We might as start with an obvious choice. Shada is a lost adventure for everyone’s favorite Time Lord straight from mind of everyone’s favorite British Sci-fi absurdist, Douglas Adams. Originally conceived by Adams as a script for “Doctor Who”, it was unfortunately never produced. Thankfully, Gareth Roberts has gamely picked up the sonic screwdriver and transformed the script into a novel. The story sees the Doctor on the hunt for a misplaced and immensely powerful book in a delightfully ridiculous Adams-esque take on “Doctor Who.”
Speaking of Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide sits somewhere near the intersection of “Doctor Who” and “Monty Python”. Which makes sense given Adams’ well-known love for the latter and his pedigree as a writer and editor for the former. The story of Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, and their misadventures around the galaxy isn’t just absurdly funny, it also happens to be absurdly good sci-fi.
Perhaps time travel is largely a work of fiction. But what if it’s not? What would you do if you suddenly found yourself stranded in the 18th or 19th centuries and desperately in need of a few modern conveniences? Fortunately, this is a quandary Ryan North has contemplated in detail. How to Invent Everything lays out how to invent, well, everything (it’s right there in the title). This is a must-read for any potential time traveler.
Originally published as Stories of Your LifeAnd Others, Arrival is mind-bending collection of speculative fiction from Ted Chiang. The centerpiece, a novella called Story of Your Life, was the basis for the film “Arrival”. It’s a fascinating exploration of memory, grief, and language built around an original take on the concept of time travel — to say much more would ruin the story.
Margaret Atwood’s story-within-a-story-within-a-story is a Russian nesting doll of speculative fiction. The Blind Assassin recounts the history of the Chase family, the mysterious death of Laura Chase in 1945, a scandalous novel, and the story within that novel of a blind assassin on a distant planet. Each of these disparate threads are meticulously woven together toward a haunting and stunning finale. It’s a mind- and genre-bending piece of fiction as only Atwood could imagine.
Have you ever wished you could actually step into your favorite book? In the world of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, people can do exactly that. Of course, things aren’t all fun and games. Fforde’s version of Great Britain, circa 1985, is one of time travel, cloning, and the possibility of literally getting lost in a favorite piece of literature. When someone begins kidnapping various classic characters, Thursday Next, a special operative in literary detection, comes up against one of the greatest challenges of her career.
Kindred was my first Octavia Butler novel and it may be my still be my favorite. The story follows a woman named Dana in 1976 Los Angeles. Following a dizzy spell, Dana is transported back to the antebellum south. After saving a small boy from drowning before returning to her present in equally mysterious fashion. These bizarre trips continue with each one lasting longer and becoming more perilous. It’s a brilliantly woven, often terrifying read and the perfect introduction to Octavia Butler.
Time travel is just a part of everyday life in Minor Universe 31. Each day people use time machines with an eye toward changing the past. Fortunately, time travel technicians like Charles Yu keep the whole thing from going to pot. In his spare time, though, Charles searches for his missing father, the man who invented time travel. The key to finding his father may lie in a book called How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. It’s a witty, absurdist, and all-too-human story of father, sons, space-time, and metafiction.