7 Time Travel Books

Time travel in fiction is nothing new. The Time Machine by H. G. Wells was published in 1895 and has largely been credited for popularising the concept of time travel and coining the term ‘time machine’.

Since then, there have been a swag of time travel novels, including more recently The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon to name just a few.


My Favourite Time Travel Novel
My favourite time travel novel by far is 11.22.63 by Stephen King.
In 2011, an American teacher named Jake discovers he can travel back in time to 1958. After careful consideration and a few false starts, he sets out to prevent the assassination of JFK in 1963. 11.22.63 is meticulously researched and comfortably straddles the genres of science fiction and historical fiction. The consequences of time travel and changing the future are addressed through the characters and the ending was extremely satisfying.


Time Travel Books on my TBR
Like any reader, I’m always keen to discover a new favourite and I have two time travel novels I’m looking forward to reading.

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
Four female scientists build a time machine in the 1960s however one of the group is banished after being adversely affected by their time travels. 50 years later, the business of time travel is booming and one of the group receives a message from the future. I understand this is a murder mystery featuring strong, intelligent women that examines the toll of time travel which always interests me.

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis 
In 2054, Kivrin is attending Oxford University where students can travel back in time to study a significant period in history. Having prepared for several years, Kivrin travels back to mid 1300s England despite her tutor’s misgivings about being a young woman travelling alone in the period. As luck would have it, she becomes stranded. The reason this is so high on my list is I want to know what happens next. How does she adapt to her circumstances, what does she make of the people, the culture, the lifestyle?


I can begin to imagine Kivrin’s experiences thanks to the brilliant insight available in The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer. A perfect book to read in Non Fiction November, this is ‘A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century‘. It contains chapters on: the people, what to wear, what to eat and drink, health and hygiene, where to stay, what to do and more. This is a detailed and comprehensive guide to the period and location and one of my all time favourite reads.

What is your favourite time travel book?

The first sentence

A writer needs to get the attention of his/her readers as soon as possible — to make them want to read further, to make them not put the book back onto the bookshop shelf in favour of another book. There are many ways to do this and it can take anywhere from a single word to an entire chapter. But what I want to write about today is that all-important first sentence.

A book’s first sentence can be long or short, descriptive or elusive, intriguing or demanding, full of purple prose or stated matter-of-factly — but its purpose is to begin the story and hook the reader. Some writers do this better than others.

Today, I simply want to share with you some of my favourite opening sentences — some with comments, other without. These are not necessarily my favourite books, these are just sentences that I found had grabbed my attention and made me remember them. I am presenting them in splendid isolation from the remainder of the text to which they belong. Have a read and see if you can guess from which books I have extracted them — I’ve listed the books at the end of the post.

1. I’m going to start with my all-time favourite — a truly memorable and intriguing sentence that sets up reader expectations. It’s a very recognisable sentence and also a rather long one — far longer than is fashionable to write in this day and age.

“No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.”

2. Another absolute classic:

“The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

3. A little gruesome, but memorable.

“Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own.”

4. “I heard a story once about a little kid who came home from school and found his mother dead on the kitchen floor.”

5. “I keep thinking that I have a tunnel in my chest.”

6. What I love about this sentence is the way ‘dæmon’ is written with such everyday matter-of-factsness.

“Lyra and her dæmon moved through the darkening Hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.”

7. “I know a place where there is no smog and no parking problem and no population explosion . . . no Cold War and no H-bombs and no television commercials . . . no Summit Conferences, no Foreign Aid, no hidden taxes—no income tax.”

8. “When the doorbell rings at three in the morning, it’s never good news.”

9. Okay, okay — this is one sentence plus one extra word. But that one extra word makes all the difference.

“It wasn’t even five o’clock and Milo had already murdered Mrs Appleby. Twice.”

10. “Aubrey Fitzwilliam hated being dead.”

11. “Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”

12. “All children, except one, grow up.”

13. “Later, while I was facing the Potter Moth, or fleeing for my life from the First Ones, or helping man a cannon aboard Jack Havock’s brig Sophronia, I would often think back to the way my life used to be, and to that last afternoon at Larklight, before all our misfortunes began.”

14. “Through the ruin of a city stalked the ruin of a man.”

15. “Something eerie came over European civilization in the early twentieth century and led to a madness which was called ‘the Great War’.”

So there you have it — some of my favourite opening sentences. They probably say more about me than the books they come from. There are probably other ones out there that I may like better… but either I haven’t read them yet, or I read them so long ago that I can’t remember them, or I was simply unable to get my hands onto a copy of the relevant book to check the quote.

But what about all you people out there in the blogosphere? What are your favs? Leave and comment and share an opening sentence.

And tune in next time for some random quotes.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Here are the books:

1. The War of the Worlds by HG Wells, 1898.

2. Neuromancer, William Gibson, 1984.

3. Angels and Demons, Dan Brown, 2000.

4. The Inner Circle, Gary Crew, 1986.

5. After the First Death, Robert Cormier, 1979.

6. Northern Lights, Philip Pullman, 1995.

7. Glory Road, Robert Heinlein, 1963.

8. Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz, 2000.

9. The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler, Paul Collins, 2009.

10. Blaze of Glory, Michael Pryor, 2006.

11. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Dauglas Adams, 1979.

12. Peter Pan, JM Barrie, 1911.

13. Larklight, Philip Reeve, 2006.

14. Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth, Terrance Dicks, 1977.

15. The First A.I.F.: A Study of its Recruitment 1914-1918, LL Robson, 1970.

Time tripping

I’ve just started reading a YA novel called TimeRiders, written by Alex Scarrow. It’s a time travel story about three teens from three different years (1912, 2010 and 2026) who are recruited by the mysterious Agency to become TimeRiders, operatives who go about fixing problems caused by other time travellers. Sounds rather clichéd, doesn’t it? I’m only 50 pages in, but so far, so good. It plunges you straight into the action and has managed to hold my interest thus far. Mind you, there are still 376 pages to go. I’ll report back once I’ve finished it.

In the meantime, I thought now might be the appropriate moment for a time travel post. After all, a bit of time travel can be fun. I’m eagerly looking forward to the new season of Doctor Who. I’d list the Back to the Future movies amongst my favourite re-watchable films (What can I say? I’m a child of the 80s). I also have a soft spot for Somewhere in Time. And I’ve lost track of how often I’ve watched the various crews of the Starship Enterprise skip back into the past. But let’s talk about books…

Now that I think about it, I can’t recall having read all that many time travel books. I own a copy of The Time Machine by HG Wells, but I’ve never read it. Yes, very remiss of me. It’s been on my “must get around to reading” list for a good many years. (Along with other classic genre novels such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde — which I did finally get around to reading a couple of years ago.) But enough about what I haven’t read… let me tell you about what I have read.

The Puzzle RingThe two most recent time travel books to have actually made it through my reading list are Kate Forsyth’s The Puzzle Ring and Sean McMullen’s Before the Storm. These books nicely illustrate the two categories of time travel fiction that most stories fall into — science fiction and fantasy.

The Puzzle Ring is a charming novel for kids and teens, revolving around Celtic fairy folklore. When Hannah Rose Brown returns to her ancestral home in Scotland with her mother, she discovers a family curse and the truth about her father’s mysterious disappearance. The only way to save her father and break the curse is to travel back in time to the era of Mary Queen of Scots. The time travel in this story is achieved by passing through the realm of fairy.

Before the StormBefore the Storm, on the other hand, is YA science fiction. Fox and BC travel back in time from the distant future to 1901 with the aid of a time machine. These two teens are on a mission to stop the bombing of the first Australian Parliament — an event that will have a devastating affect on the future of the whole world. But once in 1901, they need the help of three ordinary teenagers from that time period to complete their mission.

Two very different books — examples of the two different types of time travel stories. Both are excellent!

Now, I’m going to try and think back to the hazy past of my childhood and teenage years and mention a couple of other time travel stories.

Red Hart Magic by Andre Norton. It’s about two kids who travel back in time, thanks to a magical model of an old English inn. I’m afraid I remember almost nothing about this book except that I really enjoyed it at the time I read it, around about the age of 13, I think. I read quite a lot of Andre Norton’s books at the time.

In my later teen years I read Robert Leeson’s Time Rope books: Time Rope, Three Against the World, At War With Tomorrow and The Metro Gangs Attack. This series is about three teens who travel through time by swinging on a rope hanging from an old tree in a mist-shrouded place called the Neural Zone. Again, memory fails me as to the details. I’ve continued to read Leeson’s books, most recently his retelling of the Arthurian legends, The Song of Arthur, although my favourite of his books is the parallel worlds novel, Slambash Wangs of a Compo Gormer.

Hmmm! I don’t seem to be doing too well in the memory stakes. I wonder if there are any other books I’ve read but can’t remember that I could recommend to you? 🙂

There are, of course, the plethora of Doctor Who novelisations, novels and short stories that I’ve read over the years. I do actually remember most of these. But they would be worthy of a post all to themselves. And I will get around to a Doctor Who post (or two, or three…) some time in the future. If you happen to have a time machine, feel free to skip ahead and read them now.

Let’s finish with a question. What are your favourite time travels books? Please feel free to leave your time travel recommendations in the comments section below.

Tune in next time, when Kate Forsyth, author of The Puzzle Ring, drops by to tell us about her favourite time travel books.

Catch ya later, George