THE BEST TIME TRAVEL
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Barry Malzberg has selected several excellent time travel stories for his grandiosely titled The Best Time Travel Stories of All Time. These selections cover the entire gamut of time travel questions, from the classical “Grandfather paradox” of Bill Pronzini’s “On the Nature of Time” to time travel as a government project in William Tenn’s “Brooklyn Project.”
Many of the stories indicate a deep knowledge of the genre, referring to earlier stories which may or may not be included. Poul Anderson’s “The Man Who Came Early,” about an American soldier finding himself in tenth century Iceland, is a direct refutation of the Renaissance men found in Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court or L. Sprague de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall. Similarly, although Robert Silverberg’s “Hawksbill Station” does not directly reference Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder,” it does demonstrate familiarity with the paradox and twist Bradbury used.
The Bradbury story, perhaps the most famous time travel tale since H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, also appears in the anthology, or rather, a comic book adaptation of the story does. Malzberg does not provide a reason for choosing the graphic story, which remains close to the original, over Bradbury’s own prose, but the glossy pages in the middle of the anthology is an interesting touch.
Not all the stories work well. James Tiptree, Jr.’s “Forever on a Hudson Blanket” offers an interesting switch on a time traveler going back to see her own past, seen from the point of view of the native of the time. Unfortunately, for all the interesting things Tiptree does, her time traveling Loolie is annoying and distracts from the story. Other tales, such as Charles Harness’s “Time Trap” suffer from being in a themed anthology. Approached without knowledge of the science fictional element, this is a strong story, but knowing that it is in an anthology about time travel allows the reader to see where it is going.
Originally written in 1948, William Tenn’s aforementioned “Brooklyn Project” can be seen as a nightmarish United States in which the government tramples on civil liberties in the name of security. Of course, only a few years later, the McCarthy hearings were being held in Washington, demonstrating Tenn’s prescience. The other governmental story in the anthology, Philip K. Dick’s “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts” does not extrapolate forward for its point, but rather exhibits the author’s disappointment with the manned space program, providing a strange Capricorn-One like story.
Nancy Kress’s “The Battle of Long Island,” which opens the anthology, is one of the few stories which is not only about time travel, but also an alternate history tale. Using travelers from a variety of versions of the American Revolution, Kress has her protagonist, army nurse Susan Peters, come to question her own past and the reality of what she believes to have happened. As with most of the best time travel and alternate histories, Kress plays with the way we perceive time.While Malzberg may not, in fact, have presented the best time travel stories of all time, as promised in his title, he does present a plethora of quality tales which introduce the reader to the numerous facets of time travel stories. The Best Time Travel Stories of All Time is a worthwhile addition for anyone interested in time travel and paradoxes.
|Nancy Kress||The Battle of Long Island|
|Poul Anderson||The Man Who Came Early|
|James Tiptree, Jr.||Forever to a Hudson Bay Blanket|
|Bill Pronzini||On the Nature of Time|
|Philip K. Dick||A Little Something for Us Tempunauts|
|Geoffrey A. Landis||Ripples in the Dirac Sea|
|Fredric Brown||Hall of Mirrors|
|Karen Haber||3 Rms Good View|
|Charles L. Harness||Time Trap|
|William Tenn||Brooklyn Project|
|Jack M. Dann||Timetipping|
|Paul Levinson||The Chronology Protection Case|
|Robert Silverberg||Hawksbill Station|
|Jack McDevitt||Time Travelers Never Die|
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