Vandermeer, Ann & Jeff (eds). The Time Traveler’s Almanac.

NY: Tor, 2013.

Time travel has always been one of my favorite science fiction themes (much more so than ray guns and rocket ships), and I’ve been reading this stuff a long time, so I wasn’t really surprised to find that I had previously read about sixty of the seventy-two stories packed into this monster volume.

They are, indeed, some of the best in the field, so I didn’t mind at all re-reading them, either. The editors have grouped their selections into four somewhat artificial categories — time travel experiments, changing the past or protecting it from change, paradoxes, and sending messages through time. (“Artificial” because most of these stories could equally well belong to two or three categories.)

They’ve also tried to provide a survey of the whole history of science fiction, so you’ll find “Enoch Soames” by Max Beerbohm (1916), and an excerpt from Wells’s The Time Machine (1895), and even Edward Page Mitchell’s “The Clock That Went Backward” (1881), the first time travel story ever published.

I found some of my favorite pieces here: Ursula LeGuin’s moving “Another Story,” and Michael Swanwick’s lyrical “Triceratops Summer,” and Gene Wolfe’s short but startling “Against the Lafayette Escadrille,” and Harry Turtledove’s linked pair of stories, “Forty, Counting Down” and “Twenty-One, Counting Up,” which are some of his best short work. And then there’s “Fire Watch” by Connie Willis — to my mind the very best time travel story yet written, by one of the very best authors of the past thirty-odd years. And there are plenty of other good reads.

There are some questionable inclusions in the volume, though. The two Kage Baker stories about Preservator Mendoza and Facilitator Joseph, while enjoyable pieces in the “Dr. Zeus” world, deal with immortality; time travel is part of their back-story but it doesn’t appear here. These are immortal cyborgs who only travel through time at the same one-day-per-day rate as the rest of us. And while “Yesterday Was Monday” is a Theodore Sturgeon classic, and while its subject is time, it also has nothing to do with “time travel.” There are also several stories that are only one or two years old, which isn’t long enough for them to become classics. All in all, though, this is the sort of all-inclusive anthology I like to settle into to renew old acquaintances and make a few new discoveries.

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Published in: on 1 February 2015 at 5:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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