Book Review: Split Second – by Douglas E. Richards

A brilliant physicist discovers that he can transport matter back in time, but only by 45.15 millionths of a second. That does not seem like a capability a that has any practical applications. However, as soon as the physicist sends an email to a close associate asking him to check his math, he and his girlfriend are abducted by a black operations team.

While that does seem like really bad news, it quickly gets worse, when the government team gets attacked on route by another force, which results in a gun battle that kills everyone but the girlfriend, who barely escapes. She hires a private detective to help her figure out what is going on.

What could possibly be so important that the government is literally willing to kill for it in cold blood?

Douglas E. Richards knows how to write page turners. His heroes are the most brilliant in their fields in the world. His villains are the most ruthless.

The concept of time travel in Split Second is based on leaving a copy of an object in the same space, while the earth moves to a different space in a given time interval. The earth rotates in 24 hours, which means that any point on its surface moves faster than a jet plane toward the east. The earth also circles around the sun in 365 days. The sun circles around the center of the galaxy once in about 250 million years. And our entire galaxy moves in yet another direction in space. Physicists have determined that this means that you and I move about 242 miles per second. This means that we, and any object, move about 58 feet in 45 microseconds. With the technology these guys invented, you can make a duplicate of any object and have it appear 58 feet away from where you copied it. It’s all very complicated and makes for a good story.

But somehow the author glossed over the minor point that the direction of the duplication always needs to trail the movement of the earth in the universe, which is in a constant direction. So as the earth rotates, this can be up, or down, or towards the west or east or anything in between. It can’t be controlled.

Yes, this is science fiction and you just have to accept that there is some magic tech involved. However, it bothered me that a book based on this much Einsteinian thought experimentation left this minor detail out of the equation. It kept getting in my way as I followed the plot.

Richards lives in San Diego, and so do I. This means that many of the locales he uses are very familiar to me and I can actually almost follow along, from Torrey Pines to San Ysidro, from Camp Pendleton to Orange County. Most importantly, I have spend a lot of time hiking and off-roading on Palomar Mountain, which is an important location in the plot of this story, and I therefore had very vivid and clear pictures in my head as I read the book.

I enjoyed Split Second enough to read it within a few days while traveling. I bought the second book in the series titled Time Frame since I was sure I’d want to know how the story continues. But after reading a few dozen pages into the sequel I quickly lost interest. I am sure it’s also a very fast-paced plot but I just wasn’t interested in reading more about this specific cast of characters and I decided not to read the next one after all.

Book Review: Sea of Tranquility – by Emily St. John Mandel

Sea of Tranquility is a misleading title for this book. This is a book about a pandemic (which came out just in April of 2022) which is meaningful as we all have learned a thing or two about pandemics in the last few years. It’s a book about time travel with an unusual twist, and of course it was the time travel part that got my attention first. It has very little to do with what we associate with the Sea of Tranquility, the location of the Apollo 11 moon landing, other than there are several moon bases near that location by the year 2200, two of which play a major role in the plot.

It’s also about the idea or concept that our entire world is just a simulation, an elaborate video game that someone or something else is playing.

The story starts in 1912 with the hapless son of a British aristocrat who has been sent to exile in British Columbia, and plays in part in the late 20th century, and then again in early 2200 and 2400.

There really is not one single protagonist to follow. It’s a group of people and it takes some time for the tale’s threads to get woven together into a consistent tapestry, but in the end it all makes sense.

It made me marvel about what it would be like to live on the moon and it provides some good and descriptive passages. It’s a quick read, and I enjoyed the book.

 

Movie Review: The Adam Project (2022)

In 2050, time travel exists, and fighter jets can travel in time. Adam Reed is a pilot, trying to get to 2018, to save the future, but he crash-lands in 2022, conveniently in the backyard of his childhood home, where he meets his 12-year-old self. The two set out to fix a complicated future.

None of this makes much sense. The movie is an excuse for lots of Matrix-like action and video game scenes. There are even storm troopers who are wearing silver suits instead of white ones, but who are also just expendable ray gun fodder.

I was tempted to turn it off and leave it, but when I was half-way through, since it was, after all, a time travel flick, I stayed and watched it to the end.

Guess what, Adam fixed the future by fixing the past.

Book Review: Timeline – by Michael Crichton

Timeline was first published in 1999 and, having read most of Crichton’s books, I head read it right away. I remembered it vaguely as a time travel thriller. So I picked it back up again a couple of weeks ago.

In France, a group of archeologists are studying a medieval village, complete with two castles and a monastery. All the buildings are ruins, of course, but they have a rich history dating back to the 14th century, while the Hundred Years’ War was raging, and England was routinely attacking and invading France.

Their research is being funded by a multinational corporation. The company is led by a self-obsessed science tycoon in his mid thirties. It has developed a technology based on quantum science that allows them to travel in time. When one of the archeologists goes back to 1357 and does not come back, the company coerces some of the young scientists to follow him and bring him back.

To avoid anachronisms, they are not allowed to bring any technology, modern weapons or any objects from the future. When they arrive, practically in the middle of a battle, trouble starts quickly and the race to get back home begins.

Timeline is less of a time travel novel, and more a historical novel. The majority of the story takes place during a mere 39 hours starting on April 7, 1357. The protagonists have to battle knights, solve riddles, and play the opposing parties of the war. The whole thing is reminiscent of an episode of the modern television series The Amazing Race: “And now the contestants have to invent gunpowder to impress Lord Oliver. They only have two hours to do it or they’ll be thrown in the dungeon and miss their chance to make it to the next stop.”

Timeline is a historical thriller with a neat plot twist, where scientists get to visit the heyday of the castles, the ruins of which they study in the 21st century.

Book Review: Conrad’s Time Machine – by Leo Frankowski

The friends and former roommates with the strange names of Tom Kolczyskrenski (try to pronounce that), Ian McTavish and Jim Hasenpfeffer get together for a motorcycle cruise across the country.

Tom is an Air Force grunt with a genius IQ and an affinity for electronics.

Ian got his degree in mechanical engineering and has a lucrative job with GM.

Jim got his Ph.D. in behavioral science and is studying the social interactions of motorcycle gangs.

When the three are on the road, they hear an explosion nearby and happen to be the first ones at the scene, before any rescue services arrive. They find a perfectly hemispherical hole in the ground where a house used to be, and the former contents of the hole appearing in the surrounding area over time.

Long story short, they discover the plans for a technology that eventually ends up creating a time machine. And thus the three misfits decide that they are going to get very rich.

Frankowski is a good story teller. It’s a lighthearted tale that does not take itself too seriously. The characters are funny and a bit cartoonish. They talk with each other like no real people would talk. Either the author intends it that way, or he is really poor with creating dialog. I think it’s the former.

This book is full of casual time travel stunts in everyday life. It creates a new universe, of course so there can be more books in the series. Frankowski writes a lot of books in series, but the naming conventions are somewhat confusing. For instance, there is no Conrad in this book at all, and I can’t quite understand where the title comes from.

In summary, it’s a fun, lighthearted read with a lot of speculative science ideas and perfected time travel. The story is enjoyable, a crack-up even, albeit a bit hokey.

You might enjoy it. I myself won’t be reading any more Frankowski books, though.

Book Review: Farnham’s Freehold – by Robert A. Heinlein

It’s the early 1960ies somewhere in Colorado near a military facility.

Hugh Farnham is a fifty-ish former soldier with an alcoholic and self-indulgent wife and two grown children. Like many of his contemporaries during the cold war, he is worried about nuclear war and has built a fully stocked bomb shelter under the ground in his back yard. One evening, when both his children are home, and his daughter brought a girlfriend, they play Bridge when suddenly the alarm is broadcast. There are incoming ballistic missiles. “This is not a test!”

Hugh and his family and friends, along with their negro house employee, move into the bomb shelter just in time to avoid the first nuclear blast right above them. Now Hugh’s planning and survivalist skills come into play.

** Minor Spoilers Follow **

There are several blasts. The last is the most severe, and somehow the bomb shelter along with all its occupants is catapulted some 2,000 years into the future. American (or what’s left of it) society at that time is very, very different. Eventually the Farnhams find themselves taken prisoner and enslaved. In the effort of trying to cope with their hopeless situation, they learn more and more about the local customs, traditions, science and history. Hugh is a free spirit who never gives up hope, and he meticulously plans his escape.

I read Farnham’s Freehold many years ago, but I had forgotten just about everything about it. A friend recommended it as a classic Heinlein with time travel (albeit involuntary) as a central plot construct. We all know that Heinlein was a master of his craft, and Farnham’s Freehold is no exception. In typical Heinlein style, there is very little exposition. The characters talk constantly, and through dialog Heinlein tells the story. Everything comes to life. Of course, there is some nudity and sex – there always seems to be in Heinlein novels. The plot is meticulously crafted.

Have you ever found yourself reading the beginning of a book sort of absentmindedly, because you can’t get into it, but as you progress, you get pulled in? And then, when you get toward the end, you realize you missed something  at the beginning, so you stop where you are and start over again? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me. Once I got to page 322, I just had to check the beginning, and I went back to read the first 40 pages again, and sure enough, there were significant events there that contributed to the story that I had missed. Generally, when that happens to me with a book, it’s a pretty good one.

Farnham’s Freehold is an apocalyptic tome, a survivalist story, a time jump into a distant future with a very alien culture, and a neat plot twist at the end that makes it all worthwhile.

Book Review: Time Tunnel: The Eclipse – by Richard Todd

It is 1890. Annika finds herself without a transponder, which is the device she needs to return home to her own time in 2008. Stranded in time, with no way to go home, she makes the best of her situation and fights for the Sioux. She has a little help, because Kyle left his backpack on the counter in a bar when it disappeared. The bag contained his laptop which had basically all human knowledge as of 2008 on its hard drive (go figure how that would be possible).

This is book three out of three in the Time Tunnel series by Richard Todd. There is a little time travel plot twist here, but otherwise it’s just an alternate history story reminiscent of the trilogy by S.M. Stirling starting with Island in the Sea of Time.

I can recommend that series highly. In comparison, Time Tunnel: The Eclipse is a simple-minded tale of alternate history in a world where the United States disintegrates from internal strife and Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan rule the world outside of America.

Todd’s character development devolves in this third book. Most of the characters do stuff and react in ways that do not make much sense and seem very unrealistic. I got the feeling that the author just wanted to hurry and wrap this series up.

I finished reading this book simply because I had invested time in the first two of the series and I wanted to learn what would happen to Annika. However, the third book didn’t add anything new other than a neat plot twist at the end.

 

 

Book Review: Time Tunnel: The Empire – by Richard Todd

Kyle Mason changed world history in Book 1 when he prevented 9/11. His wife Padma, who had died in 9/11, was alive again when he returned. Since Kyle and Padma knew the future between 2001 and 2008, they started a company and became fabulously wealthy by playing the stock market (Apple, for example) and capitalizing on the 2008 market crash. Padma and Kyle were the world’s first and only trillionaires. Padma, the face of their company, essentially “bought” the U.S. government and the country openly called her the Empress of America. She was running things.

That backdrop raised authoritarian opposition, ending in an eventual coup d’etat in America and totalitarian rule. One day emperors, the next day fugitives, Padma and Kyle retrenched to the time tunnel complex in Las Vegas. As government forces chased them down, they hurriedly escaped into time. Without proper navigation, they ended up in 1890 in South Dakota, just before the massacre at Wounded Knee. It was time for Kyle to change the nation’s history again.

Most of the story takes place in Sioux country. The plot, while sometimes contrived, kept me turning the pages. When I was done, I picked up Book 3 right away.

 

 

Book Review: Time Tunnel: The Twin Towers – by Richard Todd

The story starts in the morning of September 10, 2001 in New York City. Kyle Mason, a major in the Special Forces, has just married Padma Mahajan, who works on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center. She is an investment banker for Cantor Fitzgerald. They are staying in a hotel in SoHo, and out their window they can see the Twin Towers. Padma leaves to get Starbucks, while Kyle takes a shower. When he gets out, a mysterious figure appears in the mirror behind him.

Vignettes reach back to 1947 when supposedly UFOs crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. There are episodes of the story in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and through the years, culminating in 2008 when a handful of brilliant scientists, sheltered and covered by the U.S. Army in Area 51, finally develop a working time machine.

Richard Todd is a good story teller and he creates credible characters, with good realistic dialog, and a fast-paced plot. I enjoyed reading this book until the last sentence, at which time I decided to buy Book 2 of the 3-book series.

 

Book Review: Time of Death – by Nathan Van Coops

A young widow hires Greyson Travers, a private detective, to investigate the suicide of her husband. Since she does not believe her husband would commit suicide, she thinks it was murder, but she has no proof. Travers has a great reputation for solving crimes, so she hires him to figure out what happened.

What she does not know, of course, is that Travers is a time traveler. Rather than figuring out what might have happened, he simply goes back to the time and place of the crime and watches it happen. What could be simpler?

He quickly realizes that the crime is much more complicated than it appears, and there are other time-traveling criminals involved.  He quickly finds himself ensnared by the mob and some very dangerous characters who use time travel to commit crimes.

Greyson Travers is the son of Ben and Mym Travers of Van Coops’ In Time Like These series of books, all of which I found highly readable. It is not necessary to read those books before enjoying Time of Death. It stands alone, and the author slowly introduces the concepts of time travel of the In Times Like These universe without it getting in our faces.

I have read all of those books, and if you’re interested, here is a summary of my reviews. You can click on the titles to jump right to them.

Nathan Van Coops Agent of Time Fiction Time Travel 2 Dec 13, 2020
Nathan Van Coops The Warp Clock Fiction Time Travel 3 Oct 9, 2018
Nathan Van Coops The Day after Never Fiction Time Travel 2 Jan 2, 2017
Nathan Van Coops The Chronothon Fiction Time Travel 3 Dec 3, 2016
Nathan Van Coops In Times Like These Fiction Time Travel 3 Oct 31, 2016

Time of Death is basically a murder mystery and it deals with a heist.

There was only one issue I had with the plot. The mob figures in the story have the ability to travel in time, but they organize this weird heist to collect cash from a casino. Seriously, if I were a time traveler, it would be so much easier to get rich, without hurting anyone, without cheating anyone else. Why not go back to 1980 and buy some Apple stock? Then come back to 2022 and enjoy the fruits of that decision. Oh well, there would be no murder mystery then.

I enjoyed all of Nathan Van Coops’ books, and I rated them all between 2 and 3 stars. They are always very readable and fast-paced. Time of Death is a fairly short book and a quick, fun read.

Book Review: Seven Rules of Time Travel – by Roy Huff

This story tries to speculate what it would be like to change the past. Quinn Black wakes up one morning, goes to work, and along the way witnesses a terrible accident in which is boss and friend dies in front of his eyes.

The next day, he  wakes up again at the same time, and makes small changes, but can’t avoid the inevitable outcome. Groundhog Day – they made a movie about this decades ago.

Quinn realizes that he can just will himself to any day or time, generally in the past that he can remember, and relive it. However, when he goes back to his youth to meet up with his best friend, he is not the old Quinn, he is the old Quinn in the young Quinn’s body of that time.

The “rules” of time travel are very nebulous in this story, and it’s not very scientific.

I simply got bored and lost interest. I read 104 out of the 307 pages, stopped at 33%, never to go back.

I usually force myself to finish a book, but some are so bad, I can’t do it. That’s why I have a category “books not finished reading” that you can search and see all the other ones.

Consistent with my own rules for reviews, I do not rate a book I didn’t finish.

As far as time travel stories are concerned, I recommend you skip this book, and its sequel. There is nothing original or even remotely interesting here.

 

 

Book Review: Agent of Time – by Nathan Van Coops

It’s 1985 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Rookie Special Agent Stella York is one of the first female FBI agents, and she does not have the support of her peers or her superiors. Yet, the case she is put on is completely baffling.

Two dead men are found in a van that crashed into a power pole, yet the power pole does not show any damage, while the van is totaled. The van is a GMC model nobody has ever heard of in 1985. Furthermore, the license plate expiration sticker shows “10.”

One of the dead men’s fingerprints are an exact match with those of a prison guard at a local prison – which is impossible. Then, during a chase on I-275 North, she witnesses the gory death of a suspect in a car accident, yet, she runs into him very much alive a day later. Nothing makes sense, until one of the witnesses opens up to her and tells her that she’s dealing with time travelers. From the chronological point of view, events seem to happen out of order.

Agent York is losing all her professional credibility when she approaches her superiors with her theory.

Agent of Time plays in Nathan Van Coops’ universe of the In Times Like These, a series of books I have read. See the reviews here:

In Times Like These

The Chronothon

The Day After Never

The Warp Clock

More specifically, Agent of Time plays within the In Times Like These story. I have read prequels to successful books before, and they are usually entertaining, because I know the world that comes after the prequel ends. But I have never read a book that plays “within the original story.”

If you have read the hugely famous Harry Potter series of books, you will understand what “Muggles” are. In Harry Potter, the action takes place among people who are involved in magic: wizards, sorcerers, and the like. Everyone knows that magic is real, and understands its rules. Muggles are the regular people, like you and I, who do not have magical talents and in almost all cases do not believe in magic and do not know it’s going on all around us – well – at least in the Harry Potter universe.

In Nathan Van Coops’ books, the action takes place among people who routinely travel in time. They take it for granted, and they use it creatively. But the rest of us, the time-Muggles, have no idea time travel is possible, it’s happening, and it’s routine for some people. Agent of Time plays parallel to the story of In Times Like These, but it is told from the point of view of time-Muggles like Stella York. What would it look like if there were time travelers amongst us, doing their things, and what would it be like if there were time traveling criminals?

You don’t need to have read In Times Like These to understand Agent of Time, but you will enjoy it MUCH more if you have. I would recommend that you read In Times Like These first, then read Agent of Time, and you’ll have the best experience.

Agent of Time is a short book of only 137 pages. It was free on Amazon. I literally read the whole thing in one day, yesterday. The author probably was in a rush to get it out, because it fell kind of short. The ending was somewhat abrupt, probably setting us up for the next Stella York story, the time-Muggle. But it’s a good addition to the series, and Van Coops is still, in my opinion, one of the strongest writers in the genre.

 

Movie Review: 41

41 is a pretty bad movie title for an amateur movie. You have to actually watch it to understand what it is.

Aidan is a college student to seems to go through the motions in his life without a lot of enthusiasm. One morning, after class, somebody that looks like himself, walks up to him and tells him not to go to the Heathscape Hotel.

Of course, that’s like somebody telling you not to think of a yellow elephant. So Aiden ends up going to the Heathscape Hotel and through a few strange events discovers that in room 41 (hence the title of the movie) in the bathroom, there is a time-portal. All he has to do is pull back the linoleum in the corner of the bathroom, climb into the hole for a moment, pull himself back out, and he arrives – yesterday.

Since it’s yesterday, he can now leave the room, if he makes it past any potential occupants in the hotel room itself, walk downstairs and find himself. After all, he should remember what he did yesterday, and then find himself. However, if there is somebody in the room and he can’t leave the bathroom – no problem – just climb back under the floor for a second, come back out yesterday again, which, of course, is now the day before yesterday of the original day.

By going back in time, he is trying to prevent the death of his girlfriend in a gruesome car accident while he was driving, but he does not seem to succeed.

41 is actually a pretty good time travel story, albeit with one plot problem: If you can only travel back, you create another copy of yourself every time you do it, and you really never come back to the present. This conundrum isn’t solved in this movie, but it has a pretty neat twist at the end that makes it a worthwhile story, so much so, that you’ll be tempted to want to watch it again to make sure what you saw was what actually happened.

The acting is poor, the production is skimpy, and the plot is full of major holes, but there is one hole in a bathroom in room 41 that makes it all worthwhile.

 

 

Movie Review: Alistair1918

It’s 2015 in Los Angeles. Poppy (Annie K. McVey) and her film crew are working on a documentary of homelessness in Los Angeles. As they walk the streets and parks where homeless people abound, they get approached by a man in an antique woolen brown uniform who speaks with an English accent. His name is Alistair (Guy Birtwhistle). He asks for their help. He is quick, in a nonchalant way, to tell his story: The last thing he remembers was being in the trenches in World War I in 1918, when a grenade hit. He flew through the air, and ended up landing on top of a shipping container in an industrial section of Los Angeles. He’s been here for a month and literally learned to live off the land, mostly by trapping squirrels in the park, which he roasts and eats.

He has a wife and a life in 1918, and he wants to get back. The film crew has a hard time believing him, and for the most part think he is a mentally ill person with a fantastic imagination. Only Poppy wants to believe him. She starts taking him in and tries to help him on his journey back.

Alistair1918 is a simple time travel story with an unlikely and far-fetched plot. But it works. Alistair acts like a man catapulted 100 years into the future, although he picks up modern skills astonishingly quickly. He seems to teach himself typing and learning how to use a computer and the Internet in record time. Cameras seem to come naturally to him. He is an excellent map reader and he seems to be able to figure calculations on the movement of worm holes (which are needed for time travel) very quickly. While the time travel technology is somewhat hokey, it works in this movie. The ending is surprisingly satisfying.

This is definitely a low-budget film, and as such quite successful. It was completed in 2015. Guy Birtwhistle wrote and produced the movie, and also starred as the male lead, Alistair. Annie K. McVey directed the movie, and also starred as the female lead, Poppy. With only a handful other actors, and very simple scenery, I would say Alistair 1918 is a successful, quirky, but enjoyable time travel movie.

Movie Review: Chronological Order

Usually I put a photograph here that represents the movie, and if I can’t find a good one, at least the movie poster is better than nothing. I could not find any images for Chronological Order. Rotten Tomatoes does not have it listed at all, and IMDb has a listing with a few details, the trailer, but no images at all. And there are no images to be found relating to this movie in a Google image search.

That all tells you something, I guess.

This 2010 movie is about a guy named Guy – how creative – (Brett Jacobsen) who lives somewhere in a beach town in Southern California. All the scenes looked eerily familiar. Somehow, we never find out exactly how and why he is rich. Rich enough to have nothing to do. He has a lawyer named Murray (Vic Stagliano) who is also his best, and apparently only friend. There is also a dad that is part of the picture. Guy does not seem brilliant enough to have made his own money and sold out, and he also didn’t inherit it from his father, because we find out that he supports his father. But be that as it may.

One day Guy walks along the ocean and a door (with hinges and a door knob) washes up on the beach in front of him. We see him take the door home. It’s not clear how he manages that, since his only means of transportation is a bicycle. He must have walked home with the door, but that leaves the question on how he then got the bicycle home. I guess he made two trips.  The movie is full of plot holes like this.

Don’t ask how, but he figures out that when he mounts the door and walks through it, he travels back in time. This enables him to stalk himself in the past and leave notes for himself, presumably to change his life.

This is a bad movie, with a seriously flawed plot, poor execution, pretty bad and stilted acting, unrealistic dialog, especially between Guy and his father, and not much of a story line to follow.

I would normally give it one star at best, but I boosted it by a half, because of three small reasons: (1) I did chuckle occasionally about the quirky scenes with the door, (2) it’s a time travel story and I have an affinity for those, and (3), I found the score (the music) actually quirky and a bit refreshing.

Now don’t all run to Amazon Prime to watch this masterpiece, unless, of course, you’re time travel buffs. Then you have to.