Flashback Fridays: Time, time, time, see what’s become of me . . .

You’re a kid who just found a strange egg-shaped device while digging in your garden.  It turns out to be a time travel device that allows you to jump forward or backward in time. But the more you use the device, the more distorted and dangerous things become . . .

Do you remember:

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

Time travel stories have the distinction of falling into two different genres, depending on how the time travel is accomplished.  Fantasy time travel routinely involves magic and mystical portals, or unexpected “slips” back in time to another era.  Science fiction time travel involves a device or technology that makes time travel possible. This particular title falls firmly into the science fictional side of the equation.

Tycho is an eleven-year-old boy who finds an odd egg-shaped device while digging in the garden.  The mysterious item turns out to be a time travel device that allows Tycho to travel forward and backwards in time.  But each time he travels in time–mostly to play tricks on his brother and sister– he changes things in the present . . . and the futures he travels to get darker and more worrisome.  Because the thing being changed most by the time travel device just might be Tycho himself .

I’m seriously glad they updated the cover from this . . .

William Sleator was a science fiction author who loved to play with ideas of time and dimension, and this particular book is one of my favorites.   Sleator plays with the nature of time travel itself and how it affects the traveler.  Rather than focusing on changing a single timeline or exploring a particular future or past, readers get to see how traveling alters the future and past, and how fluid everything becomes.  The final confrontation between Tycho and his future self still sticks in my mind as Tycho scrambles to find a way to escape and keep the device from turning him into a monster of a man.

Sleator spent his career writing science fiction stories for kids and teens.  But rather than straight forward space adventure or science invention, William Sleator took on thing both stranger and often much more disturbing.  He wrote things that make you think and question and wonder.  In many ways, William Sleator’s books are the perfect stepping stone to adult hard science fiction.  Within middle grade fiction, Sleator may best known for Interstellar Pig, a story in which a vicious game is being played out among the stars, with the prize being a mysterious thing called a “pig”.  Each alien species in the game is focused on hunting down the pig and winning it for themselves.

While a story about aliens and wild games with ruthless competition is exciting,  The Green Futures of Tycho impressed me more.  What kid hasn’t imagined being able to travel in time?  And Sleator happily provides the “what if” and then  drops the “then this happens” on readers.  Suddenly, we’re there with  Tycho, trying to scramble out of the mess he’s innocently  created by messing with time.  (I’d frankly love to see this turned into a movie).

Any Sleator fans out there?  Comments welcome!

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on March 23, 2014, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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