seeing alternate versions of Morlocks; the seed, perhaps, of the Time Traveller’s deep seated aversion to him. (B***dy idiot).

* The Watchers seem to have disappeared. A hugely disappointing close to a story line…no wonder Baxter keeps returning to it in his subsequent novels.

* Anyway. The novel is now reading more like a sequel to The Time Machine the style of writing is more true (e.g. with lengthy descriptions).

* Actually the fact that the Time Traveller wants to save Weena shows the keeping of the character in the original. I think the character depicted in the Time Ships would really have preferred to go back to the Paleocene era.

The End.

[edit] I’ve started reading Tau Zero by Poul Anderson. He’s describing flight in a spaceship where centrifugal and Coriolis forces are making the passengers feel dizzy. Published in 1967, I wonder if Baxter has mastered time travel after all, or whether he’s doing the Baxter thing of taking other people’s ideas…

Although this novel deserves 0/5 stars as a sequel to The Time Machine, I’m giving The Time Ships a full 5 stars as a time travel novel in its own right.


Review: The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma

The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma

Map of Time Book Cover

The first thing which needs to be said about Palma’s Map of Time is that it is a beautifully written piece of literature! This is all the more impressive in that the novel was originally written in Spanish and subsequently translated into English (by Nick Caistor) so perhaps a courteous nod to Nick is in order too!

In short, The Map of Time takes the author H. G. Wells and his novel The Time Machine and spins a romance involving time travel around it.


Distraught to the point of suicide by the murder of his girlfriend, Andrew Harrington is introduced to Gilliam Murray who runs a time travel tourism business. Andrew is informed that only forwards time travel is possible, so going back in time to prevent the murder of his loved one is impossible. A slim possibility of any hope at all in this realm in given in the advice to visit the author H. G. Wells who has published two time travel novels (The Chronic Argonauts and The Time Machine).

The thinking is that by writing such novels, Well’s has mastered time travel and indeed has a working time machine which may be able to help Andrew in revisiting and altering the past.

The theme of romance in this first section is continued in the second which focuses on characters involved in Murray’s time travel tourism business; Claire Haggerty doesn’t fit in with modern day societal conventions falls in love with a man from the future, Captain Derek Shackleton. They meet physically only once, and use letters as a means of communication.

H. G. Wells also has a role here to play in assisting with the letter writing, thus linking this section with the previous.

Wells becomes “the Hero”, i.e. the primary character, in the final section where he is visited, or has communication with, someone from the future. It is through the communication and the visitations that he faces a decision which ultimately decides the fate or future of time travel.

The time travel element.

This is inherently a tricky section to write, given that for the most part there is no actual time travel! In order to avoid spoilers I’ll refer only to the last section of the novel where time travel is more fully realised.

The method of time travel operates through a genetic ability which gets refined through time. Initially time travel occurs involuntarily, though later, as the gene is refined and the ‘user’ becomes more adept at using this skill, time travel is more controlled. These characteristics reminded me of the (non time travel) movie Jumper and Audrey Niffenegger’s time travel novel The Time Traveller’s Wife.

There are lots of time loops, and paradoxes are avoided with parallel universes. In fact, the idea of parallel universes is central to the time travel element in The Map of Time. It is consistent, well thought out and well presented in the in the novel, but personally speaking I find parallel universes an easy escape from time travel paradoxes. And it certainly brought about a very disappointing end to the novel where it served as a mechanism to bring about a happy ending. Or did it?

Writing style

A lot of the novel isn’t really connected with time travel, but at the same time there is frequent use of vocabulary related to time and time travel, and insights given into the author’s thoughts on the subject.

At times it’s like your Grampa reading you a bed time story; friendly and warm, descriptive with a personal insight to an interpretation of events, and a little bit more of a hint that the writer is an all-knowing omnipresent character. In this way, the author becomes almost a character within the novel he is writing!

The average motion through the plot of the novel is linearly forwards, but there are plenty of digressions which seem at first to take a tangent but actually gently circle back to the main story line. Sometimes these read a little discontinuously (especially between each of the 3 sections of the book) but overall it’s fluent, and probably best described as ‘flowery’!

In keeping with the flowery style of writing and story lines, the main character changes quite frequently. I can see that for some readers this might be cause for irritation, but I think it worked well as the characters who, like the tangential sub plots, had a tendency to come back.

The common thread through all of this is H. G. Wells whose role varies from stage extra to key character. I would argue then that H. G. Wells is the central character, in that he is present to some degree in all of the main story lines. Indeed, he is also present in the sequel (The Map of the Sky) which refers to his book The War of the Worlds.

Sadly I was hugely disappointed by the ending which read largely as an introduction to the next book (The Map of the Sky). As far as I can tell from the reviews, the sequel seems to follow pretty much the same pattern as The Map of Time – using H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds as a base in place of The Time Machine.

The Palma’s self publicising aside, things ended happily ever after thanks to a parallel universe, about which I have already hinted of my frustration!

Other notes

I suppose that it is inevitable that similar ideas will ripple across literary fiction, but I did find a number of similarities with ideas and events in The Map of Time with other books:

  • The futuristic idea of automatons fighting humankind ~ the Terminator movies
  • An effort to transport a ‘non time traveller’ through time through physical means (e.g. hugging) ~ Time and Again (Jack Finney)
  • Loss of a limb (or gain, depending how you look at it) ~ The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
  • The elephant in the room of course is H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, but that’s the whole premise of the book. Not quite fan fiction, not quite poetic licence and not an out and out fabrication of historical events, but a very clever clever an original idea!
  • Incidentally, the first time I read The Time Machine I didn’t really enjoy it (actually I’ve tried reading The War of the Worlds (also H.G. Wells) but got so bored with it I gave up), but I am feeling motivated to give it a reread as I feel I’ve got to know [a fictitious version of] the author (and it will prepare me for The Time Ships – the authorised sequel to The Time Machine.)


    The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma is a beautiful time travel novel with very little time travel! That said, there are plenty of methods of time travel presented, although disappointingly (from the time travel perspective) use parallel universes to explain away paradoxes.

    In essence this is a romance novel, but there’s enough science fiction in there to make The Map of Time into something much more special!

    I’m giving this 4/5 stars…which isn’t bad for a time travel novel with actually not that much time travel!

    The Map of Time is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Enjoy!


    Review: Time and Again by Jack Finney

    Time and Again

    By Jack Finney

    Most reviews of Time and Again by Jack Finney are glowing. About Time, a collection of short time travel stories by the same author is a fantastic piece of work. And miscellaneous short time travel stories by Finney in other compendiums are also excellent.

    I had high hopes when I ordered my copy of Time and Again.


    Simon Morley (or “Si” as he’s referred to) is an artist who is selected to take part in a government experiment with time travel. He goes back in time to New York in 1882 and is instructed to observe, and on later trips, to interact with characters who he finds there.

    His motivation is to watch an envelope being posted. The envelope contains a letter with a cryptic message, and the story line loosely revolves around the sequence of events leading up to, and immediately after the event described therein.

    The Time Travel Element

    Si is able to use self hypnosis to transport himself back to a predefined date and time. To achieve this he needed coaching and practice – not just in the technique of the self hypnosis itself, but also in the lifestyles and culture of the New Yorkers of 1882 to facilitate his own belief in being in the new time (a method adopted in the movie Somewhere in Time based on Richard Matheson’s book Bid Time Return)>

    At one point in the novel Si is able to wrap his arms around another character and take her on his travel in time too. The method of her solitary return to her own time is not revealed, though by the time that this point in the novel is reached the time travel method doesn’t see to be of much significance.

    There doesn’t seem to be ‘fine control’ in the sense of a specific moment in time for arrival. Again, this doesn’t really seem to be an important point within the context of the novel.

    Under his self hypnosis, Si is aware of his journey into the past, and is able to return to the present at will. Upon return he relays a stream of general information to the experiment leaders.

    The idea is that if there is an inconsistency between his version of facts and the version that the non time travellers know, then this signifies a different – i.e. altered – history. In one case, another time traveller recalls a character who now no longer exists in the present. This indicates the importance of historical events and their impact on the future.

    That said, a nice idea is presented where time flows as a turbulent river. In a similar way that small disturbances in a large river peter out into nothing, small events in the past won’t affect the future. In effect, nature snaps back to its normal position.

    This is diametrically opposed to the idea of the butterfly effect where small events in a chaotic system (such as the flap of a butterfly’s wings in the atmosphere) can cause large events (such as a hurricane).

    The case of the now-non-existent-character is therefore in disagreement to this premise, as is the paradox presented at the end of the novel…maybe…the question is left open.

    Writing style and content

    Like many time travel stories and novels, Time and Again is written in the first person. A writing style adopted often as a nod to H. G. Wells and The Time Machine, as nearly as often not adding much to the novel, the first person style in this case does give depth. This is because the novel is written as a journal, coming complete with pictures which are presented as sketches and photos that the main character has sketched or taken.

    (On a very personal note I disliked the pictures; I prefer to use character descriptions and my imagination to visualise people and places. It also read rather childishly…Here is a sketch I made of the building etc..)

    To the Finney’s credit, this substantiates the incredible amount of research that has gone into reproducing New York in that era, though almost to his own admission in an afterword this became quite overdone.

    I never fully realised what the story line in this novel was. Si latched onto a character in 1882 new York, Julia, and this is probably the strongest case of a plot, turning a description of a historical New York into a disjointed and uneventful time travel romance.

    But Si’s affair with Julia seems to be pointless – I didn’t find Julia a particularly deep character, and the fact that Si becomes attracted to her to the point of ditching his current girlfriend I think shows his own shallow and superficial nature. On reflection, I must have missed something because such a person wouldn’t have been selected to take part in this government experiment in the first place.

    Having finally got to the end of the book I realised the thinking behind Time and Again – it’s a story woven around a number of known (researched) descriptions and events. Very clever. I loved the idea of the enormous river of time smoothing out earlier changes and I’m sure that this also has a founding somewhere, just as the detailed descriptions of places and signs and billboards in other parts of the novel.

    That said, I found Time and Again to be a novel with a drawn out beginning, no middle and an end where things begin to happen.

    The beginning

    The beginning is where ideas behind time travel are presented. But it takes a lot of dreary reading and it really is spoon fed to the reader. It’s like pushing jelly through a keyhole.

    The middle

    Nothing much actually happens in the central part of the novel. Just pages and pages of description of a 1882 New York. Events are non eventful and descriptions of the area are overtly lengthy with no real significance. Very little actually happens. Page after page. Time and again.

    For those living in New York or those who have a good knowledge of it, I think this might be a fascinating read. For myself, I found it tedious. I was waiting for the story to start, but the end came before I knew it, and by then, it was only just beginning.

    The end

    I’m not sure that there was a definite ‘end’!

    The beginning of the novel starts near the end. By “beginning” I mean actions of note. These actions were full of suspense, though by now the dry style of writing had somewhat numbed the brain.

    A key point is that things tend to be a little coarser in the past than in modern life (for example, less civil liberties and rights) and there’s a certain amount of sympathy for Si. But his hindsight of events never comes into play. This is faithful to the role of observer-only, but I think it would have made for some interesting angles.

    There is very little to tell the (late and non exciting) action sequence in this book apart from an action sequence in a non time travel novel…except for Si’s disappointingly weak escape by travelling out of the time period.

    To its credit there are two highlights to the final section of Time and Again.

    The first is not just seeing a modern day New York through the eyes of a 1882 citizen, but how a modern day person would explain those things to a character from 1882. For example, how is it best to explain the world wars, or aeroplane contrails seen for the first time, etc.. It was during these scenes that I started to a deeper side to Si’s character.

    The second point of interest is the final conclusion. The premise of the time travel element seems to be that events in history don’t effect the outcome in the future to a great degree, and yet…this is turned on it’s head. In order to avoid a spoiler I won’t divulge in this further. But it takes place only in the last 2 pages of the novel.

    The future

    I was expecting a lot from Time and Again but was bitterly disappointed. I’ve seen reviews on Amazon which indicate that the sequel isn’t up to much and doesn’t measure against Time and Again. I don’t think I’ll be giving any time to that novel.


    A Trip on a Train

    Now that we’re in summer time I departed for work on a train which left – relatively speaking (and even though it turned up late) – an hour earlier than the same time last week.

    I found myself sitting on a journey which previously, morning by morning, had got steadily brighter. Now, like a temporally backward hiatus, I was thrust back into darkness, at least for the first leg.

    It’s fairly dark in the mornings at 7 am (summer time) at this time of the year in Holland, but as the vagaries of light reflecting upon the outside world and hitting my dreary retinas became clearer, I was shocked to see the ground covered in a frost of icy but magical fairy tales, and trees draped in ice like spectres of the night.

    What had happened to the daffodils and tulips and other spring-ey kind of things I had glimpsed only days before? Had I finally traversed through time on a train, upon which I have had seemingly endless musings about time travel?

    It wasn’t too long of a wait until I realised what I was looking at: white blossom and the usual dreary white concreted grounds of Holland. So no time travel (which regrettably in this world of predictability, comes as no surprise).

    A couple of stations further on a gentleman seated himself opposite me with the assistance of a white cane. His gaze was distant, though I’m sure that his sight was indeed incredibly – if not infinitely – short-sighted.

    Most other passengers (and despite my third person observation of them I include myself here as one of them) were using vision to gauge our traversal across space all the while passing the time. Our visually impaired travelling companion was not optically equipped to keep himself so-occupied in this way.

    What was going through his mind I had no clue, but surely his mind was not as cloudy as his vision; he had navigated the platform, the train doors and the passage way to find his seat by the glass door separating the populated carriage with the entrance hall of the train all without the assistance of onlookers and those with whom he was embarking the carriage.

    How does a blind man see the world in his imagination? Against what observation or perception does he measure his journey, be it the distance towards his destination, or marking the passage of time, the punctuation of which is so necessary to alleviate the boredom of doing nothing?

    A piercing whistle dragged me from my thoughts and from those of the blind man back to the train which lurched suddenly to a stop.

    Shortly a lady sporting too much make-up and armed with five small paper bags hooped in the crook of her inner elbow burst through the door. She was evidently relieved to not have missed the train which, even as she was bustling down the aisle, was accelerating away from the station at a pace to make up for lost time.

    The glass door flung to behind her, beginning to trace the path along its predestined and extravagant pendulumous swing, seeking its final resting point of closed equilibrium at the end of its trajectory. Without turning his head, the blind man reached out his arm and let the door fall back on his hand, fingers slightly splayed.

    As he allowed the beveled edge of the door to gently caress his hand and come to a silent rest, I came to realise that perhaps this soul whose perception of the world was won through audio means, and maybe an as yet unknown further sense, was more aware of space and time than the rest of us are.

    I continued reading my book, The Time Machine. It was a reread, and though the words on the pages were invariably the same as the first time I had read it, they had struck my consciousness and I found that they spoke to me now with a deeper clarity than before. I put my book away as the train neared my station. I glanced out of the window and caught sight of the rising sun which was still low, a perfect disk of orange through the mist.

    Trip on a train

    Unlike the large dull red future sun of Wells’ Time Machine, my sun would live to see – or indeed create – another day. I rose from my seat, though not as majestically as either the sun of the future of the present. I followed my doppleganger and stepped off the train, ready to embrace what that day had in store for me.


    Spring forward

    So tonight’s the night. (Or is it tomorrow morning’s the morning). At 2 am we put our clocks forward to 3 am, and await the semi annual discussion of whether it’s a good idea or not, and whether we should just keep summer time in place in winter, and in summer put the clock forward an additional hour.

    Spotted it?

    Actually there are two things to spot…firstly that it would be summer time in winter, and secondly, we “spring forward” an hour in spring…and call it “summer time”.

    Ah well. Us humans can be a little bit crazy like that, but I suppose we have to live with it.

    Anyway. I’ve got into the habit of changing the clocks in my house the evening before. I’m not at my best in the morning, and looking at the clock on the bedside cabinet and then trying to remember that I need to add an hour and then remember I should have woken up an hour earlier is just never going to happen. (Who is awake at 2 am to change clocks??)

    So I started downstairs at 18:50, and moved the clocks to 19:50. At 19:00 (i.e. 20:00 according to the downstairs clocks) it’s time for my girls to hit the sack. Cue the tooth brushing, bed time stories etc. and 45 minute later they’re both down. But before I head back downstairs, it’s time to set the upstairs clocks.

    From 19:50 to 20:50.

    Now I know it’s an hour since I was downstairs doing the same thing, but there’s a certain part of me which thinks I’ve just put the clocks forward 2 hours.

    Yeah, I know. That would be crazy!


    Review: Loveless and Godstone Regret

    Loveless and Godstone Regret by Mark Williams

    Two things happened when I started reading Loveless and Godstone Regret.

    Loveless and Godstone Regret book cover
    Loveless and Godstone Regret by Mark Williams

    The first is that it made me put down another book I’d already started reading.

    The second is that I got the absolute heebie jeebies!

    Twice actually. I started reading it on the train to work, and there in the opening pages was a description of commuters at a train station shortly before – and during – the end of the world.

    And if that didn’t give me the crappers, what really did was when I read about a moment when everyone’s mobile phone rang at the same time on that train. Why? Because for reasons unknown to mortal man, when my own phone has a low battery, it vibrates. Presumably it does this to drain the little remaining juice the battery may hold and force me into recharging it quicker. And of course, it did this to me at precisely the same moment that I read about all the phones going off simultaneously.

    Now I felt truly immersed in the book! πŸ˜‰

    Brief Synopsis

    When Jack Loveless becomes an unwilling pawn in a bank robbery he unknowingly discovers a key for a time machine held in one of the vaults. He gets caught in a seemingly unavoidable series of events when he’s rescued from an arrest for the robbery, and before long he uncovers a plot to destroy the world. Trying to understand exactly what is happening, by who, and why (and how to control the time machine!) Jack and his arresting officer (Harry Godstone) stumble from one moment in history to another only making things increasingly worse for themselves.

    As for the future of the world…

    Promotional video

    The Time Travel Element

    The time travel element is introduced very early on with an original idea that by including people in the past as members of the total population then the chances of DNA matches in otherwise statistically high and impossible odds are possible. So as H. G. Wells famously quoted in his “The Time Machine”, time is treated as another dimension and divisions between people, be they geographical or temporal, can be removed. Nice!

    The two main characters, and later their companions, move through time with a time machine. An interesting angle is that the machine is called with a portable key which also serves as the controlling device in terms of temporal destination. The physics behind the operation of the machine – launching into a slingshot around the moon and landing back on the Earth at a different moment in time – is of course unrealistic, but perfectly fitting with the slapstick comedic style of the novel.

    For the most part, characters are literally dropped into different eras and before they know it, lifted up and re-dropped somewhen else. In this respect I was reminded of The Time Machine where Wells’ time machine was only an object to change the setting of the novel for the characters. Unlike Wells’ novel, and more like Time’s Eye (Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter), tramping about time did allow for an interesting play between historical figures of different times, brought together.

    (And as an aside, I must say that although I got annoyed with Time’s Eye, that feeling was not common with Loveless and Godstone Regret!)

    There are some really nice time travel gems; a beautiful way that the time machine responds to and communicates with its key, a sense of inescapable destiny and keep your eye out for an interesting sidestep to the grandfather paradox! πŸ˜‰

    For me, the real juice of time travel comes towards the end of the novel. Unfortunately it reads a little as though it’s an explanation of what has happened earlier – which of course it is – but I think it could have flowed a little more naturally.

    So what makes the final section juicy? In the entirety of the book there are lots of things happening and lots of things going on. At the time of reading not much attention is paid to a man on the roof, or a tattoo on a finger and so forth – but at the end of the novel many of these things are shown to have significance, and for me this makes Loveless and Godstone Regret a well thought out and delivered novel.

    Writing style

    This is primarily a comedy novel, and the humour is an exotic concoction of Terry Pratchett (of Discworld fame) Douglas Adams (of galactic fame) and a hint of Red Dwarf (of extra-galactic fame). However you define it, it’s relentlessly funny on every page!

    Humour is a tricky thing to nail, but Mark Williams has really hit it on the head!

    The characters – what’s in a name?

    The point of view during the narrative shifts a little uneasily between Loveless and Godstone. Given the comedic style of writing this isn’t really a major flaw, though I did feel that this was more because the personalities of the characters tended to merge. Actually, I wonder if the names were given to the wrong people:

    Jack Loveless: the main character; basically a good guy to whom bad things happen.
    Harry Godstone: Jack’s sidekick – a suicidally depressed and violent copper, bent on nicking Jack Loveless.

    It is perhaps a small point, but I thought that violence would be expected from a man named “Loveless”, and “Godstone” is mildly suggestive of a moral compass, more ‘suitable’ for an unwitting hero like Jack. I was also surprised that Jack was usually referred to by his surname (again, more fitting to someone in the police force) whereas the police officer was referred to on a first name basis.

    Still…I was too busy laughing at the comedy and being interested in the time travel aspect to pay much attention to the possible misnomer.

    Other notes

    I have only one negative observation with Loveless and Godstone Regret, and I admit this is subjective; there is a lot of violence. It’s not bloody or gory, but there are lots of people dying and being killed and it seems out of place in a comedy and a lazy way to get rid of awkward or difficult secondary characters.

    Anyway…as the blurb on the back cover says, this is a “…black comedy”, so I’ll hold fire! πŸ™‚

    I should also say that I was surprised to read a scene with a horse which I found to be a little offensive. Admittedly, I am a sensitive chap (perhaps too much so) but I think the nature of the scene didn’t add anything to either the comedy or the plot, and like the violence, would tend to make this novel unsuitable for sensitive and young readers. That said, it is only one paragraph, so perhaps not too much attention should be paid to this bit!


    Loveless and Godstone Regret is a brilliantly funny novel with time travel thrown in for good measure. It’s well thought out with many clever applications and twists associated with romping through time. Violent at times, but hilarious all the way through!


    Loveless and Godstone Regret by Mark Williams is available in print (through Amazon) and as an ebook (through ibooks) at www.markwilliamsnovels.com.

    Disclaimer: A copy of Loveless and Godstone Regret was given to me free of charge for the purpose of providing this unbiased review. This review reflects my true and honest opinion of the novel.


    Thinking ahead

    We naturally tend to think ahead, so is our psychology mapped to the future? How would you respond to the following question:

    When do you feel happier – 3 pm on a Friday, or 9 pm on a Sunday?

    Many would say the former, as the weekend is approaching when we’re not shackled up with employment. The irony is that at 3 pm on a Friday afternoon we’re still at work when we’d rather be at home…like at 9 pm on a Sunday evening.

    (This is of course forgetting that time is greater than money!)

    Maybe our minds live further along the time axis than the rest of us!


    A train of thought

    Some time ago I wrote about an infinitesimally small moment in time by using a thought experiment involving a fly and a train.

    We know from harsh experience that trains don’t run on time. Like mine this morning, which was cancelled. Or perhaps occupying an infinitesimally small spaces. Whilst watching the wheels on the…train (on the opposite platform) go round and round, I got round to thinking about the point of contact between the wheel and the rail.

    Let’s assume that the train wheel is perfectly circular and incompressible, and that the train line is perfectly straight and also incompressible. How much of the wheel touches the train line?

    Point of contact

    OK, I’m no graphic designer, but I’m trying to show that no matter how much you zoom in, the point of contact between a circle and a straight line remains just that – a point.

    No. I can see no other way of seeing it – the wheel is lucky to be touching the track at all! Well maybe that explains the hovering time travel train in Back to the Future III ! πŸ˜‰

    Image courtesy of movieboozer.com
    Image courtesy of movieboozer.com

    On a more serious note…this linking between time and space. If I can just figure out the implications on time, then maybe I’ll know if my train will turn up on time tomorrow…


    Time travel aneurysm

    Friends at the goodreads.com time travel group directed me towards this strip from SMBC comics.

    Despite the humour, who’d have thought that event the thought of time travel could give you an aneurysm!



    Time travel aneurysm
    Image credit: smbc-comics.com

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    Time is money? No…it's greater!

    “Pay me peanuts and I’ll work like a monkey.”

    I recently started a new job; they pay me peanuts, but it’s worth it. Why? Because it’s research in a fascinating subject and not an unchallenging position where I’m reduced to clock watching. (Please note I’d like to think that I’m capable enough to perform this work with a greater statistical likelihood than an infinite number of monkeys producing the works of Shakespeare πŸ˜‰

    My previous job was a bore. I’d sit in the office staring at my watch just waiting for the tedious hours to pass. Waiting to spend my time in the way I want it, where I wanted it.

    Was spending 8 hours a day like this worth the money?

    At the time I thought it was, but from my new present position I must say that I have really learnt that time spent wisely is worth so much more then money. Money can be hard to come by, but it’s even harder (for now) to get more time.

    For now, I love what I do…but I still wish someone would hurry up and invent that time machine!


    Outside the temporal box

    When I picked up my daughter from school today, she was proudly carrying a ring binder full of drawings and things she’d done over the past week or so. She was very happy until we got home and started showing them off to me, and found that one sheet had not been hole punched.

    “Daddy, can we go out and buy a hole punch now?”

    “No Sweetie, the shops are closed. We can go tomorrow.”

    “Can’t we go yesterday?”

    I’d like to think that I’m doing a good job in raising my daughter to think outside the temporal box!

    Watch the time machine!

    Place a thermometer into boiling water, and it will read 100 degrees centigrade. Now plunge the same thermometer into a bucket of ice. The difference in temperature is (at least) 100 degrees, but there is a lag with the thermometer reading. It won’t immediately read 0 degrees, but it will go through the intermediate temperatures (albeit quickly) from 100 degrees, down to 0.

    It can easily be argued that the thermometer is in part reading the temperature of itself – it’s own internal temperature, rather than the true ambient temperature.

    Keep this in mind as we take an instantaneous journey through time in a time machine…

    In an earlier post I demonstrated how the progression of time through space is instantaneous. But how does time progress in a time emachine?

    Consider this. A person goes in a time machine and is instantly placed from the present to say 100 years into the future (as far as “instant” is possible…let’s call it experienced time).

    Will the watch he’s wearing read t = 0 and instantly transform to t = 100 years? Or like the thermometer, will it pass through all the intermediate times like the thermometer read intermediate temperatures? Will he?

    It might seem that a watch, by changing from one state of time to another, intrinsically needs to go through the intermediate times. But this implies a non instant travel. It sounds a little paradoxical that instant time travel means travelling [instantly] through all times in between!

    Alternatively, does the watch measure the moment of ambient time, such as a GPS receiver ‘checking in’ to a satellite clock signal? Or does it measure the progression of experienced time?

    I mentioned that this particular time machine operates instantaneously. That is to say that the “experienced time” is zero. Ambient time, therefore undergoes an instant change. This raises the question of how is an instant change in time possible?

    Let’s pause for a moment on a slight detour and consider a well known thought experiment. On a train.

    A train is traveling at a constant speed of 125 mph towards the west. A fly is buzzing in exactly the opposite direction, on a collision path with the train.

    The collision inevitably takes place, and I think it’s fair to say that neither the train or the fly are aware of the event.

    Now let’s consider the movement of the train and the fly.

    The train is moving to the west at constant speed, collides with the fly, and continues its movement to the west (with a very slightly reduced velocity owing to increased combined mass with the fly).

    The fly was flying towards the east. It collides with the train, then moves with the train towards the west. This means that the fly’s velocity changes sign, i.e. it goes from an arbitrary positive, through zero, to negative.

    At the moment that the fly had zero velocity, it was in contact with the train. It might seem logical to assume that the train must therefore also have a zero velocity…but we know from experience that this is not the case.

    We have therefore defined an infinitesimally small moment in time, but how to explain it? (Aside – this is the great thing about time travel – one question leads to another! πŸ™‚ )

    I was spinning on a roundabout with my daughters last week trying not to retch. They were fine; they were sitting near the middle, whereas I was on the outer rim. How was it possible that I had a greater linear velocity than they, and yet we were all in contact, much like the fly and the train?

    The clue is that we were sitting on the same roundabout, undergoing the same angular velocity. Even the infinitesimally small point in space in the dead centre…was still rotating at the same rate as the rest of us.

    And there it is. Angular velocity. I suppose that it’s not for nothing that people talk about the wheel of time! πŸ˜‰

    So back to our question of how is local ambient time experienced in an instantaneous time machine. Could it be that the local time is compressed or contracted to a point of ‘zero time’, (not to be confused with t = 0, an arbitrary reference time point) and regrows back to a new time? This zero time point would be analagous to the ‘fly point’ of zero velocity, or the zero space point on the roundabout.

    Progression along the radius of the roundabout maintaining constant angular velocity showed that these zero points are possible. How that can be translated to time, or get it to regrow again…well there lies the magic of a time machine!

    Follow the Leader

    Consider the chart below. The curves are two simple sinusoids, and represent, say, the variance of the height of two swings above the ground as they swing in a simple harmonic motion.

    Which of the swings, blue or red, would you say is in the lead?

    Which sine curve is in the lead?
    Which sine curve is in the lead?

    For most, the instinct is to believe that the blue swing is in front.

    But this would be wrong! The blue swing in fact lagging behind the red swing!

    Even with the x axis labelled as “Time”, we are predisposed to visualise the sine curves in space and not in time.

    When we read off the sine wave maxima on the x-axis we can see that the blue swing reaches it’s maximum height at t = 1.5 seconds, whereas the red swing already reached it’s maximum height half a second earlier at t = 1 second.

    So the red swing is in the lead.

    Somehow it seems counter intuitive, that the red swing got there first. It made its history first. It’s sitting there in the past, yet it’s in the lead.

    I suppose it depends on how you look at it. Maybe it’s just swings and roundabouts!


    Time in an Instant

    There is nothing instant about “instant”.

    Not in coffee, not in two shakes of a lambs tail (or a coffee spoon) and not in love at first sight.

    I’ve harped on before about the importance of the speed of light, and how nothing can go faster than it.

    In the latter article I gave the example of the Earth rotating around a non existent sun after for some reason the sun ceased to be; the transmission of information that the sun ceased to be (one parameter being the existence of gravity) would take some 8 minutes to reach the Earth. The Earth would therefore remain in orbit around a non existent sun for those transitional 8 minutes.

    Archimedes had his brainwave whilst he was taking a bath. I had mine during a shower, watching the waste water spiral down through the plug hole. In true Archimedian style I thought to myself “Screw it.”

    Why? Surely there must be something out there that can exceed the speed of light.

    And I might have found it.

    Let’s return to our orbiting Earth (or at least, remain firmly affixed to it’s surface, thanks to our gravitational friend).

    As far as we are concerned, sitting (or showering) on the Earth, everything is hunky dory until the Sun disappears, the light goes out and we are flung into space obeying Newton’s second law of motion (i.e. that we travel in a straight line at constant speed unless an external force [in this case, the Sun’s gravity] is applied.

    We know that the sun must have vanished 8 minutes ago, so let’s call that moment t = 0 and the present t = 8.

    So from the perspective of the Earth at t = 8 we know that the sun vanished at t = 0.

    And on the sun, the sun vanished at t = 0. At the same time, i.e. at t = 0. The event of our hindsight knowledge and the event itself was simultaneous.

    Is hindsight instantaneous?

    I think the example shows that the progression of time across space is instantaneous, although I do concede that it’s a bit strange to give time a speed when it is itself a term in the equation! (speed = distance divided by time!

    I’ll conclude with a quote from Bill Nye (more time and time travel quotes here):

    Ò€œWhen we see the shadow on our images, are we seeing the time 11 minutes ago on Mars? Or are we seeing the time on Mars as observed from Earth now? ItÒ€ℒs like time travel problems in science fiction. When is now; when was then?Ò€ Γ’β‚¬β€œ Bill Nye.


    The Importance of History: An Unexpected Part 2!

    Yesterday (or was it last week? πŸ˜‰ ) I posted a timely thought which explained why history is important. I used an example of flipping an unbiased coin which repeatedly turned up tails, and stated that even though historical performance would suggest another tails on the next flip, the chances of heads showing on the next flip was still 50%.

    I think a 50% chance of a heads showing is incorrect. It should be higher!

    This is because that there are 2 possible outcomes of a flipped coin, so 50% chance of getting either one of them. The implication then is that with 2 coin flips, we’d expect 1 head and 1 tail. With 4 flips we’d expect 2 heads and 2 tails.

    With 100 flips, we’d expect 50 heads and 50 tails.

    But who’s to decide the order in which those heads and tails come? Alternate? Or all one and then the other?

    So take the example in my original post where 50 flips had given tails. I’d stated a 50% probability of the next flip being heads. But if the probability is 50% for 100 flips, then the probability of the 51st flip being heads is now…100% !!!

    So it seems that history is even more important than I had previously thought…although I wonder whether this is because we know something about the future i.e. there will be 100 coin flips and then no more.

    But let’s add in a parallel consideration…we’ve considered this particular coin, but shouldn’t we be taking in all coins, and all of their flips, ad infinitum? That would mean we’re back at a 50% chance of a head.

    So boundary limits impact the probability; events at all places at all times impact the importance of history and what that history means for the future.

    Interesting that although I’m now a little wiser in the future…a little hindsight about foresight would have helped when I first wrote!


    Is History Important?

    I’m not one for history. It relates to things in the past. Not necessarily forgotten about, but it’s been, it’s gone, and it’s over. Done and dusted.

    But however dusty those history books might be, I do concede that history is important. I hold no sympathy for the “You don’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been” line, but history can effect the present and the future.

    Here’s an example.

    An unbiased coin is flipped, and tails comes up.

    It’s flipped again, and again it’s tails.

    And it’s tails again and again and again, and so on…at 50 flips the coin is still coming up tails.

    The probability of heads coming up for the 51st flip, mathematically speaking, is still 50% i.e. there is an equal chance of getting either heads or getting tails.

    But given the history, what would you bet on…heads or tails?

    See how history is important?! πŸ˜‰