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Top 5 Books About Time Travel

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by Jennifer Muirhead (subscribe)
I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma. ~ Eartha Kitt
Published September 15th 2018
It makes for messy book keeping
What would happen if you could travel into the past and meet your ancestors, or take a trip to the future and see what becomes of humanity in a thousand years time? Time travel is an idea that has long fascinated and inspired storytellers and these five books are examples of some of the wonderful tales that have been written about it so far.

kindred, octavia butler, books about time travel, time travel, books about slavery, slavery, racism

1. Kindred- Octavia Butler

"I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm."

Written by Octavia Butler, award-winning author of the Parables and Exogenesis series, Kindred has a cracking opening line that taunts the reader to continue to find out what the heck is going on. It's the story of Dana, an African-American writer living in Los Angeles in 1976 who finds herself involuntarily transported, apparently at random, to a plantation in pre-civil war Maryland. There she meets a young white boy named Rufus, the son of the plantation owner, who she learns is one of her ancestors. Trapped in the past for an indefinite length of time each trip, Dana tries to be a good influence on Rufus as he grows, while struggling to survive herself in a time and place that is very dangerous to black women.

Kindred is a modern classic, which depicts the brutality of slavery in stark contrast to romanticised stories like Gone with the Wind. It is a fascinating and confronting book that remains as relevant today as when it was written.

The Time Travellers Wife, time travel, books about time travel, Audrey Niffenegger

3. The Time Traveller's Wife- Audrey Niffenegger

The Time Traveller's Wife, which has now been made into a movie staring Eric Bana, was Audrey Niffenegger's debut novel. It is the story of a man named Henry, who, like Dana from Kindred, finds himself involuntarily transported through time, and of Henry's wife, Clare, who spends much of her life waiting for Henry to appear. Henry starts time travelling when he is five years old and may jump to any point in his own past or future, which can make his life very complicated, especially since he always arrives nude. He and Clare meet for the first time, (for Clare), when Clare is six years old and Henry is a grown man, but from Henry's perspective, he first meets Clare when he is 28 and she is 20. It's a lot like the complicated timey-wimey romance between the Doctor and River Song in Doctor Who, though aside from the time travel element it is firmly grounded in the real world.

The Time Traveller's Wife
is a mixture of different genres- mainly a love story with a little science fiction thrown in for luck. Audrey Niffenegger has announced that she is working on a sequel, which should be due for release soon.

The Time Machine, HG Wells, books about time travel, time travel

3. The Time Machine- HG Wells

I couldn't very well create a list about time travel books without including HG Wells' 1895 classic, The Time Machine. It's the story of an unnamed narrator, referred to simply as the time traveller, who builds a device to take him into the future. He meets peaceful, childlike people called the Eloi, and the apelike Morlocks, who threaten the Eloi and the time traveller alike, and learns that mankind has devolved into these two tribes, with the Morlocks toiling below ground to make the the Eloi's easy above ground existence possible.

The Time Machine
has been hugely influential in science fiction, and has been adapted into multiple films and referenced in countless other works, so although has dated poorly, it is interesting to read just to see where so many of the now familiar tropes of time travel come from.

The long dark tea time of the soul, Dirk Gently, Douglas Adams, books about time travel, time travel

4. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency- Douglas Adams

Written by Douglas Adams, the best-selling author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detecive Agency is a fantasy detective novel about Dirk Gently, the 'holistic' detective. Dirk's highly unorthodox method of solving crimes basically consists of blundering around until he stumbles on connections which lead him to the solution of each case. In this novel, Dirk must discover the connections between the poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a mysterious professor and a dead cat, among other things. It's a weird, funny story which (spoiler!) somehow involves time travel.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency has also been adapted into a television series.

Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut, time travel, books about time travel

5. [I]Slaughterhouse
-Five- Kurt Vonnegut

Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time"

is a strange, semi-autobiographical novel about a US chaplain's assistant named Billy Pilgrim, who survives the fire bombing of Dresden while he is a prisoner of war by sheltering in the empty slaughterhouse of the title. The story is told out of chronological order, jumping between Billy Pilgrim's war time experiences, his life before the war and his time on the planet Tralfamadore, after being abducted by aliens.

Slaughterhouse-Five is a darkly comic, postmodern novel, which has had the distinction of being banned numerous times from literature classes and schools, due to the content or misunderstandings about the book's title. Written in 1969 it has influenced many other works, possibly including Kindred and The Time Traveller's Wife.

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