Time travel blog

In the zone

Another conversation with my daughter lead to the revelation of the paradoxical nature when telling the time.

Living in a different world time zone than your grandparents can be very confusing for a child. Actually, it can be confusing for me too!

Another conversation with my daughter lead to the revelation of the paradoxical nature when telling the time.

The setting

It’s 8 am here in Holland, where we’re an hour ahead of England.

World time zone

The talk

“We can’t skype Granny and Grampa because they’re not out of bed yet. It’s 8 in the morning here, but it’s earlier for them in England so they’re still sleeping.

“So when can we see them on the computer?”

“Later”

“But you said it was “earlier” there…”

The solution?

She’s right…but somehow there’s something amiss! We’re playing a geographical follow the leader along the time axis!

Paul

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An An0ma1y Somewhere in Time

So what do I read first? Somewhere in Time: a rehashed novel, poorly written but with a good plot and a lively Goodreads discussion, or An0ma1y: a cracker of a novel with promises of well researched time travel intricacies but on a medium which will drive me nuts?

I’m torn between which of 2 books I should read first: Somewhere in Time, or An0ma1y?

Somewhere in Time (Richard Matheson)

Somewhere In Time book cover

On one side I have Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson – a book I’ve already read after seeing the movie, but it comes to my attention now as it will be read as a group read by the Goodreads time travel group and I’d like to take part.

Against it though is my memory of the writing style. My recollection is that it is written in a rushed and lazy way, perhaps what you’d expect from a teenager rehashing a piece of work his heart’s not in.

Why do I say that? Because Somewhere is Time is a rewrite of Bid Time Return written by the same author. The latter is not readily available, and it’s very expensive.

Whilst I might be able to put poor writing style aside, Somewhere in Time has another nail in its coffin. It simply didn’t make an impact on me. I saw the movie first which I loved, and in fact this is what brought me to reading the book (after I couldn’t get hold of Bid Time Return). That’s personal…I usually prefer originals (i.e. the version I’ve come across first).

But the story line is great…and I’m keenly waiting an interesting discussion on Goodreads.

An0ma1y (CJ Moseley)

An0ma1y book cover

On the other side is An0ma1y by CJ Moseley. CJ has written a fantastic page on time travel paradoxes so I know that the time travel element is going to be executed well.

Actually, CJ’s web page lead me to subscribe to his website and the next thing I know I’m watching a fantastic promotional video clip for An0ma1y. Time travel, science fiction, fantasy, paradoxes, excellent Amazon reviews…and before I know it I’m clicking through to make a purchase –

– of a paper back. Whoa! $8.75 sounds a bit steep for me as I usually buy paperbacks second hand. I read my own paperbacks several times over…I try to do the same with other people’s!

So now I have the Kindle version. A snap at less than $2 and I can’t wait to get started. So I do.

I swipe and I read and I swipe and … it turns out I hate ebooks! I’ve read a few short stories and that seems to go OK on my phone, but I’ve only read one full length novel (The Mindtraveler). The reading experience was terrible but the story pulled me through the ordeal.

The problem

So. I don’t know what to read! A rehashed novel, poorly written but with a good plot and a lively discussion, or a cracker of a novel with promises of well researched time travel intricacies but on a medium which will drive me nuts?

Maybe the proof is in the pudding. I’ve started both! I’m further in Somewhere in Time than in An0ma1y but that’s because I’m skim-reading the crap. And the discussion doesn’t start till tomorrow.

With An0ma1y I’m only on page…actually, I’ve no idea. Apparently I’m on “location 82 out of 4524” whatever the hell that means, but despite considerable swiping I’m certainly not yet 82 pages in. But the opening pages are gripping and I want more!

My choice

That’s it then. If I want more, then surely An0ma1y it is! Maybe I’ll be able to dip into the Goodreads discussion from memory. Or recommend An0ma1y for the next group read!

It will be slow reading on my phone…but stand by for the review!

Paul

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Review: The Mindtraveler by Bonnie Rozanski

Time travel offers another chance to relive parts of your life which don’t turn out the way you’d like. Scientist Margaret Braverman discovers how to travel back in time by transporting her 60 year old mind into her 35 year old body and hopes to do things differently this time around.

But time travel is never as simple as it seems. She can only move a few fingers in her younger body and is forced to watch with fascination and horror as history repeats itself…and she has plenty of trouble in store for her when she returns to the present.

The Mindtraveler is a captivating time travel romance novel with scientific oomph! Unafraid to delve into the realms of time travel and its complications, it provokes moral and philosophical questions if we were given the chance to live our life again. Marrying romance with science and divorcing ignorance from time travel, The Mindtraveler is novel which you can’t put down!

The Mindtraveler by Bonnie Rozanski

The Mindtraveler

The Mindtraveler by Bonnie Rozanski is a captivating time travel romance with a firm footing in science. It’s unafraid to delve into the realms of time travel and its complications, provoking moral and philosophical questions if we were given the chance to live our life again.

Brief Synopsis

Margaret is a 60 year old scientist living with the regret of a failed relationship. To the annoyance of her colleagues she develops a time machine as sideline research and finds a way to transport her mind back in time into the body of her 35 year old self.

From this perspective she is able to relive her past – her affair with her colleague Frank, witness of police brutality, victim of an attack and the development of her time machine.

Unfortunately Margaret finds that she can take barely more than a passive role, able at best to move only a few fingers of her younger host body. This means that she can’t pass on or share her 25 years worth of wisdom (and hindsight foresight), and is forced to watch the same mistakes being made again.

In a wild flurry of necessity Margaret finally discovers how to move her host body and manipulates it so that a key moment in her history is changed.

She returns to an altered present where she discovers that her younger self has hitched a ride with her, and who now knows that her time machine works. The young ambitious scientist wants wants to publish the results in scientific journals of her time, but is advised against doing so by the older Margaret.

This is a sting in the tail for the elder Margaret whose present is once again altered.

But is it for the better?

The underlying science

The Mindtraveler is a centipede of a book with many feet in many camps; romance, drama and sci-fi. But what makes this novel different from many others is how it intertwines real science within the narrative.

It’s beautifully done; the story is told from the viewpoint of a lady in her sixties who’s a lecturer and researcher at a university. When she explains science to the reader it’s as though…I was never quite sure…we were either her students or her grandchildren. I was happy with either.

So the science behind her experiments, her thought processes and the methods she uses to solve them are all explained to us clearly and fluently and we get to understand the mechanics of the time machine.

Bonnie has clearly looked into underlying scientific principles and applied them well as the basis for her main character’s time machine – and explanations of it to her colleagues.

And here’s a direct example of how well Bonnie understands the subject area:

In Chapter 3 Margaret describes an experiment which shows how 2 particles are entangled in time: a laser fires a beam to a crystal where twin photons in each split beam take different paths. The photons in one beam are delayed so they arrive later than it’s entangled photon in the other beam. The setup of the cameras to detect the photons capture the image of the earlier photon, but who’s pattern was determined by the latter photon.

Let’s jump away from the novel for a moment and dive into real life.

Image: Gabriela Barreto Lemos
Image: Gabriela Barreto Lemos

The image to the right is taken from an article in New Scientist, published on 27 August 2014, and shows cats which:

“…were generated using a cat stencil and entangled photons. The really spooky part is that the photons used to generate the image never interacted with the stencil, while the photons that illuminated the stencil were never seen by the camera.” (Quoted from New Scientist article)

What I find spooky is the similarity between Margaret’s experiment and this one! Kudos!

The time travel

Time travel is an integral part of the novel – not simply because there’s a time machine, but because the story involves its development, and crucially, the scientific thinking behind it.

The time travel method is to map the quantum state of the mind, and establish its quantum connection to another point in time. The mind can then travel through time (backwards or forwards) as long as the host body is ready to receive it.

This reminds me a little of the movie “Being John Malkovich” where a puppeteer enters the mind of John Malkovich and sees and feels everything that John can, but all the while maintains his own sense of self.

Unlike the puppeteer in the movie, Margaret finds it more difficult to control her host body, and asks herself the question “what was the point in going back in time if you can do nothing to change it?”

This is a key part of the novel – can (or should) you change the past? And likewise…can you change the future?

Whilst reading The Mindtraveler I also came to think of The Mirror by Marlys Millhiser. Admittedly I found The Mirror to be a huge disappointment and non-event, but there is a similarity in the novels in that there is a transference of mind from one body to another body in another time.

In The Mirror there was an interesting point where the mind that had gone back in time ‘caught up’ with its own body in the present.

Whilst this didn’t quite happen in The Mindtraveler (though I think would have given rise to some interesting implications!) there was an interesting Looper-like argument between young and old Margaret when two minds were in the same body at the same time.

Something which I thought was particularly good was how Margaret’s memory was preserved – both in the 60 year old’s memory of the past, and when she came back to the alternate present (i.e. no new memories were instilled, or original ones taken away). Whether this was due to the ‘mind mapping’ time travel technique, or something more philosophical I’m not sure – but it’s a really nice touch!

There is also a brilliant segment on Margaret’s lab assistant Morgan – pay attention to her!

The romance

The time travel element in The Mindtraveler isn’t simply a vessel to describe things in Margaret’s past; indeed, its description is done through thoughtful contrast with the perspective of the present.

So we’ve done the time travel…now what do we do now that we’re back in the past? Instead of droning on and on about the past as Jack Finney does in the dreadful Time and Again where nothing happens, The Mindtraveler is thankfully different.

Margaret cracks time travel and tries to change things, notably, her failed relationship. Whether the relationship between Margaret and Frank is the primary or secondary plot (after the time travel – getting to be in a position (i.e. a time) when the relationship can be salvaged) is probably a matter of personal perspective.

Margaret herself of course takes two personalities – those of her younger and older self – and this makes for some pretty interesting reading when it comes to her thoughts about Frank. (It was also interesting for me as a man to read about how women (or at least, this one) feel about relationships and things.) I’m generally not into romances and stuff, but it came across nicely here.

Other thoughts

Something which immediately struck a chord with me (and perhaps this is because I’m a scientist by profession) is the accuracy of Bonnie’s insight (or research) into the negative side of academic politics – the petty mindedness and ambition of individuals, personal vendettas for selfish reasons.

You do get complete self serving and inflated s*its like Caleb, and you do get researchers on the fringe of the norm but who are academically excellent. These characters aren’t necessarily likeable, but they’re real.

However, the novel is about Margaret (and Frank), and about her research in time travel. It isn’t about her colleagues, friends or students – they feature because they make up part of her history, but they’re not the main focus. (Although as I mentioned earlier – pay attention to Morgan!)

Quite shockingly there are two violent episodes – police brutality and an attack. At first I wondered why they were included…but it was a natural read and the events didn’t appear to be contrived and added for the sake of it. Violence itself is shocking, but for me, what added to that is the fact that these events persisted to the memory of a 60 year old.

Well…understandable I think, given the circumstances.

For me the weak point in the novel is when Margaret returns to the present and hears that she’s won the Nobel Prize; I thought the timing was strange and too coincidental in that we’ve already seen that there can be an alternate history so the award of the er…award at exactly the point of her return seems too unlikely.

So is it better to have known love and lost it to a Nobel prize in physics, or to never have known [that] love at all?

When Margaret was in the ‘with-Frank’ future, she didn’t seem to take time to enjoy it fully, though I suppose the scientist side of her took control to see what had happened and how to preserve it. Her efforts are hampered, but it did leave me with an unanswered question: why didn’t Margaret go back in time again? Perhaps there is room for a sequel…I certainly hope so!

Availability

The Mindtraveler by Bonnie Rozanski is due out in February 2015 and will be published by Bitingduck Press. Unless you can get hold of a time machine, you’ll just have to wait until then! 😉

Rating * * * * *

The Mindtraveler by Bonnie Rozanski gets 5 stars for all the reasons I’ve written about above!

The Mindtraveler: A captivating time travel romance novel with scientific oomph!

Paul

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Disclaimer: A PDF copy of The Mindtraveler” was sent to me free of charge so that I could read and write my honest thoughts and opinions. These are they!

Star ratings:

| 5* Excellent! | 4* Good | 3* OK | 2* Not good | 1* Crud |

Review: The Accidental Prologue

The Accidental Prologue by Andre Mazeron is an absolutely cracking time travel short story with a wonderful writing style which endears you to the first person character. The mechanics of time travel are integral within the plot which even describes experiments helping to understand how time travel paradoxes can be avoided.

Review: The Accidental Prologue by André Mazeron

Review: The Accidental Prologue

What an absolutely cracking short story!

The writing style is wonderful, immediately endearing me to the first person main character. This is even more marvelous when you consider that the author is Brazilian and is writing in English as a second language. Indeed, there are a few grammatical errors, but they really don’t detract the reader from the plot. And only a fool would let them.

(In fact, I’d say that André’s writing is on an equal footing with Felix J. Palma of The Map of Time!)

The plot details the mechanics of time travel and even describes experiments which help to understand how time travel paradoxes can be avoided. This is a great inclusion by André who is clearly mindful that science in science fiction needs to be consistent.

In addition to the quality scientific content, André also shows the quality of his background reading in other areas – take for example the name of the book and why it’s so called… Ah well, “If a rose were not a rose…” 😉

Short stories often end quickly and suddenly, giving the reader a sense of “Eh?…Ah yes!”. I was pleased that that this short story continued a little further, nicely rounding things off, and yet still providing me with that “Ah yes!” feeling at the end without any perplexity beforehand.

All in all, this is a fantastic debut short story (or “novelette”) from André Mazeron with great science and its applications in time travel – it’s well worth a read!

Availability

The Accidental Prologue by André Mazeron is available on Kindle at Amazon.com (associate link). It was free when I downloaded it – and at only 21 pages in length you really can’t go wrong!

Rating * * * * *

5/5 stars for a short and sweet time travel short story! 🙂

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Star ratings:

| 5* Excellent! | 4* Good | 3* OK | 2* Not good | 1* Crud |

An alarming sense of time

Do we have a subconscious perception of time? Something deeper than our inbuilt body clock and connects us intricately with other souls or times?

Most of us have probably heard of our body clock – the internal clock that roughly speaking helps us to know when-abouts in the day we are. It might get scuppered a bit with long distance travelling in the ‘wrong’ direction (jet lag), but generally speaking it does pretty well (maybe with the exception of some self inflated middle managers who can’t seem to hold meetings to time!)

Birds and other creatures of nature seemingly set their body clocks to natural phenomenon like sunlight; studies have shown that they go doolally during total solar eclipses when it gets locally dark at a time not in sync with their body clock. Some marine life uses moonlight, and in some cases, even moon phase.

Perhaps us humans are not so different from animals – every now and then our body clocks need calibration – why else do we check our clocks and watches to make sure that we’re on track?

I think this is shown most clearly in the act of waking up – our bodies often wish to continue to sleep, despite years of training, when external time would suggest that it is time to rise and shine.

OK, it’s a fair point that there maybe biological requirements for sleep and energy recuperation.

But does it go deeper than that? Do we have a more subconscious perception of time? Something which goes deeper than our inbuilt insular body clock and connects us intricately with other souls or times as some say dreams do?

Alarm clock
What does the alarm clock know that we don’t?

Why do we wake up just before the alarm clock rings? Are we subconsciously aware that the the time is nigh? Or that the ringing of the clock is timed with an event in our dreams?

Some say that dreams allow our minds to wander through time…to stir up memories or to presuppose the future.

Or are dreams, as spiritualists might dare to believe, Plato’s realisation that they are a memory of the future?

Either way, alarm clocks pull us out of them, and we either fight to resist it or succumb to their calling us back to the fixed temporal time line. To recalibrate our sense of time, or at least to the frost of social agreement, if not convention.

I’m not convinced that we really need alarm clocks anyway. I found a brilliant article written by “Big Guy” at bigguymoney.com who indirectly holds the same view – alarm clocks wake us up in the wrong part of our sleep cycle, so we wake up disorientated and groggy. We’re better off without them (aside from social requirements such as work!).

The timing of our natural sleep cycle is at odds with external time; arguably the alarm clocks offers calibration. But it’s not always wanted!

In that article there is also a video clip about the snooze feature – which generally I love (it gives me more time in bed) but my wife hates (it wakes her up several times and yet at the same time doesn’t provide enough time to return back to a deep sleep.).

She has a point – indeed, the video suggests that if you just get up when the alarm clock goes off you’re more refreshed and awake than getting up after using the snooze feature, or simply sleeping for an extended but uninterrupted period.

An experiment to sleep through

There may be truth in that and being a scientist I had to test it! I repeatedly hit the snooze button…so many times that without realising it the hour hand eventually moved over and past the alarm hand and no longer triggered the alarm.

Yes, I overslept.

The following morning I switched off the snooze feature and aimed to get out of bed as soon as I woke. But I was too tired to get up, I fell back asleep, and with no snooze to reawake me…

I overslept.

Conclusion: I’m screwed either way!

A crazy notion anyway…

The idea of alarm clocks is crazy – that we desire an interruption to our normal biological requirement of sleeping.

But they only work in the morning. Obviously you can’t wake up in the evening before you’ve slept (time travel aside…!) but I’m talking here of the attitude; the expectation of a right to sleep in the evening isn’t carried through to the morning where we take efforts to bring ourselves out of sleep with an alarm clock

We’re much more likely to hear our neighbour banging on the wall late at night calling “Don’t you know what time it is? I’m trying to go to sleep!” than having him at the front door at 11:00 in the morning complaining of noise and demanding his right to a lie-in.

Perhaps teenagers are the most sensitive to this conundrum – they don’t want to go to sleep at night and don’t want to get up in the morning. Are they out of kilter with society, temporally displaced by a few hours, or more in tune with their inner sense of time?

A natural call

cockerel or rooster
What we did before alarm clocks: A natural start courtesy of a cockerel or rooster

Before alarms clocks we woke with the sound of a rooster, who, I guess, woke with the rising of the sun. It seems to be more harmonious, more natural to our own internal rhythm.

Yes, using alarm clocks seems to be altogether cuckoo!

Further experimental trials

A far cry from the call of nature is a call from the differential of space (i.e. motion!).

Apps exist which monitor how your body moves whilst it’s asleep, and from that determines which part of the sleep you’re in and when the best moment to wake up is. So a use of spatial motion to call us to time.

My experiment on that didn’t work either – my wife’s movements ‘contaminated’ the measurements. Although a former (single) colleague told me he had tried the app..

He told me he had tried it…when he got into work late as he’d overslept.

First things last…

My last trial (which really as a baseline should have been my first) was to wake up completely naturally with no alarm clock…except my oldest daughter (coming on 5) ironically woke up earlier on a Saturday morning than on a school day, ran into my bedroom and jumped on my belly. (Which woke me up!)

Conclusions

The seemingly overall conclusion is that the mind is [sometimes] willing but the flesh is weak. That is to say, tired.

Exception to the rule: Unless you’re a child (i.e. younger than our late-nighter / lying-in teenagers)

And what can we learn from this? That indeed an hour before midnight is worth 2 in the morning? An improbable route for time dilation, (just as “a stitch in time can save nine” – though seemingly a lot more efficient!). I don’t think so.

So much for the morning calibration of our sense of time. It doesn’t always work, and indeed we often wake up with not only temporal disorientation (“morning already?”, “what happened last night?”) but also spatial (“where am I?”, or “who are you?”).

So we turn to validation.

(Calibration is setting ourselves to be the same as everyone else; validation is making sure it’s been done correctly.)

How does coffee sound? Or an energy drink (or some other caffeine based product), children, or pure requirement?

Or simple resignation – usually reserved for Monday mornings…if you know when that is!

Paul

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Dating for Geeks

Dating for Geeks cartoon strip asks: What would you like most if you were like Marty McFly in Back to the Future?

I found this cartoon in a Dutch newspaper (“Spits”) on the train this morning (click to enlarge). Dating for Geeks…with an ounce of time travel! 🙂

Dating for Geeks
Courtesy: www.spitsnieuwes.nl

And the loose translation into English is:


– What would you like most if you were like Marty McFly in Back to the Future?


– A time machine? A hover board? Shoes that tie their own laces?
– Hmm, no…


– I would like to choose something that in real life I would never get…
– What’s that then?


– A girlfriend.



Actually, it’s not that funny is it? I’m feeling sorry for him…

Then again, it seems as though the hover board and the self tying shoes might soon become a reality…so there’s hope yet for our geeky friend! 🙂

Hoverboard
Hoverboard as in Back to the Future II set to become a reality!
Courtesy: aliencyborgs.com/back-to-the-future-hoverboards-finally

self tying shoes
Courtesy: refinedgeekery.com/2014/03/04/is-this-hoverboard-video-real/

Paul

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Is energy released in time travel?

A huge obstacle in time travel is the vast amounts of energy needed to power it. What if we could borrow and pay back energy by moving it through time?

A thermodynamic conundrum

One of the biggest obstacles in time travel is summoning the vast amounts of energy required to power it. I’ve often wondered whether we could use the energy from one time and return it in another during the time travel expedition the same way as we move physical objects around according to our transient desires.

So far it would seem not; the laws of thermodynamics mean that there cannot be a creation (or destruction) of energy and moving it from one time to another (forwards or backwards) is essentially the same thing (removing it from one time is ‘destruction’ and replacing it in another time is ‘creation’).

Looking at it another way, does time travel imply that there is a creation or destruction of energy? Perhaps thermodynamics hints at the importance of direction, at least in the temporal field.

A matter of direction

Most of us have probably heard about the direction of time, or time’s arrow. In these cases the direction is linear, that is to say, forwards, backwards or if we’re being creative, sideways.

Equally creative, but perhaps more conventional given the motion of hands on a clock, have we ever considered a rotational direction of time?

Image courtesy: Google images.
Image courtesy: Google images.

In H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine (or was it that b***dy Baxter’s The Time Ships), the Time Traveller talks of a twisting of the spatial and temporal dimensions so that all 4 dimensions are transposed and travelling through time could be done so as easily as easily as travelling through space. Give or take a bit of nausea.

(Yes, it was Baxter. I remember now; he [appears to have] nicked the idea of rotating of the 4 dimensions (and inducing sickness from centrifugal and Coriolis forces from Poul Anderson, or at least the rotational aspect from Michael Moorcock’s Flux. )

It seems to me that if we’re going to play about with thought experiments and how time moves (or at least, how we move through an otherwise static time), then we should at least pay a bit of homage to the idea that it might twirl about!

Indirectly, my wife and I recently had a conversation which lead to these kind of musings.

I’ll say upfront that the conversation wasn’t directly related to time travel or even about time…but it did involve a clock. Note the manly pink colour, but please recall that I am a father of 2 daughters!

Rotated clock
Does time have a rotational direction? 10 o’çlock, 1 o’çlock or quarter past?

A few nights ago my wife exclaimed surprise that the bedside clock still worked even when the battery is put in with the knobbly bit on the wrong way reversed polarity. “Even the light comes on!”

Why wouldn’t it? In a general and simple electrical case (e.g. one without diodes), it’s not the direction of flow of electricity that makes light light or clocks tick (that’s an expression…digital ones don’t!) – rather, it’s the flow itself.

[Aside: an economist friend of mine once told me that the value of money is unimportant – it’s that it changes hands. Not spending a million dollars is the same as not spending 1 dollar. Movement, or flow, of money is important…though in this case the direction is important too…we’d rather receive a million dollars than part with it!]

My wife (who I should add, didn’t marry me for my money!) said that given all the warnings in the instruction manual about taking care to observe the correct polarity, she’d expected the clock to simply not work. Or blow up spectacularly.

At the very least, that it might run backwards.

Whilst this wouldn’t explain the workings of Edward Page Mitchell’s The Clock that went Backwards (which was a wind up Grandfather clock), the comment did lead to the usual cart-before-the-horse question: was our hypothetically backward running pink clock marking a backward motion of time, or was it actually driving it?

And if I can milk the driving metaphor, was our reverse polar battery the equivalent of the flux capacitor in the Back to the Future DeLorean time machine?

Now that the horse is well and truly trailing the cart, my wife and I turned to thinking about the local effect of a backward trip in time. As local as the battery squeezed in its compartment with the knobble against the spring.

In the usual case, the battery discharges and powers the clock. The corollary, if we’re going back in time, is that the battery is now charging – electricity is coming out of the clock and into the battery.

But if the battery isn’t discharging, then it can’t be powering the clock to drive the time backwards, and that means it should be discharging. We have the classic Grandfather Paradox…nullifying our speculative thought experiment!

Well! Paradoxes such as these are common place in time travel, so perhaps we’re on the right track…

But something else is at odds here – power is required to push time forwards (or to maintain it’s ambient rate of natural progression), and now it looks like energy is released in time travel when we go backwards!

This sounds counter-intuitive, but I wonder if it’s something else entirely…I think the clue is in the battery not being charged but recharged – the energy it spent in pushing time forwards is now being paid back.

It’s a subtle difference, but this idea of a return can be taken further in the case of time itself in that it’s not a backward motion of time but a return to some state of equilibrium, like an aeroplane doesn’t expend energy to fly downwards, but returns to the ground and gives up energy doing so.

This seems to be more in line with thermodynamic principles where energy is required to bring order and expended to return to chaos, and indeed…we have a battery with increasing energy.

A reversal of time is an increase in order(!)…the matter of the universe, going back in time, will become more ordered. Perhaps, into a singularity rather than an expanding universe.

So what’s all this got to do with rotational time?

Well OK, you got me! Clock hands rotating the wrong way doesn’t signify a rotational time direction any more than a digital clock counting backwards signifies time going backwards. Does it?

Maybe we’ll never know. If time is going (or rotating) backwards now how would we know? It would be normal to us; the definition of a direction would be a matter of convention.

I can’t help thinking though, that a time might introduce some twirling about, some seemingly random changes in direction, or loops or somersaults to avoid those pesky time travel paradoxes we’d have with a linear motion in time. And it would be a much cleaner solution that just making up a new multiverse to get out of the conundrum.

Don’t you think?

Well, we’ve talked and thunk ourselves into a tighter and ever decreasing circle, and like the Time Traveller, probably feeling quite dizzy and nauseous from it!

Paul

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Review: The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

The Anubis Gates

In short, this is a masterpiece of literature! It mixes fantasy with science fiction and has a multitude of story lines woven together with such intricacy that the resulting tapestry is a true marvel.

The Anubis Gates had me hooked from the beginning. Time travel is introduced very early on with a mixture of gadgetary and philosophical ideas about time travel, with a motivation about as strong as you can get…albeit truly revealed quite late on in the book.

The novel opens with a prologue that reads rather like an opening sequence in a movie – a couple of mysterious characters in ancient Egypt in a fantasy setting with an odd mix of horror and magic. It is abstract and vague, but you know that in time all will become clear…

Brief synopsis

Brendan Doyle, a literary scholar, is asked by Mr Darrow to go back in time with millionaires who are paying to attend a lecture given by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Doyle’s role, given his academic knowledge, is to provide his expert opinion on the lecture.

Brendan is abducted shortly after the lecture from which moment on he’s thrust into a world where he tries to piece together who he really is, who his kidnapper was, and why he’s of interest to them. This is more complicated than you might imagine thanks to a body changing werewolf (“Dog Face Joe”) hidden identities, magic, a surprising Shakespearean style romance and of course the time travel!

The time travel element

Time travel is introduced early in the novel; there’s no hanging about waiting for it to come, and no annoying confusion from the main character about “ooh-la-di-dah everything is so 18th century, but after 4 chapters I still haven’t worked out what’s going on”. No, thankfully Doyle has his head on straight and gets straight to business and deals with events as best as he is able given his very tricky circumstances!

Doyle is sceptical of time travel so this affords Darrow the opportunity to convince him (and us, the reader) of the reality of it. Darrow describes time as a river and uses this as a really good counter argument to the butterfly effect (i.e. that a small incident in the past (e.g. the flap of a butterfly’s wing) can affect the future on a much larger scale (like causing a hurricane); small disturbances in the river effect the flow downstream (i.e. in the future)…but some ripples are so small that actually it makes no difference to the bigger picture!

The analogy of time being like a river is taken further where Darrow suggests that you can step out of the time river and re-enter it on another part of the river bank. Or that the river could be frozen but that there are holes in the ice which can be passed through.

Despite these beautiful ideas, the aspect of time travel is not the main theme of the book and it is not a vehicle to transport the reader to a different setting for the characters. Rather, it’s a subtle mechanism to move and swap characters around within the plot.

The mechanism of time travel is done so through magical means (or an effect from) which is the first time I’ve come across this method and naturally fits in well with the fantasy part of the novel.

There are many clever time loops and the ontological paradox is taken to the extreme. There are also several examples of the “Hitler paradox” where history cannot be changed, altered, or escaped from. There is a therefore a clear sense of destiny and a strong sense of curiosity, especially in the submissive yet climatic conclusion.

These time travel themes are brilliantly executed and fit well within the general story line.

Writing Style

Although there is one central character, we are also introduced into the thoughts and feelings of several other characters in the novel. This helps to paint a complete three-dimensional picture of the events taking place and creates a deeper understanding of both characters and setting.

There is naturally a lot of swapping between the plots but it is not disruptive, and neither do the shifts seem to be timed to be cliff-hangers. The changes were natural and helped with the chronological narrative – as well as it could be in a time travel novel!

The main story line which comes together at the end wasn’t the one I was expecting…what I thought was the main story turned out to be an initiator, and then as a reoccurring side plot. Very clever!

Other points

I think this is a love or hate book (I loved it!). There is a lot of chopping about which means that the main character is difficult to follow at times…in body and in time. I can see that some readers may find this frustrating, as well as the diffusion between fantasy and science fiction.

My only slightly negative point is that I found the Egyptian story line to be a little confusing but that probably reflects more of myself than of the book – I must confess that I’m not really into fantasy so I read these sections very lightly and no doubt I missed some crucial aspects.

That said, the ‘fantastic’ line (is there another adjective for a fantasy section?) played a minor role in the whole scheme of things.

Availability

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers earns an easy 5/5 stars and is available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Happy reading!

Paul

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3 theories of time travel

I found this excellent infographic over at techeblog.com which explains 3 theories of time travel; fixed timeline, dynamic timeline and multiverse.

As I commented on the original site, I have a problem with multiverses! They’re too much of an easy ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card and I can’t find any sound scientific basis for the creation of all the additional energy and mass required to go round creating new universes willy nilly…let alone specify a defined moment for divergence.

So many problems, so little time…I think I have an idea for another blog post!

Image courtesy: www.techeblog.com
Image courtesy: www.techeblog.com

Paul

A game of patience

Patience isn’t something for time travellers.

As time travellers we don’t want to wait for a moment or an event to reach us at the ambient rate of 1 second per second. We want it now.

When I show frustration born from impatience, there’s always some idiot telling me it’s “…a lesson in patience”.

How the hell is that? All I’ve learnt is that I’m still impatient, and it’s usually the patient people trying to make me more like them; to be more patient whilst I wait for them to just get on with it.

The cure for impatience

Apparently help is available in dealing with impatience. Not that impatience is a disease…more like patience is a resignation to the idea that we can’t change (speed up, in this case) the rate of time. And I don’t like that!

The suggestion comes in two forms: either we either hold tight, or that we let go completely.

Here’s the thinking:

  • Holding on tight
  • This means keeping focused on the end goal, and working hard to achieve it.

  • Letting go of the end goal
  • Read here…forget it. Que sera sera (whatever will be, will be), and presumably, whenever whatever it is, will be ready. Do something else. Take your mind off it. Stick your head in the sand. Pretend like you don’t care.

    I reckon that sounds like giving up doesn’t it!

    Or…could we consider it more as parallel time line jumping? Fill your waiting time with another activity, i.e. instead of waiting on the same time line, jump to another parallel one and bypass the wait by doing something else. Then return to your original time line where the perceived time will seem shorter, like starting a chapter in a book which returns to a story line dropped a few pages ago.

    Time compression
    Apparent time compression through parallel jumping

    It’s ironic that the time will then seem to pass quicker when you don’t concentrate on it. Like a kettle boils quicker if you don’t wait for it. Friction works harder against you the more you try to overcome it (by pushing harder or going faster).

    The more you earn the more you’re taxed. Love comes to you when you don’t look for it. Yeah I know – it’s all messed up…so forget all about it! Besides, it’s not fair that this form of ‘apparent time travel’ comes quicker to those who don’t want it!

    The best things don’t come to those who wait. Those who wait are inefficient with their time and kid themselves that whatever they want to be doing now can wait till later.

    So should we hold on? I don’t think so. Carpe diem. Seize the day. Seize it by the neck and then strangle it and tell it to get a b***dy move on!

    Just make the most of it…or do something else!

    Paul

    A finger to the clock

    The distinct resonant tock of an old analogue clock. A hammer hitting nails in the analogue coffin. Their time is up, their glory gone in a sonorous din.

    Tick.

    I like the idea of analogue clocks because they measure time exactly.

    For example, the position of a hand on a clock face can indicate when the moment of a third of a second has been reached, whereas a digital clock is inherently incapable of this feat – at best it shows an instant in time in decimal notation to a limited number of decimal points.

    And for irrational numbers that’s not exact.

    But my problem with analogue clocks and watches is this: that the glory of analogue and continuous monitoring of time is punctuated. And how irrational is that?

    Tock.

    It is true that this is largely down to the inherent mechanical design of a clock or watch (although some models do have “sweep” hands) but what I find close to unforgivable is that the precise toiling of the cogs and sprockets and springs and things is deliberately engineered that it grates on the aural senses with an audible “tick tock”.

    Tick.

    Not just every hour, or every minute, but every single second. Actually, sometimes more; smaller watches have the rapid tick-tick-tick-tick, a tick every half second or so.

    This ticking and tocking is arguably worse than the Japanese water torture where the irregular dripping of water causes psychological neurosis. But the regularity of the tick-tock means that the next one is expected. So we wait for it. And the next, and the next and the…

    Tock.

    …next.

    It’s an irrational crime against Analogue to interrupt or to mark the passing of predefined moments in such a way.

    Tick tock cuckoo.

    In this post I revealed what a Dutch clock is. Dutch clocks and grandfather clocks are the worst culprits as the swing of the pendulum creates such a thud of a tock that the body reverberates in an anti-echo of antagonised yearning of peace; their analogue glory gone in a sonorous din.

    And if that’s not enough, most models mark the passing of each hour – sometimes even each half and quarter hour – with further exclamations emanating from the time piece to remind us of their presence. Aargh, the distinct resonant tock of an old clock.

    A hammer hitting nails in the Analogue coffin. Their time is up, especially for those which have cuckoos or hideous figurines which come out and make quite literally a song and a dance about the time.

    Pepper pot, Zwolle
    The “Peperbus” (“Pepper pot”) in Zwolle, the Netherlands. Image courtesy: www.cloudshots.nl.

    The chimes of Big Ben (London) are world famous. Not so well known is The Peperbus (Zwolle, Holland) plays a variety of songs (including the theme song to The A-Team) prior to donging local (and some not-so-local) inhabitants to near audible death. (Or how some Londoners might pronounce it, deaf! 😉 ) Noise pollution. And yes (and bear in mind I say this as an unbiased practising Christian) I find the sound of a church bell untuneful, dull, and sickly lacking in sonic lustre or attraction.

    Even my 2 year old daughter makes a more tuneful racket when thrashing a wooden spoon against the side of a baking tray (and admittedly I say that as a highly biased Dad!)

    The thing about digital watches

    The author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, made the comment in the first of that ‘trilogy’ (of 5…) that humans thought digital watches were “…a pretty neat idea”. And as a human, I tend to agree.

    Digital clock

    True, we need to read the time (numerically, in series) rather than ‘tell’ the time from a bizarre form of parallel (clock)face recognition.

    And it’s true that some morons set their digital watches to make an hourly chime.

    And it’s true that some digital watches have so many functions that the battery size required to power them all takes more space than my wife needs to parallel park.

    It’s also true some digital watches and clocks are too faint to read in daylight, or too bright to allow sleep at night and burn red holes in your retinas as you desperately try to count sheep.

    But digital watches and clocks are silent. There’s no noise with digital clocks. Silence is golden…they just simply let the time pass!

    A final thought: If analogue clocks have hands, shouldn’t digital clocks have fingers? 😉

    Paul

    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!

    Paul

    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!

    Paul

    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!

    Paul

    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 😉 ) 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!

    Paul

    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!

    Synopsis

    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!]

    Availability

    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!

    Paul

    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…! 😉 ) and his wish to remember the future.

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

    Paul

    Doppelganger

    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?

    Paul

    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?

    Paul

    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?

    Summary

    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.

    BUT…

    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!

    Preparations

    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.

    Beginnings

    * 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.

    Paul

    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.

    Synopsis

    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.)

    Summary

    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!

    Paul

    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.

    Synopsis

    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.

    Paul

    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.

    Paul

    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!

    Paul