On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
THE IDEA of time travel, especially backward in time, is an appealing one for me. I’ve enjoyed several novels with this as their theme. Here are mini-reviews of my favorites. Maybe you have favorites as well?
Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court certainly fits my preferred time-travel genre. In this classic Twain satire, engineer Hank Morgan shares his technical marvels with 6th-Century England. Reading it reminds me of Arthur C. Clarke’s line, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Another time-traveling novelist is Jack Finney, 1911-1995. He is well known for his 1955 sci-fi The Body Snatchers, whence the 1956 movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers and its 1978, 1993 and 2007 remakes.
Finney’s Time and Again sets forth his continuing theme for time travel: Envelope yourself in sufficient trappings of an earlier era—and you’re there. In this one, the time is 1892, with the New York World newspaper and a historically accurate fire being part of the plot.
Finney completed From Time to Time, a sequel to Time and Again, shortly before his death in 1995. Indeed, it might well have been the second of a trilogy. Its venue is New York City again; its time, primarily 1911. Preventing World War I is a plot element, as is the sinking of the Titanic.
By the way, don’t confuse this title with an identically named 2009 movie. This charming English country tale of 1944—and the 1700s—is both time travel and a ghost story.
Finney wrote shorter pieces as well. My favorite is The Woodrow Wilson Dime, wherein a loose bit of coinage sets a disgruntled guy into less gruntled surroundings. It’s time travel, romance and madcap comedy.
Curiously, its 1987 inclusion in Three by Finney is itself an update of the 1968 original, a bit of novelistic time travel.
Finney’s influence appears in Richard Matheson’s Somewhere in Time, which is also a gentle soft-focus film appearing in 1980, based on Matheson’s 1975 book, Bid Time Return. A coin plays a key role here too, but it would spoil things to say how. As homage, there’s a character named Professor Finney in the flick.
Selden Edwards’ The Little Book has his modern character inadvertently thrust into 1897 Vienna. There, he encounters romance, Sigmund Freud, a young Adolph Hitler—and a member of his own family. It’s fascinating in being more philosophical than others of the genre.
Connie Willis has a rollicking series of comedic sc-fi, of which To Say Nothing of the Dog is the third. In order, there are Fire Watch, 1982; Doomsday Book, 1992; and this one. All begin at Oxford University in the year 2057, by which time historians are using time travel for research into the London Blitz, the Victorian countryside and medieval England, not necessarily in this—or any—order.
Willis had a more recent pair, Blackout/All Clear, tripping to World War II.
My time travel seems to have lots of miles left. How about yours? ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013