Archive for the ‘Time Travel’ Category

Stephen King is a master of what-if books.

For instance, his novel Under the Dome is based on this premise: What if a bubble-like, transparent, but completely impenetrable dome a few miles across suddenly was placed over a New England town? Nobody gets in, nobody gets out. What would happen? Then King builds an entire novel around this unlikely, impossible and ridiculous assumption.

In King’s novel The Stand, he speculates that a human-made deadly virus accidentally gets out and kills 99.9999 percent of the population. Only a handful individuals survive. That’s the what-if scenario. Then a novel of well over a thousand pages follows, building an entire world based on that premise.

Stephenson also likes to write what-if novels. Seveneves starts: THE MOON BLEW UP WITHOUT WARNING AND FOR NO APPARENT reason. What would happen if that actually occurred?

DODO is such a what-if book. What if magic existed? Yes, magic like witches that can cast spells, like turning a man into a frog, or changing the order of playing cards in a deck, Harry Potter kind of magic. It’s a preposterous assumption, and it was enough to turn me off before I even picked up the book. But then, a friend and frequent commenter on this blog (MB) told me to get over the magic part and read DODO anyway. So I did. I did not regret it.

Besides being a book that speculates about magic, DODO is also a time travel book. Time travel is one of my favorite science fiction genres, and it even has its own category in the selector on this blog. If you are ever interested in finding books about time travel, I have a wealth of them reviewed right here.

To expand: What if magic existed and what if witches could send people back and forward in time by casting spells? What would happen in a world of 2017, with iPhones, Google, the Internet, and black-budget arms of the United States government, like D.O.D.O, the Department of Diachronic Operations? Imagine the United States military, with its ridiculous bureaucracy, its totally confusing acronyms and endless procedures manuals getting mixed up in magic!

Tristan Lyons is a major in the United States military. Melisande Stokes is a post-doctoral linguistics expert and renowned polyglot, primarily of ancient languages, like Greek, Latin, Hebrew and many others. Lyons recruits Stokes to help him translate ancient texts that reference magic. Magic seems to have been prevalent in early human history, but has abruptly stopped in the mid 19th century. As the two research, they eventually find that a single event in July of 1851 finally stopped magic worldwide. With the help of a renowned physicist and research of the concept of Schrödinger’s cat, they build a machine inside which magic is possible in the 21st century. Now they just have to find a witch, and they can travel in time.

And travel they do, and problems they create.

DODO is a delightful book in so many aspects. For instance, one of the main protagonist organizations is the Fugger family, one of the wealthiest medieval European banking families. This was fun for me, because I had just read The Richest Man Who Ever Lived a couple of years ago, which chronicles the life of Jakob Fugger, a Bavarian banker from Augsburg who was, in his day, the richest and one of the most powerful men in the world. He told kings what to do, because he had the money to fund the kings. The Fugger family is central in the plot of DODO.

The most remarkable thing about DODO is the completely unconventional and, shall I call it experimental, structure of the book. If a lesser author had tried to pull this off, it would have been a dismal failure. But Stephenson made it work: The format and framework of the book is nothing like I have ever read before. It’s not narrated in the first person or the third person. It is a largely chronological assortment of diaries, emails, internal blog posts, government memos – sometimes heavily redacted, handwritten notes, narratives, translations, Wikipedia entries, and historic references. No one person tells the story. The author does not tell the story, and there is no major protagonist who tells the story. The various documents and excerpts, just posted one after the other, eventually tell the story.

It’s a brilliant, new format that I have never seen done before, and it won’t be applied again.

I would normally have given this book three stars, but the completely refreshing and innovative format, and the fact that Stephenson pulled it off successfully, made me bump this book to four stars. It’s a must-read, not because you like time travel (or magic), but because it’s something that has never been done before and therefore is unique.

Is there an award for unique?

Read Full Post »

Cady McCall is an iOS game programmer who just struck it rich by publishing a hit game which she sold to Apple. As she walks home alone from a meeting at night in Seattle, she is followed and then mugged. A rescuer comes along just as she passes out.

When she wakes up, she is in a moldy and dirty room in London in the 1880s, with a man named Titanic Smith, a U.S. Marshal from the Wild West.

As the two try to figure out what happened to them, they have a number of adventures in time, with one trip even to ancient Rome.

A Girl in Time is a time travel adventure story, and that’s how I came across it. The first third of the book was hard to read for me. The author, an experienced writer of many other books, mostly in the genre of alternative history, uses too many trite clichés that I found distracting. I have this pet peeve about meals always being “washed down” with a couple of beers. Here is another example:

They did not return to her apartment. Not this time. Instead they caught a cab to the Alexis Hotel after she’d grabbed a couple of adjoining rooms on Expedia.

Who “grabs” a room?

Also, the author applies a strange point of view switch, that, if it were executed correctly, could work quite well.

For instance, Cady is a 2016 American hip girl in her early twenties. And she speaks and thinks like one. Smith is a 19th century U.S Marshal from the West. He has a folksy way of talking and thinking. The author switches between the two points of view and gets into the heads of the protagonists, so we hear them thinking, but the switch occurs randomly inside paragraphs or chapters, which results in occasional confusion. Who is telling the story?

Generally, when an author does this, he works using alternate chapters with different view points, and it’s pronounced and clear. Now we’re seeing the story from Cady’s point of view, now from Smith’s.

A little editing of the books structure could have fixed this.

Now here is the cool part, if you’re still reading: About 40% into the book, Smith and Cady land by accident in Seattle in 2019, and a different 2019 it is.

Donald Trump is now president for life. The United States has become a dystopian fascist country. Homeland Security agents are executing brutal raids on citizens, reminiscent of the Gestapo in East Germany. People get arrested for criticizing the government. They get sent to “the Wall” to perform forced labor. Here is Cady talking:

“Oh, you mean when I rescued you from the fucking Fourth Reich run by an angry Cheetos demon and its talking peehole?”

I got a kick out of the Fourth Reich episode, since I found it so timely. I cannot tell when Birmingham released A Girl in Time; the book oddly lacks a copyright page. He must have written it before Trump was elected, and he simply played on the theme. We’re obviously not a dystopian fascist country yet, but some of the things being done now are very scary and Birmingham predicted them in this novel.

Some Amazon reviewers blasted the writer for letting his political views come through and using the book to lecture. For me, it was the opposite.

As far as time travel adventures go, this is a so-so book and I am not sure I’ll be interested in reading the sequel when it comes out – but I might.

As far as the sequence on Trump, it made this book, and therefore, even though I would have only given it a two-star rating, I bumped it up by half a star. It will probably boost Trump’s ego when he finds out he is a character in a novel, even though not a flattering one.

Trump, the angry Cheetos demon!

Read Full Post »


This is absolutely the worst book I have ever read.

I am not sure how I even came to spend $2.99 for this book. It was listed as a science fiction and time travel novel in my Amazon feed. Once I was a couple of chapters into it, and since it was so short, I kept reading it not because it had my attention, but because it was so bad, I kept reading it just to entertain myself.

I am not sure if the author is writing in English as a second language, but he’d better be. Misspellings and grammar mistakes abound. Sometimes extra words are inserted, and other times words are missing. Nobody seems to have proofread this book, let alone edited it.

I read the entire book, and I honestly don’t know what is going on. An astronaut, who likes aviator glasses (we know this because about 5% of the book talk about his glasses) leaves on a journey. It is not clear where to and why. But he has to say good bye to his wife, who goes into cryogenic sleep while he is gone. Somehow the science goes wrong and he ends up in the 1960s somewhere in the American West, and there are some characters they interact with. The astronaut is also a gambler, and he wins some money in Las Vegas. I am telling you, it is really, really bad.

Just to give you a sense, here is the entire chapter 4, where the three astronauts wake up and discover than one of the three of them is dead. You’d think that would tragic? Check for yourself:

Chapter 4

When Liam came to, the ‘balloon’ had split, slowing the ship. He was the only one of the three that were conscious. He sent some messages back to earth. Orbits of other planets were periodically slowing the ship down. His messages were sporadic. He knew that earth would not receive them for years, now, but he sent them, anyway.

He looked up. They were headed towards a planet at full speed. It was their intended destination. The ship had been knocked off course. Liam attempted to wake up his captain. Captain Stewart woke with a start.

Keats had been thrust back in his chair too forcefully. His belt had broken. His neck had broken. He was dead.

‘Stay calm.’ The captain said. Liam was unsure of who he was talking to. ‘We’re still alive. We can make it back.’ He muttered under his breath, before calmly telling Liam some orders. He immediately obliged. The ship yawed and tilted. It was in the pull of the atmosphere, but it was enough. They orbited it and began heading back in the direction of earth.

‘Let’s sleep.’ The captain said, leaving his chair and painfully making his way back to the quarters. Liam sent one more message before following on. ‘We’re going to make it.’ The captain said before closing his pod and freezing himself.

Liam followed on. For a few years there was nothingness. It was the best he’d ever slept.

My rating scheme does not support negative numbers. If I could, I’d give this book a negative 4. But as it is, zero must suffice.

There are sequels to this book. No thank you.

Rating - Zero Stars

Read Full Post »


“There’s a view from the top of the building next door. We can see both exits.”

Tucket points to the old, four story building to the right of the lab. He seems to be referencing something invisible in front of him as he explains.

“What have you got there?” I point to the ball in his hand.

“It’s a Third Eye Hot Shot.” Tucket says, grinning. I wait for him to explain further, but he seems to think it unnecessary. The reference isn’t completely lost on me, however. I recall that Third Eye is the name of a tech company that produces perceptor chips in his century. The perceptors allow direct access to the user’s mind, allowing them to see a modified environment around them called the meta-space. The meta-space acts like an amped up version of the Internet, but layered over real world spaces. It allows users to see and interact with everything from media and advertising, to actual functional controls for objects in the real world.

“You can use the meta-space all the way back in 2017?” I ask. Tucket shakes his head.

“There’s no input this far back. Meta-mapping won’t get completed till the 2080s. But since I have a portable unit, I have access to all the data and programs I’ve downloaded whenever I go.” He holds the ball up.

“Hot Shot is the best. Doesn’t come out till 2160, but I went up and got one before this trip, and it has tons of data already included from your time.”

“Like Google Maps for time travelers.”

“Google was actually the parent company.”

“Ah. Makes sense.” I stare at our target building. “So how do we get up there?”

— Van Coops, Nathan. The Day After Never: A Time Travel Adventure (In Times Like These Book 3) (Kindle Locations 2132-2141)

After In Times Like These and The Chronothon, The Day After Never is the third book in Van Coops’ time travel adventure series. He definitely left things open for another book.

While I rated the first two with three stars, which is pretty high for my ratings key, I gave this one only two. It’s still a time travel adventure, but this time, the author put in mysticism to make the plot work. The first two books were as hard-core time travel as it gets. By that, I mean that the entire plot and the action are completely based on the unique premises that time travel concepts bring with them.

This time he seems to have run out of unique time travel ideas. So he put in the Neverwhere, the place you go when you die, as a central concept. One of the Ben Travers that died in the second book is now one of the protagonists in the third book, living all in the Neverwhere. The book alternates between the two realities chapter for chapter, one in the Neverwhere, the other in the real world. In the Neverwhere, reality is conjured up by memories only. You can live in environments you can remember. You can also live in environments others can remember. And through memories you can create portals to the real world, invade those spaces and even people’s minds.

Time travel concepts are extended to space travel, and at one point Ben and his buddies travel on a space ship trailing a comet for a time travel anchor.

I am pretty sure that if you are reading this you are not whatsoever interested in this concept salad of a book. I wouldn’t be either. But having invested considerable time in Van Coops’ world of time travel by reading his first two books, I really didn’t have a choice, and I needed to finish it.

I like the man’s writing, and creativity, and world-building skills. I also enjoyed his somewhat unorthodox and risky use of the present tense in his story telling. You can see the fast pace of action this method creates when you read the except I have supplied at the top of this post. Van Coops is, after Niffenegger, my favorite time travel author. While the book by itself would only get a star and a half, given that it’s part of a trilogy, I give it two – sort of for an uplift.

Rating - Two Stars


Read Full Post »


After Ben Travers finally made it back to his apartment in 2009, he didn’t stay there long. Being home alone with nothing to do but going to work the next morning at the marina in St. Petersburg, fixing other people’s boats, he decided to look up his time-traveling girlfriend Mym. Along the way, in Manhattan, Ben gets snagged by a Mafioso and coerced into participating in a 25th century game show: The Chronothon. Think of a chronothon as a race, like our current Amazing Race on TV. The different levels are like trips on Amazing Race, and there are about a dozen levels to go through. As the racers start, they go through a time gate, which is also a space gate, and they appear in the desert in ancient Egypt. In each level, the racers have an objective they have to achieve. Usually the objective is an artifact of some type they have to find and bring to the next get to move on to the next level. As the racers go through the gates, they have no idea where they come out on the other side, neither where, or when. What further complicates the race it that not everything is what it seems. Might the game even be rigged?

The Chronothon is the second book in Van Coops’ time travel adventure trilogy. The first book was In Times Like These. Unlike some sequels, where the second book is much like the first book, but with a different story and twist, The Chronothon is a completely fresh story, based on the same time travel technology applied In Times Like These. While Van Coops wrote this to be a stand-alone book, and while I can imagine it might work that way, I would no recommend it. If you are interested in The Chronothon, you really should read In Times Like These first to have a grounding in the technology and the characters of this book.

For me, this was a page turner with surprises and delights in every chapter. Like the first book, everything about this story is related to time travel and its effects and challenges. It’s not a story about a game using time travel, it’s about how time travel can be used for a game.

The Chronothon was a little corny at times. For instance, on the planet Diamatra, there is a native sentient species, the Soma Djinn, which are centipede-like creatures that inhabit human hosts and turn them into cannibalistic zombies. I would expect that sentence either turned you off completely, or it made you want to read The Chronothon, just to figure out how a reasonable and well-read human being like me can give this book three stars.

But here you have it:

Rating - Three Stars

Read Full Post »


The best time travel book of all time is Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. This book is the second best.

Ben, Carson, Blake and Robbie are four young men in their mid-twenties in St. Petersburg, Florida who belong to a softball league and enjoy their games after work. Francesca is one of their friends who likes to play the role of fan and sometimes she comes to the games to watch. On June 10, 2009, they start their game as a thunderstorm rolls in. Soon they get rained out completely. As they linger around the dugout, changing out of their uniforms, getting ready to go home, lightning strikes nearby. A power line whips free with sparks flying off the end. The world of the five friends goes dark.

When they come to a bit later, the world seems different. It’s mid-day. Were they passed out all night? Then they notice that the baseball field is no longer there. Their cars are gone. Everything seems somewhat retro. Within an hour of head scratching and ambling around they finally come to the conclusion that they are in St. Petersburg, Florida, in December 1986. They have the few clothes on their backs, flip flops, no money to speak of. Their cell phones don’t work. Now what?

They have no idea what happened to them, and the rest of the story is about their journey back through time.

The story is told in first person narration by Ben and from Ben’s point of view. First person stories often drive a sense of urgency and action, which works marvelously here. The descriptions are vivid and I have pictures of the scenes and people in front of me. The story is fast-paced and filled with action. And it’s all about time travel. This is not a book where time travel is just another method of getting around, like tracking a trolley to the city, or an airplane to Tokyo, or a time machine to 1955. No, this story does not just “use” time travel, it is about time travel. The mechanics of time travel, its limitations, its amazing possibilities, are central to the plot and the story line, very much like it was with The Time Traveler’s Wife. In Times Like These is not a story that applies time travel as a vehicle, but rather it’s time travel that reveals itself by telling a story.

As it is with time travel books, the methods of travel, the triggers, are always different. Sometimes there are machines that make it possible. Sometimes there are natural phenomena that accidentally cause travel. In Times Like These it is science that makes it possible, with limitations. And the limitations are what makes it complicated and very, very dangerous.

For instance, when you travel in time (and I’ll leave it up to you to read about how this can happen), you disappear from the current location and materialize elsewhere, and elsewhen. Since the earth rotates faster than a jet plane, if you were to jump in time by a second into the future, the earth would have moved under you by about a third of a mile. So, you can’t just time travel, you have to space travel also. Since you can’t afford to rematerialize in outer space after a time jump, since the earth moved away from you, you need an anchor, some object that fixes you in place on earth. And that gets tricky. What if you materialize where some other object occupies the space? You would be fused with that other object.

Imagine you materialize in a meadow where there was tall grass. Now the grass would be growing through your feet? It would be very painful indeed.

I don’t want to get too technical in this review, but this is what the book is about. How does a person travel in time safely with these terrible limitations?

There is only one technicality that bothered me somewhat, and it permeates the story. They make extra sure that fusion does not happen. Humans do not suddenly occupy the space of other objects. But air does not seem to matter. The entire technical plot and plausibility seems to ignore the fact that air also is matter, and it needs to take up space. We’re not in a vacuum, even when we’re not co-occupying space with furniture, or buildings, or other people.

But that’s ok. I got over that quickly, immersed myself in a world where time travel was invented, and I thoroughly enjoyed the sheer adventure of it.

There is a sequel, titled The Chronothon, and I am reading it now.

Rating - Three Stars

Read Full Post »


Tales of the Time Scouts is time travel story with a great premise. It is also the first of a series of four books.

Due to a scientific accident, time gates have developed all over the world. People walking through these gates end up in different places at different times. The stable gates reappear at predictable intervals, sort of like the Old Faithful geyser. But the intervals are not initially obvious, and the destinations of gates must be explored. To make it worse, gates sometimes are unstable. Walking  through an unstable gate can, of course, be fatal, or fateful. It could be a one-way ticket and you could  be stuck in a dinosaur world with nothing but your pocket knife.

Time Scouts are individuals whose job it is to explore the gates, and document their specifics. A stable gate can then be used for research, trade, and time tourism. It’s possible, with the help of Time Guides, to visit ancient Rome, for instance.

The time portals are like transit stations, you can think of them as train stations or airports, except the departures are going into times, not places.

I have serious issues with the credibility of the main characters. One is Kit Carson, the most famous time scout of all, who is now retired, working as a hotel keeper at Time Terminal 86. From the description and behavior, I have formed a picture of Sam Elliott in my mind for Kit Carson. Margo, a girl barely 18 years old, desperately wants to be the world’s first female time scout. Females have never been used as time scouts, because in almost all societies in the past, in almost all eras, females were at best second-class citizens, and often abused, enslaved and worse. It’s not considered healthy for a female to show up in ancient Egypt, for instance, come up with a credible story and actually survive to return when the gate opens again.

For that reason, nobody is willing to train Margo. Everyone thinks it’s a suicide mission. She vehemently insists on fulfilling this goal. However, she constantly does stupid stuff. When she has to work at learning self-defense, she mopes.  When math is involved, she complains. When book learning comes up, she rebels.  Her behavior just makes no sense. If she were really dedicated to success, after she convinced the most renowned person in the business to train her, why would she keep bickering and sabotaging her own training?

Her juvenile behavior and her inconsistent character traits make for a jarring story line. I found myself constantly annoyed by Margo’s immaturity and stupidity, to the point where I lost interest.

Why the authors chose a hot-looking 18-year-old girl as protagonist for this story I do not understand. The story, the premise, is very promising and thought-provoking. Margo’s character destroys it.

I gave up at about 15% into the book. Perhaps Margo’s role gets better as the story goes on, I’ll never know, and I won’t be reading the sequels.

Not star-rated because I didn’t finish reading the book.

Read Full Post »

There will be time

Jack Havig is born with a strange mutation that allows him to travel backward and forward in time at will. As a child, his parents are sometimes puzzled when he suddenly disappears and then just comes back moments later.

As Jack grows up, the polishes his skills more and more. Since he can control time, he can actually travel to another era, spend weeks, months or even years there, and then come back to the minute after he left. If he was alone in his room, nobody would even have known – except that he aged while he was gone.

Eventually he succeeds in his quest to find others with his unique skill. But he soon discovers that these others have formed an organization with evil intentions. That’s when he decides he has to extract himself and fight for humanity.

He finds out that it is not easy to hide from an organized gang of time travelers. There Will Be Time is told from the perspective of Doc, a friend of Jack’s family who has known them from before Jack was born. Doc narrates the story as he follows Jack, his growth and his later mastery of time travel and associated intrigue.

A well-structured story, it is sometimes a bit tedious as it goes into too much detail about far-future history and speculation around it.

The chapters are titled with roman numerals. However, at the end, the book includes what is advertised as “bonus stories” titled Progress and Windmill. It took me some time of reading into those stories before I figured out that they really had nothing to do with the novel, and that left me somewhat confused at the end. I think they should have left those out. They didn’t add anything and were somewhat meandering and pointless by themselves.

In the end, There Will Be Time is a must-read book for time travel aficionados like me.

Rating - Two Stars

Read Full Post »

Time Traders

Time Traders is  really two books in one. The first half is Time Traders. The other half is Galactic Derelict. The book could have stopped after the first half, and Galactic Derelict could have been a sequel. With the exception of one, the protagonists are the same. A group of agents who time travel for the U.S. government, chasing Russian time travelers who are on to some alien technology that they think will give them an advantage in the game for balance of power in the world.

I had never heard of Andre Norton when I discovered this book by accident on an Amazon search. It cost $0, so it was not a difficult buy. Andre is actually quite a good writer, and she wrote a lot of fantasy and then later science fiction books.

In Time Traders, she packed too much stuff into one book: Time travel, alternate history, by traveling into the past of human civilization, international intrigue (the Russians vs. the United States – of course, this is copyright 1959, so that makes sense), interstellar travel, aliens of all types, most significantly humanoids, mystery weapons, computer and robot controlled machinery (using tapes), hyperspace travel, and on the list goes. In the end, nothing really gets resolved.

I felt like the author had a tool chest of neat stuff available in 1959, and she wanted it all packed into one book. That made the story disconnected, choppy and somewhat hokey. Then I found there a sequel, but I am not interested.

Norton is a good writer, but her subject matter is just not interesting enough to me. No more Andre Norton.

Rating - One and a Half Stars

Read Full Post »

Corridors of Time

Malcolm Lockridge is a former U.S. Marine in the middle of the twentieth century. He is in prison because he accidentally killed one of the thugs that tried to mug him. A mysterious, beautiful and apparently rich woman proposes a deal that he can’t refuse, in exchange for getting him out of prison.

She takes him into the woods somewhere in Denmark, where they enter an underground corridor with very mysterious properties. As you walk down the corridor, you walk past gates into different times. You exit the gate at a labeled time, and out you come into the selected era.

Lockridge quickly figures out that the corridors are used by enemy factions working on manipulating history to their advantages. He first becomes a pawn in their games, and soon finds himself as a pivotal figure in history, spanning from the Neolithic age almost 2,000 B.C and going forward about 4,000 years into the future from now.

Anderson has a unique descriptive style, which lends itself well to this story, where he has ample opportunity to put the reader into the deep past. When reading his description, I find myself seeing clear and vivid pictures in my head. Here is an example. Lockridge has just woken up in Denmark about 1,800 B.C, and he looks around:

White sunrise mists rolled low across a drenched earth. Water dripped from a thousand leaves, glittered in the air and was lost in brush and bracken. The woods were clamorous with birdsong. High overhead wheeled an eagle, the young light like gold on its wings.

— Kindle Locations 547-548

I found the story charming and entertaining, but confusing at times and occasionally tedious. The complex web of  international and intertemporal intrigue across the ages was so complicated, the story, the “time” line and the plot were difficult to follow.

The Corridors of Time is not one of Anderson’s best, but for a time travel buff, it’s a must-read.

Rating - Two Stars

Read Full Post »

Last Sunday’s Garfield comic had me time-travel back to 1985, the year that Marty McFly left with his DeLorean to the distant future of June 9, 2015. You may recall that in 2015, the old DeLorean was converted to a flying car!


Source San Diego Union [click to enlarge]

Now in 2015, we don’t have flying DeLoreans and hovering skateboards. But we do have iPhones – something we didn’t anticipate.

If you had shown me this comic in 1985, when Marty McFly departed on the journey into the future, I would not have had any idea what it was about. “Tap, tap, tap” would not have meant anything. “See translation” would not have meant anything. And the little box that made the “ping” sound would have baffled me.

Time travel is fun.

Read Full Post »

Tau ZeroIn the nearer future, about a century from now, humanity builds starships. The Leonora Christine is the seventh ship of its generation, and she getting ready to depart. The world selects 50 people, 25 males and 25 females, to travel to the third planet of Beta Virginis, which has previously been visited by a robotic probe and found highly likely to be habitable. Beta Virginis is about 50 light years away. To get there, at the speed of light, would take 50 years, if anything could travel that fast. To send a message back to Earth once they got there, would take another 50 years. So a hundred years later, the descendants of the star farers would first find out about the fate of the crew.

The Leonora Christine is a starship based on the Bussard ramjet concept. The ship scoops up interstellar molecules in a large magnetic funnel it pushes ahead of itself and converts this matter into energy for its reaction drive. Here is the description of the Leonora Christine in Chapter 2:

 Her hull was a conoid, tapering toward the bow. Its burnished smoothness seemed ornamented rather than broken by the exterior fittings. These were locks and hatches; sensors for instruments; housings for the two boats that would make the planet-falls for which she herself was not designed; and the web of the Bussard drive, now folded flat. The base of the conoid was quite broad, since it contained the reaction mass among other things; but the length was too great for this to be particularly noticeable.

At the top of the dagger blade, a structure fanned out which you might have imagined to be the guard of a basket hilt. Its rim supported eight skeletal cylinders pointing aft. These were the thrust tubes, that acclerated the reaction mass backward when the ship moved at merely interplanetary speeds. The ‘basket’ enclosed their controls and power plant.

Beyond this, darker in hue, extended the haft of the dagger, ending finally in an intricate pommel. The latter was the Bussard engine; the rest was shielding against its radiation when it should be activated.

At an acceleration of 1g, the ship can accelerate to relativistic speeds (close to light speed) within about one year. Based on Einsteinean physics, onboard time slows down drastically as an object nears light speed. Decades go by on earth while the people on the ship may experience only a few months, or days, or minutes – depending on how close to light speed the vessel travels.

On the way to their destination the ship encounters an unexpected obstacle in form of a dense cloud of matter. As they hit it, some damage is done to the decelerator. In essence, the ship going effectively at light speed has lost its brakes. It can’t stop once it gets to its destination. They have to come up with an alternative plan.

The result is a cosmic journey where the ship travels through entire galaxies (which would take 100,000 years) while the passengers experience it as a mere turbulence lasting a few seconds, speed bumps in star travel. They end up going to the edge of the universe and time itself.

Tau Zero is a very hard science fiction story. Anderson spends time on his character development, but for the most part they are caricature-like and the human side story, while important, is secondary. The scientific concepts he illustrates blow the mind.


Concept by space artist Adrian Mann

The technical concepts for the ramjet are described at Centauri Dreams for those of you that are interested. The Bussard ramjet is also described in this post Cruising the Infinite, among a number of other star travel technologies.

Conceptually, approaching light speed, the ship gets ever more massive, and time slows ever more down. So the trip between two galaxies that are 50 million light years apart could be perceived as taking a day on the ship – depending on how close to light speed the ship travels. The result, of course, is that from the viewpoint of the rest of the universe, the ship is traveling for 50 million years.

Anderson uses these relativistic concepts throughout Tau Zero. It is intense scientific reading. It needs to be read slowly, except for the human-interaction parts, which seem hokey in comparison. I skimmed over those.

Written in 1970 (45 years go!), Tau Zero is the time dilation book of all time dilation books. I recommend it for hard science fiction aficionados only. Everyone else will be totally lost.

For me, I am in awe.

Rating - Two and a Half Stars


Read Full Post »

Departure200 passengers board a Boeing 777 in New York, bound for London. The plane crashes in the woods somewhere in England. Nick Stone has the presence of mind and courage of spirit to get right to work helping his fellow survivors rescue as many of the victims who didn’t die. Harper Lane is a young British writer who finds herself in the middle of  the rescue, against her better judgment. Sabrina Schröder is a German research physician and the only doctor on board, with plenty to do patching up the injured passengers with not much more than a first aid kit and very little medicine. Yul Tan is a Chinese-American computer scientist who is on the cusp on inventing the next generation of the Internet.

When days go by and no rescue crews show up, these four unlikely protagonists quickly discover that the world they landed in is not quite right. As they slowly unravel what happened to them, they are thrown into a conflict much larger than they could possibly have dreamed.

Departure is an “accidental time travel” story, meticulously plotted and told in the first person by Harper and Nick, alternating, in journal-style. To make it even more unusual, the story is told in the present tense. This gives the action intense urgency and realism.

After recently reading a few amateurish novels that lacked editing, this was refreshing. Not a grammar error to be found, not a word missing or misspelled anywhere to distract me.

I have to say, however, that while the first third of the book was a page turner, the rest of the book, with perhaps the exception on the last 5%, was too contrived for me. There was lots of action, lots of intricate story development and plot, sometimes to the point where it was hard to follow. I must admit there were sections when I just skimmed and turned the pages to make it through those boring – or rather – overdeveloped parts so I could get on with it.

Overall, Departure was a fun, quick read, and it helped that it was about time travel.

Rating - Two and a Half Stars

Read Full Post »

OutofTimeJohn Campbell is a college professor of archeology. He lives alone, is disenchanted with his life and does not have much respect for most of his students. One of his pastimes is treasure hunting at yard sales and flea markets. He finds an old desk for fifty dollars. When he takes it home to clean it up, he finds some locked drawers and compartments that he can only access by taking the desk apart. It turns out, the desk used to belong to Nikolai Tesla, one of the geniuses of the 19th century. It contains many notebooks, designs and a handheld device that turns out to be a time machine.

The curiosity of the archeologist leads Campbell to visit ancient Rome first, but he also ventures to colonial America during the time of the revolution, and to Germany during the Nazi period. He discovers that a Nazi named Hans Richter also has a time machine, and he seems to have dedicated himself to changing world history so the result is that the United States of America never exist and the Nazis ended up undefeated in World War II. Campbell decides to make it his mission to stop Richter.

I love time travel stories, and this one is based on an interesting premise and a fairly exciting plot. This kept me turning the pages. I wanted to know how it would all end.

However, the writing is juvenile. The book is full of clichés and it feels like it’s written by a high school sophomore. For example, when they were in ancient Rome they “hit the taverns.” Whenever they had meals, they “washed the food down” with wine or beer. Or: “Mary was used to luxury, but this was over the top.”

The characters are not credible. The author seems to know very little about archeology. I don’t understand why he made the protagonist an archeologist. He could have been a car mechanic, a hairdresser, or a computer programmer. He is just not credible as an archeologist. Also, I could never accept that Campbell is able to speak fluent ancient Greek and Latin within just a few days of acclimating. In general, the main characters are all shallow cardboard figures doing things that don’t seem real or even possible.

The grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and spelling are atrocious. It feels like there isn’t a page where there isn’t something wrong. The author does not seem to know the difference between “threw” and “through,” “there” and “their,” “your” and “you’re,” and many other such pairs. Many sentences have missing words and sometimes the structure is so jumbled, it’s impossible to figure out what he author is trying to say. He also has trouble with plurals. For instance, he keeps writing “Nazi’s” to indicate more than one of them. The whole book reads like a hastily written first draft.

The author obviously never proof-read his own book, and he didn’t bother to ask anyone else. It does not take an expensive professional editor to find 95% of the errors. The book has some 200 pages, and I believe I could easily find 200 corrections in a casual read. With another couple of days of reading and editing his own work he could have made a huge difference in the quality of the book. As it is, the errors are distracting from the story. I only paid 99 cents for the book on Amazon, but I still feel cheated. I expected a finished work, not a first draft.

Overall, Out of Time is a neat idea for a story, but it’s so poorly done, it’s distracting. The book is simply not finished. I don’t think I’ll read any more LaVigne novels.

Rating - One and a Half Stars


Read Full Post »

Time Flying

The story starts in 2007. Rich Girrard is a 47-year-old successful software entrepreneur who lives in San Diego with his wife and daughter. His zip code is 92127, which is in Rancho Bernardo, only a few miles from where I live. He describes a meeting in the Rancho Bernardo Carl’s Jr., a place where I have been many times, right across from the office of my dentist. I like that kind of detail. It draws me in.

A few strange things happen to him on a trip to Indianapolis. When he drives out of a shopping center, he is broadsided by a woman driving a Hummer through a red light while texting. He passes out…

…and wakes up in his boyhood bedroom, in his 17-year-old body, with his 47-year-old mind intact, in 1976. He figures out he must have time-traveled and resolves to live his life again, this time without all the mistakes. The majority of the book proceeds in the period between 1976, his youth and high school years, reaching to 1991, when he is an aviator on a carrier in Operation Desert Shield, kicking Iraq out of Kuwait.

I read Time Flying in a couple of days. I wanted to know how it would all resolve. After all, it’s a time travel story.

Garmen states about himself that he likes to write the books he’d like to read. That’s the difference between Garmen and me. I think about the books I’d like to read and then try to find them. He writes them. I respect that.

There are some problems with the book.

First, the plot, while a strong page-turner, does not quite fit together. I read the book in just a few sittings, wanting to know how the plot would resolve, only to find out it didn’t. Garmen set it up for a sequel. After reading what I thought was a stand-alone novel, I found out only in my research after I could not figure out the ending, that it really does not make sense.

Second, the book is in terrible need of editing. It is absolutely littered with grammatical errors, punctuation errors and missing words or additional words that don’t belong there. There are hundreds such errors, so many, that they are annoying and distracting from the story. I don’t understand why an author would not at least ONCE read his own book before publishing it. I paid $2.99 for it. That’s $2.99 too much for such a sloppy effort. A single reading before publishing could have eliminated 90% of the gross errors. Garmen wouldn’t need to hire an expensive editor for that. He would have to just READ his own damn book.

For that reason, this author does not deserve my business, and I won’t be buying any more Garmen books. I like his creativity, has passion, and his story-telling skills, but I am insulted by his laziness and his willingness to put his name on such a low-quality package and charge us for it.

Rating - Two Stars

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: