I can’t resist time-travel stories. So when I happened across The Time Traveler’s Almanac on Amazon, I hit the “buy now” button at very nearly the speed of light. If I’d been even quicker, maybe I could have read this post without the trouble of actually writing it.
Or something like that. When you really analyze any story about time travel, things quickly have a way of not making sense. I blame the unforgiving nature of physics. Still, this genre is my favorite guilty pleasure. While The Time Traveler’s Almanac has a few yarns that brush against hard science, I prefer the ones that focus on the “who” and “when” rather than the “how.” Give me the fantasy and blur the science. Most of the tales here do just that.
This is a big book: 960 pages if you opt for the hardcover. I think there are 69 stories in all, grouped into four fairly arbitrary categories and interspersed with a few non-fiction essays on the theory and practice of time travel. I’m only halfway through it and at this rate it’ll probably be a couple more weeks before I’m done.
But it’s been fun so far. Although I consider myself a big fan of the genre, I’m surprised by how few of these stories I’ve already read. There are some classics like Ray Bradbury’s “The Sound of Thunder,” but a lot more I’ve never seen — or maybe have forgotten in the fullness of time. All of them let the reader indulge that most beguiling of questions: What would you do if you could wander up and down the river of time, no longer confined to the same leaky vessel as everyone else? In these stories, the motivations are many: love, politics, tourism — even finding a better apartment.
Not all the stories are great, but the nice thing about a book this big is that you can skim the tedious ones and savor the rest. They’re kind of addicting too. I’m always thinking, “just one more” and finally noticing that somehow I have traveled into the future: it was 11 p.m. when I opened the book and now it’s 3:17 a.m. Whoa. Mind just blown.