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!


About Stephanie Whelan

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

Posted on July 30, 2014, in General Posts, Lists and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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