Top 5 Time Travel Novels

  1. OutlanderDiana Gabaldon

I think I have already made my love of this novel clear. What is not to like? Time travel. Jamie Fraser. Scotsmen. Scotland. Swords. Adventure. Jamie Fraser. The book starts in 1945 when our plucky heroine walks through some standing stones and finds herself in 1743 Scotland.  Claire soon finder herself in the middle of 18th Century clan politics. Not only is her life in danger, but so is her heart. Soon Claire finds herself torn between fidelity and desire—and two incredibly different lives. I love this novel because it is not just about romance, it also explores a lot of the societal and political intrigues of 18th century Scotland. Outlander is well-written and Gabaldon transports her reader back in time. The world building is complex and realistic populated with diverse characters. Jaime can be a tad naïve sometimes and Claire is overly reckless at times. But the positives outweigh the negatives. This book is probably the closest I will ever come to experiencing life in 1743 Scotland. While the entire Outlander Series is fantastic, the first book remains my absolute favorite.

Outlander, Dell Publishing Company, 2005, ISBN 9780440242949

  1. The Time MachineHG Wells

I admit that I did not read this novel until after I had seen the 2002 movie based off the book. The movie was a decent adaption and Guy Pierce was fantastic. However, I think the book is a better adventure than the cinematic version. This novel was revolutionary for two reasons: 1) it popularized the concept of time travel via a vehicle that allows the traveler to specifically choose a time frame, 2) it is also an early example of the Dying Earth science fiction subgenre.  Not a lot of people were writing about a dead Earth in 1895. Wells’ novel introduced the term “time machine” into the common lexicon and it lives on today. This is a good exploration of how current scientific trends and theories can be extrapolated into the future. In this case, the Time Traveler ends up in the distant future where the sun is huge and red explores the realm of Eschatology. Due to the time period of the writing, the prose can be a tad difficult to read. I started and stopped the novel several times before plowing on and finishing. This is a fantastic time travel novel and it set the groundwork for most modern time bending novels.

The Time Machine, Signet Classics, 2002, ISBN 9780451528551

  1. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s CourtMark Twain

This book is hilarious and a fabulous spin on both time travel and King Arthur. Do not worry, the story is written in a much more understandable prose than Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I have fond memories of reading this novel multiple times and watching several adaptions. In this time travel romp, Hank (a Yankee engineer from Connecticut) is transported back in time to the court of King Arthur. Hank convinces the court that he is a magician and uses his knowledge of modern science to accomplish this feat. He ends up shocking everyone with demolitions, fireworks and the shoring up of a holy well. Needless to say, a lot of hilarious hijinks occur. Twain penned this tale after being inspired by a dream where he was a knight who was severely inconvenienced by his clunky armor. Most of the story is a satire of the romanticization of the Middle Ages and chivalry. This satire is most apparent in the depiction of medieval society, all the people are portrayed as being incredibly gullible. For instance, when Merlin creates an invisibility veil all his friends can still see him. Sir Sagramor borrows the cloak when he fights Hank, who has to pretend to not see the knight. This is a lighthearted novel and is thoroughly hilarious.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Simon & Schuster, 2007, 9781416534730

  1. The End of EternityIsaac Asimov

Very few literary works manage to stay popular after the author has passed away. However, Isaac Asimov’s works live on and still capture the imagination of science fiction enthusiasts. The Robot Series and The Foundation Trilogy are classic science fiction novels that will probably still be popular years from now. One of my favorite Asimov stories is a standalone book about eternity and time. This story deals with Andrew Harlan, an Eternal who falls for a non-Eternal woman. Eternals are recruited from various eras of human existence and are capable of traveling through time. They can enter the temporal world at almost any time; however, there are some centuries they cannot enter. Most of the plot deals with the ethics of changing reality and the static nature of human society through time. The novel reflects the scientific theories of the time, though some of these theories have been debunked by modern studies.  An example is the main power source, the Nova Sol. This source taps energy from an exploding sun, scientists now know that the Sun is too small to explode. Science aside, this is a great read and is generally viewed as a prequel to the Foundation Series. The 2011 film, The Adjustment Bureau, borrowed several plot elements from this novel.

The End of Eternity, Fawcett Crest, 1971, ISBN 9780449016190

  1. The River of No ReturnBee Ridgway

I picked up this novel because my Barnes& Noble receipt said that if I enjoyed The All Souls trilogy, I would love this tale. While I do not “love” this book, it is an interesting read. This is a time travel novel with some romantic elements, though the romance is more like a secondary subplot. Lord Nicholas Falcott is about to die on a Napoleonic battlefield and then he suddenly finds himself in 21st century London. He has been rescued by The Guild, a secretive society of time travelers who inform him that he can never return to his proper century. Fate intervenes and Nicholas is launched on a time/mind bending journey.  Overall, the book is an enjoyable foray into the time-travel mythology. As this is a debut novel, the narrative is not as polished as the other entries on this list. However, it is one of the better debuts I have read. If you can look over some stilted dialogue and slightly slow moving plot, The River of No Return is an excellent read. Some of the secondary characters got on my nerves, but the main characters are fantastic. I hope Ridgway writes a sequel in order to tie up some of the dangling threads.

The River of No Return, Plume, 2013, ISBN 9780142180839

 

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