Hippo Manchester
August 4, 2005

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Forward, into the past

Time travel tome takes you back to sci-fi golden age

By Robert Greene

The Best Time Travel Tales of the 20th Century, edited by Harry Turtledove with Martin H. Greenberg, Ballantine Books, 425 pages.

Never since Back to the Future have so many paradoxes, conundrums and twists been collected in one place.

Time Travel Tales is an anthology featuring the works and musings of many of science fiction’s best. Each of the 18 tales in the tome asks a question: what if we could go back to the past and change the present, or skip ahead to tomorrow to see what today brings? The answer, generally, is not good, and most of our time trippers meet grisly ends, including one fellow who manages to squash himself with his own thumb.

Most of the short stories included in the anthology examine the personal and social ramifications of traveling through time — and messing things up. The archetype tale of how even slightly altering the past can screw up the present, Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder,” is included here, as is “Time’s Arrow” by Arthur C. Clarke.

A common thread in all the stories is a stern warning not to abuse, or even use, the technology. No good can come of it, the tales warn, as the protagonists all fall foul to some misstep or unintended consequence.

Time Travel Tales is not a book to read straight through. Pick it up, put it on the bedside table and read one or two stories before bedtime.

Relax, you have the time.