Time Travel Science Fiction

by Chris Duesing

10 of the Best Sci-Fi Books About Time Travel

Reading is all about discovering different worlds and places and things. Not that ordinary life doesn’t do enough of that for us, books are just better at it. My favorite storylines are usually items out of this worlds. Things that would rarely happen, but when you read the book, you actually find the possibility of them. Stories that make you believe. Science fiction is great at explaining things we may not have thought about. Here are some of my favorite storylines in time travel, as told by some of the best storytellers of this and last century.

PS. I have tried as much as I could to tell you what the stories are about without revealing any spoilers. Hope it gets you interested enough to get the book and find out the rest.

Ghost Country by Patrick Lee

This is a sci-fi techno-thriller is set with a horrific vision 70 years into the future. The Breach is an entity introduced in the first book of the series, Breach. It is a dark metal cylinder entity that opens a hole in time. The book begins as Paige Campbell is in a motorcade hit by gun men. She is the sole survivor and manages to send a message to her colleague, Bethany Stewart. Stewart employs the help of Travis Chase. She tells Travis of the Breach and the horrific vision that they must work to prevent from happening.

Ghost County brings a frightening personal destiny and the people dedicated to stop it from coming true. Lee tells the mystery in a slow unravelling manner that leaves you wanting more. You are left discovering the apocalypse, and the world before and after it.

The book will be liked by fans of the rough-looking hero with a heart of gold in a world full of government officials and a conspiracy right in the middle of everything.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

A story with numerous journeys, Kindred offers a mix of antebellum truths and modern understanding. It is told from the point of Dana, an African-American writer in 1976. She is pulled to save the life of Rufus Weylin. Rufus is the son to a ruthless plantation owner. He grows up in his father’s shadow to become just as arrogant as his own father.
Octavia E. Butler writes of race as a social contrast, using a strong female protagonist to portray a period in history that holds a lot of trauma. The story offers a diluted version of the African- American experience in the antebellum South. Dana is strong enough that Rufus comes to respect her in her own right. It is an educational and historic depiction of what life was like for Whites and African-Americans in the 1800s.

A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is said to have conceptualized the Butterfly Effect concept with A Sound of Thunder. The short story is set in the year 2055 and back six million years to an era that dinosaurs exist.

You meet Eckles, a man excited to take his first trip into the past. He is on his way to hunt a Tyrannosaurus rex with the help of a time travel company that provides hunters with transport to the past. On the morning of his journey, results of the presidential elections have just been announced. According to Eckles, the level-headed candidate Keith who was for everything good won over the dictator-like Deutscher.  The journey begins as the tour guide gives Eckles and two other travelers their instructions. They are to change nothing other than killing the Tyrannosaurus rex. They are warned against deviating from the defined path. Things go astray when the beast appears. Eckles, in fear, commits a number of errors and goes off the path. When they get back, there are some changes. Some minor, and some that Eckles cannot even begin to imagine.

Unhappenings by Edward Aubry

There is not a book so well named. Unhappenings is about things happening, then not having happened. Intriguing, right?
Nigel Walden’s first girlfriend disappears after their first kiss. He is 14 years old and does not understand why no one seems to know who she was afterwards. Life goes on as if she never existed. A few years later, he is visited by two versions of himself, one younger, the other older. They have little information to share and he barely understands what they say.
He is determined to find out why the women he is involved with disappear without a trace. His search takes him fifty-two years into the future to meet Helen. Nigel falls in love with her and desperately struggles to find a way to prevent the unhappening this time. He has however unleashed a number of catastrophic events just by meeting Helen.
Nigel plays numerous roles in his present life that affect his future and past lives. His role, as he comes to discover is much bigger than him.

Aubry offers a classic time travel narrative with this story. The set up for the unexpected ending is something you need to personally experience.

Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein

The stories of a man who has lived for two centuries must be interesting and out of this world. Such are the tales of Lazarus Long, who is the oldest living human being. Lazarus has lived this long due to an experiment to extend a human’s life. He has gone on numerous adventures and now, thinks life is not worth living anymore. The only thing that keeps him going is being able to tell his stories.

Lazarus narrates his escapades to Ira Weatheral, the CEO of the company that conducted the experiment. He tells Ira of the people he met, worked with and saved. He also describes in detail the places he visited, some planets that are too surreal for the common human imagination.

Heinlein looks at morality in a number of situations involving incest. He writes about relatives, related by blood and some not, being involved and not. It is an interesting tale, and will have you questioning Heinlein’s morality as well as that of his characters.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Harry August is a man who leads a mundane and uneventful life. The weird thing is he keeps reliving his life. He also retains memory of all the lives he has lived. Soon enough, he realizes he is part of an organization known as the Cronus Club. Members of the club are like him. They have relived their lives and are known as Kalachakra or Ouroboran. They take care of each other from childhood.

Things take a turn when Harry receives a message from a little girl. The world faces a threat that will wipe everything away. Harry, in his eleventh life must choose between preventing a future that has already happened and saving a past that he cannot control. The end is near and choices need to be made. Harry faces his purpose as he discovers his role in preventing the end of the world.

Published in 2014, the book is about the survival instinct and forming long-lasting friendships. It features betrayals, secrets and a whole new way to look at life.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

L’Engle defines her time travel concept as the tesseract; a fold in the fabric of time and space.
Meg Murry’s father has disappeared without a trace. The story begins with Meg meeting their new neighbor who mentions a tesseract. Meg finds out the tesseract was something her father was working on before he disappeared. Together with her brother, Charles and schoolmate, Calvin, they visit the new neighbor.
The children meet three immortal beings capable of shapeshifting. Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which and Mrs. Who take them through the universe using the tesseract. They embark on various journeys through planets and other phenomena in the universe. They come across the planet Camazotz which is consumed by a dark essence known as The Black Thing. Meg and Charles’ father is trapped in the planet.  After facing hypnosis and paralysis, among other deterrents, the group manage to fight the powerful entity and escape back to Earth.

A Wrinkle in Time is children’s book that tackles evil in a non-scary way. The story keeps readers involved as the characters navigate the fabric of our existence.

11.22.63 by Stephen King

Allow Stephen King to transport you to a land where Elvis and big American cars exist. 11.22.63 is a historical fiction story that follows Jake Epping, a high school English teacher on his way to change reality as we know it.
Jake finds out about a portal that can transport him back to 1958. The portal is in a diner owned by an elderly man named Al Templeton. Jake is not thrilled about the idea, but is convinced and finally travels back in time. Al gives him a mission: to stop the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

He establishes a life in the past, conducting research on the would be shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald. He also falls in love with and proposes to a Sadie. She suspects he is different at first, for the way he speaks and the references he makes. Jake eventually comes clean to her about being from the future and his mission. Together with other characters, they work towards stopping the assassination.

Stephen King has a unique way of bringing the 1950s and early 60s to life. He describes the events leading to the climax in a way that can only get you hooked. That, and the twists and turns of the story, what happens after they try to stop the assassination, changing the future and a whole lot more in between.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

From the time he is 5 years old, Henry DeTamble time travels involuntarily. He has a rare genetic disorder known as Chrono-Impairment. He constantly travels to the future and past without any clothes. His trips are irregular and vary in length.
The book starts when Henry meets his wife, 20 year-old Clare, at a library in 1991. Henry is 28 years old, and it is the first time he is meeting her, but she has known him almost all her life. Henry then begins to travel to Clare’s childhood, helping her with bullies and other challenges.

Niffenegger explores a number of themes in the book, as she tells of a love story that stands the ultimate test of time. Henry and Clare share a bond that is both melancholic and exhilarating. Clare lives in his absences, waiting for him, knowing he is always trying to find a way back to her, which he does, until he dies in her arms. He still comes to her, travelling as a younger version. He comes to her when she is 80 years old, as a 43-year-old man.

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Kivrin Engle is a young historian studying medieval history. She suggests to her professor that he sends her to 1320, a period that has not been visited before. The University of Oxford allows researchers to travel into the past for observation. History is however able to resist time travel in the case that it threatens changing major events. A traveler going into a time where they can change events arrives at the nearest possible time where it is safe. It can vary between a 5 minutes or 5 years’ deflection.
As Kivrin leaves 2055, there is an influenza epidemic and she contracts it. She arrives in 1348 and notices her research of the time is useless. The language is different and her maps inaccurate. It is suspected the technician responsible for imputing the year may have been delirious due to the virus.

The narrative shifts between the 14th century and 2055, as both sides try to make contact. The Black Death affects the 14th century, making life difficult on both sides due to the two viruses.

Books about time travel are interesting because you never know what to expect. A lover travelling for revenge or a child who discovers a portal in his wardrobe. It keeps you guessing and you can rarely find two things that are the exact same. I hope these 10 suggestions can get you to pick one up and delve into the world of time.

Chris Duesing
Chris Duesing

I am a photographer, writer, entrepreneur, and programmer living in the great city of Chicago. I love to solve problems with technology and share what I have learned along the way.