Good time-travel fiction?

I want to travel around through time. However, I’m curiously lack in a time machine, so, I’ll take the next best thing: fiction. Preferably good fiction, not crap “OMG teh dinos killed me in the past!!” stuff. Beyond that I’m open to anything that plays creatively with the concept of time.


The single greatest time-travel story ever (in terms of weirding you out) remains Robert Heinlein’s ‘…All you Zombies’. You’ll need pen and paper.

Some choices:

Rivers of Time by L. Sprague de Camp. Starts with his classic short “A Gun for Dinosaur”, and continues with sequels he wrote later in life.

The Proteus Operation James Hogan – the cliche of “someone goes back in time to help the Nazis” done well

Guns of the South by Harry urtledove. I think this is a classic – White Supremacists help the South win the Civil War, but the SDouth doesn’t exactly like White Supremacists.
Up the Line and Hawksbill Station by Robert Silverberg.

The “CrossTime Engineer” Stories by Frankowski

Heinlein’s classic short stories “All You Zombies” and “By His Boostraps”. I think Bootstraps is the ultimate time-travel story
The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold. He consciously tried to pack every time travel cliche he could into this one. Gerrold also wrote a dinosaur-hunting time travel story. I forget the name, but it’s the bloodiest onme I ever read.

“The Theory and Practice of Time Travel” by Larry Niven (In All the Myriad Ways)
“Language for Time Travelers” by L. Sprague de Camp.

And, my all-time favorite:

Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp. Martin Padway accientally gets sent back in time. He tries to prevent the Fall of Rome.

A recent “literary fiction” bestseller: Audrey Niffenegger’s Time Traveler’s Wife, which I liked very much (and which I know has several other fans on the Boards).

Replay by Ken Grimwood (stretching the definition, but the hero does travel back in time and it features many of the themes of time travel).

Millenneum by John Varley (much better than the movie it was based on*)

No Enemy But Time by Michael Bishop

For short stories:

“Vintage Season” by Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore
“Button Button” by Isaac Asimov (pure fun)
*Varley wrote the script and a novelization. However, the project fell apart, so he published the novelization alone. The script was filmed later.

Connie Willis wrote some awesome time travel books. Doomsday Book (medieval England) is excellent but sad, and To Say Nothing of the Dog (Victorian England) is excellent and hilarious. She’s also got several short stories on the same theme. It’s actually time travel from the future, and they’re definately must-reads. (To Say Nothing of the Dog was the first Hugo winner to be funny on purpose, I think.)

I can’t believe two people already have cited Heinlein and not mentioned “Door into Summer”!

Not to mention A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court!

Which is by Mark Twain, not Heinlein, of course.

Didn’t mean to spawn confusion.

The Anibus Gates by Tim Powers. Time travel, a little sci-fi. . . steampunk!

As an aside, I’d like to thank the good people at the Dope for educating me on this genre. A long time ago I asked about a book in which a character time traveled, ate charcoal as an atidote to poison, dealt with the dogs from the gates of hell and met the poet Byron. I got the name of the book plus an introduction to steampunk.

Time Machines: The Best Time Travel Stories Ever Written contains one of my favorite time-travel stories–The Third Level by Jack Finney.

As do I.

Would that be the one where a guy goes back in time to shoot a brontosaurus, and then gets eaten by the ticks living on its hide? (which are, of course, the size of lobsters)

A couple of others:

“A Gun for Aristotle” by L. Sprague de Camp. Time Traveler from Brookhaven Labs goes back in time to try to change Aristotle’s philosophy so it doesn’t end up stifling Medieval science for so long.

TimeMaster by Robert L. Forward. Interesting because it’s a time travel novel by a research physicist who made it logically and scientifically consistent. a attempt, I think, to properly address the isue of what happens when you try to go back in time to change the past.
Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock. Time Traveler goes back in time to find Jesus Christ. There’s a controversial idea for you.
And you have to mention H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, even though it didn’t address most of the issues we associate with tim travel. Nevertheless, it started life as a planned multi-media extravaganza, like those Disneyworld rides, and it envisioned time travel as sort of speeded-up film (one of the things George Pal got right when he filmed it).

If i don’t bring up the Diana Gabaldon stories, someone else will. I haven’t read them, but Pepper mill has read and loved all of them.

The Flight of the Horse is a book of time-travel stories by Larry Niven, based around the design of a time machine dreamed up by some physicist or other, whose aim was to make it theoretically feasible. I find it amusing that Niven then uses the machine to tell the most bizarre set of time-travel stories you ever heard. The twist is that:

The time machine, if it is taking you back before about 1800 (when the concept of time travel was invented by a fiction writer) actually takes you into a fictitious universe, replete with unicorns, dragons, and characters from fiction (in one story, they grab Moby Dick- in the novel based in the same universe [Rainbow Mars] they travel to an amalglam of the different versions of Mars dreamed up by E. R. Burroughs, H.G. Wells and a couple of others). However, the characters doing the time travelling come from a future devastated by nuclear war, so they assume that anything they pick up that doesn’t square with their idea of the universe is due to “faulty records” of the past.

Nahhh. I think it’s called “Deathbeast”, abouit a hunt for T. Rex. Gerrold said he wanted to do time travel as “Jaws”. The T. Rex ends up gobbling up or stepping on just about everyone, to a degree unlikely by the laws of probability alone. Indicates the existence of a malign force in the Universe. In this case, a sadistic author.

I remember reading two books that were entertaining. The titles, I think, were:

The Great Time Machine Hoax


I may have imagined them, though.

Happy Clam, Niven’s recent bopok Rainbow Mars is part of the same series as the stories in Flight of the Horse (the volume actually includes several, if not all, of the stories. The main story has the heroes encountering all the fictional Martians that have been written (kinda like the opening chapter of the second volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), but the real center of the story involves

…Trees that grow to be big enough to form natural “space elevators”. The problem is that they suck up all a planet’s water and evaporate it into space, which is why Mars is so dry. On the other hand, they do form the basis for “Jack in the Beanstalk” and other random literature.

(And nothin’ to do with Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red/Green/Blue Mars series.)

In the Nantucket series by S.M. StirlingIsland in the Sea of Time, Against the Tide of Years, and On the Oceans of Eternity – the entire island of Nantucket, Massachusetts, is sent back (by unexplained means) to 1250 BC. Rollicking adventure story!

I recently enjoyed a wonderful little book, The Forsight War by Anthony Williams. His time-traveller gets to help Churchill and Friends win WWII. I recommend it to you.