As you know if you’ve been reading this blog, I have a particular soft spot for books about time travel, and if you have similar tastes, you are in luck, because we have not one, not two, but three new books coming to the Field next week which involve time travel (and they demonstrate the breadth of the genre, as they are very different from one another).
It is a little stretch, I admit, to call Iain Pears’ new novel, Arcadia, a time travel book, but the convoluted plot suggests connections between future and past that bring it into the time travel milieu. The book starts with Henry Lytten, a professor at Oxford in 1960, dabbling in espionage and trying to write a fantasy novel that will be completely different from those of his forbears, J. R. R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis. He finds unlikely help in the form of the 15 year old girl, Rosie, who lives next door, and who, in chasing after Lytten’s cat (all science fiction and fantasy novels should have cats in them), finds a doorway into another world via a mirror, an idyllic world where Storytellers are revered above everyone, and where, apparently, the book Lytten was writing has become the source of all knowledge. Meanwhile, hundreds of years in the (dystopian) future on the island of Mull, Angela is a psychomathematician who has discovered a number of real parallel worlds, has designed a method of time travel and used it to go back in time and erase all evidence of her work. The book is complicated and filled with intertwining plotlines (and there’s an app which allows you to choose whichever point of view you want to read) and has all the brain-twisting fun of a good time travel novel.
There is something impressive about the idea of using time travel NOT to change history per se but to make money, and when you’re making money by sending people back in time to the heydays of their favorite bands to see them live in concert, that’s just brilliant. And that is the premise of Every Anxious Wave, by Mo Daviau, so how could you resist? These two slackers find a time hole and set up a business to send people back to watch their favorite bands in concert, but then (of course) something goes wrong, and Karl, one of the slackers, finds himself not in 1980 but in 980, long before Europeans made contact with the Americas. Karl is having a good time in Mannahatta, but his friend and co-business owner, Wayne, is distraught and trying to get him back. Wayne ends up connecting with Lena, a brilliant and prickly astrophysicist (is there any other kind?), in an effort to find out how to get Karl back, and of course the two fall in love, and Lena can’t resist messing around with time travel herself, which leads (also of course) to more complications and great fun all around.
The Lost Time Accidents, by John Wray is a little less lighthearted but equally mind-boggling look at time travel, involving a man who wakes up one day to discover that he’s been removed from the stream of time. Desperate to find his way back to normal time, our protagonist, Waldemar Tolliver (“Waldy”) must confront the legacy of his bizarre family, the origins of his broken heart, and his great-grandfather’s lost discovery of the true nature of time. The book races through time and space, from turn of the century Vienna to the concentration camps of WWII to modern day New York City, playing with history and asking the big questions in an unusual and entertaining way.