A Tuesday Ten: SF Time Travel

So my last list was all about Magical Time Travel, those books where the characters are tossed through time with no attempt at making it explainable by science or machinery.  This list is an attempt at the other familiar form of time travel: the kind that has a grounding in some kind of science fiction.  Now,  I haven’t required these books to be particularly reasonable about their machines or type of travel as such, I’ve only required them to give some kind of nod to the idea that their time travel isn’t magic-based or divinity based, but  technology based.  It can still be pretty outrageous, and often is.  After all, the debate over whether time-travel is possible still goes on . . .



The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (Signet Classics, c1895)

I’d be remiss in not including this classic story of time travel. Over 100 years old and still going strong. Our character invents a device that allows him to travel hundreds of thousands of years into the future in order to behold what might be in store for the earth and for humanity.  It’s actually fairly unusual to have time-travel stories where the characters travel far into the future–a few such stories may travel into the near future, but most time-travel has either contemporary characters traveling to the past, or past characters traveling to contemporary times, at least in middle grade fiction.  H. G. Wells has come to be associated indelibly with the notion of time-travel, and the book still captures the imaginations of audiences today.



Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Skottie Young (HarperCollins, 2013)

And now for something completely different.  Neil Gaiman’s brief but delightful romp has a father go out for milk one day come home hours later with a wild story indeed.  The story he relates when he does return includes–among other things–time travel.  It’s a pretty silly narrative, sort of Doctor Who for kids, but I think it follows the SF conventions enough to be included.  Besides being entirely too much fun for any person to have without sharing!


The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer (Disney-Hyperion, 2013)

For an older tween-teen audience comes Eoin Colfer’s first book in his new series; W.A.R.P..  This time-traveling action-thriller series kicks off with a young Victorian lad who’s being trained as an assassin by a malevolent and sadistic mentor.  When his first victim-to-be winds up being a scientist from the future, Riley inadvertently gets transported through the wormhole to the twenty-first century.  The wormholes are part of the FBI’s Witness Anonymous Relocation Plan (WARP) which allows the secret service to send individuals back into time itself to hide them.  This is the only book of my list to actually use wormholes as the facilitator of time-travel.  The actual traveling is limited in it’s scope by certain factors, and terribly risky.  In fact it’s the time travel mechanism that allows Riley’s mentor to become a highly dangerous adversary with powers beyond that of an ordinary man.  It’s a pretty dark and violent series, so this is for the older readers on the spectrum.


Alistair’s Time Machine by Marilyn Sadler, illustrated by Roger Bollen (Aladdin, c1986)

The first of two picture books on my list.  You may have run into Alistair if you were a child in the 80s or early 90s.  Especially if you were a fan of Reading Rainbow.  Alistair is a precocious boy who went on several wild adventures–and one of them is in a time machine.   Alistair enters his time machine into his school science fair, but unfortunately can’t find a good way to prove to the judges that the machine actually works!


The Green Futures of Tycho by William Sleator (Starscape c1981)

Young Tycho doesn’t invent a time travel device in this story, he discovers one.  A buried alien artifact holds the key to instantaneous time travel.  But as Tycho uses the device to travel to the past and future, he’s creating huge changes in his family . . . and himself–can he stop using the device before it’s too late?  The traversing back and forth in time and seeing the effects it has in the future make this an intriguing start for questions involving the science fictional affects of time-travel on a person’s timeline.


Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle (Laurel Leaf Dell, c1985)

Now tis true that an awful lot of the travel through space and time in the Time series has to do with a bit of divine style magic.  But there’s also Mr. Murray, the scientitst father of the family, who is working on the idea of Tessering and has built a computer that may just hold the key.  Of course somehow no one’s bothered to mention to Sandy and Dennys that fooling around with the computer might be a bad idea.  The twin teen boys come in from a freezing snow storm and type the command “take us someplace hot”.  And the computer obliges–sending them through space and time to the pre-Ark days of Noah and his family.


Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix (Scholastic, 2008)

Margaret Peterson Haddix is no stranger to thrilling suspense stories.  This particular series uses time travel as it’s starting point–and what a starting point it is!  A plane appears at night on a runway with no pilot or crew, just babies buckled up in the seats.  When the babies are removed, the plane vanishes.  Only later in the story do we find out that all these babies are children stolen from different points in time by a time traveling company in the future.  It’s become a fashion to adopt babies of famous past times and raise them in these futuristic families, but not everyone agrees with this practice and it’s led to complications.  Like an entire plane load of children being left in contemporary times until the time travelers from the future finally locate them once more, eleven years later.  It’s a struggle for the kids lives between two groups who want very different things.  This is the jumping off book that allows the author to create a series surrounding different historical time periods and events.  Each book in The Missing series focuses on a different child and the historical time they came from.



The Only Ones by Aaron Starmer (Delacorte Books, 2011)

On a fateful day, one afternoon, nearly all the people in the world simply vanish.  All of their things are still there,there’s no signs of plague or danger, they’re just gone.  All that are left are a handful of individuals , mostly kids who have banded together to make a small community all their own in this strange new world.  Martin Maple is one of these kids, and just like them he doesn’t know why he’s been forgotten and left behind when the rest of the world has disappeared, but he thinks it has something to do with a machine his father was making . . . one he’s destined to complete.  I won’t give away the whole of the story, but just by it being on the list you know it has something to do with time travel . . .


Oh No! Not again!: Or How I Built a Time Machine to Save History  (Or at Least My History Grade) by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Dan Santat (Disney-Hyperion, c2012)

My other picture book for the list.  It’s a more recently published book, the second in a series of outrageous adventures by one young scientist and her out of control inventions.  Our heroine has only gotten an A on her history test.  What to do but to build a time machine and travel back 33, 000 years to make her wrong answer right!  But what is one girl to do when the denizens of the past won’t cooperate with her plan?  Hysterical caper with a time machine, and one young lady mad scientist!  If you like this one, be sure to find the original story: Oh No! : Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World (2010). 



The Time Hackers by Gary Paulsen (Yearling, c2005)

Yes it’s true, Gary Paulsen has tried his hand at a science fiction book or two.   In this book, someone invents a time machine–a way of looking into the past and seeing past events.  But two gamers have hacked into the time machine and are using it to play a dangerous game with history itself!  It’ll be up to  Dorso and his friends to put a stop to the hackers before they cause irreparable damage to the past, present . . .and future!  While this isn’t  Paulsen’s strongest work, it’s  still a bit of time- traveling fun!

So there are my ten time travels for this week!

Comments Welcome!

Review: Hook’s Revenge

Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz, illustrated by John Hendrix (Disney-Hyperion, Expected Publication September 2014)

You know, I never was particularly in love with the original Peter Pan.  I rather thought Peter Pan to be obnoxious and less than charming–and I wouldn’t have gone off with him and his jealous fairy girl for any amount of pixie dust.  That said, the story and imagery are part of our Western storytelling.  Peter Pan, Captain Hook and Tinkerbell are all instantly recognizable characters.  And Neverland itself is a fantasy realm that captures the imaginations of many fantasy fans. And then Heidi Schulz comes along and gloriously gives us this story where Peter can just go soak his head.

Twelve-year-old Jocelyn Hook yearns to sail away with her dangerous pirate papa–anything to escape the prim and proper and confining world of her grandfather’s house and the horrid boarding school he’s sent her to.  She wants swords and action, not embroidery and dancing!  Jocelyn may have never met her father, but she’s sure he’ll come to get her eventually.  And she loves the way mentioning her father makes everyone go pale and shudder.  As things go from bad to worse at her boarding school, Jocelyn desperately wishes with all her heart to be whisked away on an adventure . . . and she gets her wish.  It just isn’t quite what she imagined.  She receives a long awaited letter from her father, only to discover he has been killed–and he now obliges her to seek revenge on the Croc that killed him.  Jocelyn is off to Neverland, eager to take up the captain’s role and go off in search of that revenge , even if things aren’t quite as glorious as she’d like.  And even if an annoying flying boy named Peter keeps asking if she needs rescuing from the pirates.  Jocelyn’s determined to do her pirate papa proud!

Jocelyn’s got a lot of growing to do . . . and by the end of her adventure she’ll have come to discover some startling truths about Captain Hook, and about herself and have to make some hard choices about what she wants most out of her life.

There’s a lot to like in this story, especially if you wish to see the world of Neverland expanded upon . . . and Peter exposed as the annoying boy he happens to be.  Jocelyn becomes a fully fleshed out character over the course of the story, and it’s wonderful to see her grow past her original fantasies of adventure and what her father is like and embrace her own strengths and ideals.  Our protagonist is likable despite her piratical interests  She’s fully happy to sneak spiders and snakes into her roommate’s beds at the Boarding School, but she balks at being truly wicked.  She even finds ways of putting the things she’s learned at the dreadful boarding school to use!  It still remains an outrageous tale with plenty of over-the-top moments.  This is sort of a more villainess Dorathy in Oz kind of tale, full of colorful characters and wild encounters.  Our scallywag narrator himself is a hoot and holler and I’m wondering who they’ll find for an audio on this.

Jocelyn’s best friend–a boy from the boarding school, Roger is a critical part of helping Jocelyn decide who she wants to be.   At the school, he gives her a space to be herself, and a way to perform to the standards of the school without sacrificing who she is and letting the girls “win”.  In Neverland, Jocelyn’s best friend is in need of saving, and Jocelyn must figure out how to do so before she loses him.  For the most part Roger’s part to play in the story was enjoyable, but I found his  “helping” of Jocelyn to be a little too convenient at times.  Roger seems to lack flaws–being the perfect companion for the irascible Jocelyn.

The most troublesome part of the story for me is more that there’s so much care and color put into Jocelyn’s stay at the boarding school–complete with nasty girls and a cleverly cruel headmistress.  We as readers invest quite a bit of time in this part of the story, and then suddenly we’re whisked off to Neverland, pirates and adventure without much more thought for the boarding school and what will go on there.  While I enjoyed the earlier pieces of Jocelyn’s life at the school, it felt like there was too much time spent building it up when the story could have devoted more time to Neverland.  While the pacing may not have been perfect, this is still a delightful romp of a read.  Heidi Schulz displays a dazzling talent for storytelling and character, and readers will be clamoring for more of this pirate lass in no time!


Note:  An advanced reader copy was provided by the publisher.

Publisher: Disney-Hyperioin

Expected Publication Date: September 2014

ISBN13:    9781423198673

Recommended for grades 4 and up.

Comments welcome! 


Flashback Fridays: In Life’s name and for Life’s sake . . .

You’re a kid running away from bullies that are chasing you after you just couldn’t keep your mouth shut.  To escape them, you dash into the library and hide in the children’s stacks.  While you’re there you spot a book among the other titles that intrigues you.  You take a look at it, and take it home.  It’s a book that’s about to change your life, and pull you into the ongoing fight of good and evil in the universe . . .

Do you remember

So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane (HMH books, c1983)

There was a time when contemporary fantasy, and outright urban fantasy was fairly rare.  There was a time when youngsters training to become wizards was not cliche.  Back in the 1980s there were a few books that became central to my genre reading–anchors if you will.  And this story about a geeky girl who takes an oath and begins her path to wizardry, was one of them.

We meet Nita when she’s on the run from some bullies and she dashes into the sanctuary of the library and hides out in the children’s stacks.  While hiding out, she browses through the shelves and notices a book she’s never seen before.  Next to the other books for kids on career opportunities is a book titled So You Want To Be A Wizard.  Well who wouldn’t take a look at such a thing?  Nita quickly realizes the book isn’t a joke and it isn’t an ordinary book at all.  It’s a wizard’s manual that was waiting for her to find it and put it to use.  Once Nita says the Oath contained in the book, she’ll become part of the wizarding world with the ability to magic and encounter amazing things.  But becoming a full wizard isn’t a walk in the park.  Along with Kit, another young wizard on Ordeal, she will travel to an alternate New York City landscape. Once there, they’ll have to use their knowledge and wits to battle the dark magic of the Lone Power.  Can these two young wizards complete their Ordeal and make it back home again?

What’s not to love?  Nita–a strong female protagonist who is also a geeky girl who doesn’t get on well in school with her peers.  She’s a great character in part because she’s pretty ordinary, despite her sudden extraordinary abilities.  Nita isn’t a girl with a huge sense of destiny and power–but she’s the right person for the job.  She’s likable, believable and vulnerable–all things that make her worth reading about.  Kit Rodriguez, our second protagonist has to be one of the only Hispanic-American protagonists I’ve run across in middle grade fantasy.  He’s a nice complement to Nita, both in personality and wizarding abilities.  They make a great team.  Then there’s the setting: New York , my own stomping ground.  And an alternate New York City full of monstrous, sentient cars and wolf-like creatures.  Rather than castles and forests, we have all this epic good and evil taking place in a city–real urban fantasy.  It was probably my first urban fantasy novel.  Magic among the mundane and everyday elements of our world.  Battles of good and evil.  Magical allies of all shapes and sizes.   It’s the kind of magical adventure that deserves its three decades of publication.

Nita and Kit go on to have many more adventures in the further books of Young Wizards series.  The last book published was A Wizard of Mars (2010), but there’s some indication that another title is in the works for 2015.

One of the big points of interest for me in this book was that magic isn’t a free-for-all of neat tricks.  Magic-users in Diane Duane’s universe can’t just go about doing spells as they please with no repercussions.  Magic comes with a price tag–and it’s not necessarily an easy one to pay.  The author also manages to pull off a fascinating villain who isn’t always as easy to ignore or repel as you might want them to be.  I’ve enjoyed growing up with Nita and Kit in their world, and obviously others have as well.  And while I may be fond of Harry Potter, when I think of urban fantasy and wizards, this is the series I come to first.   Out of authors I’ve yet to meet, Diane Duane is high on the list.  I’d love to meet her and thank her for giving this geeky girl such adventures with protagonists that she can identify with.

Readers who love the series may want to hunt down the adult/YA spin-off cat duology: The Book of Night With Moon and To Visit the Queen.

And if you’re not aware, there’s an entire website devoted to all the background information about the books and the characters within them that can be found here: The Errantry Concordance: The Online Encyclopedia of the Young Wizards Universe

You can also see my discussion regarding the different covers this book has had here: Art Interlude:So You Want to Be a Wizard.

Comments welcome!


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