Stay Right Where (And When) You Are: 10 Books About Timeline Managers
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a story about time travel must be in want of timeline cleaner-uppers. Okay, maybe it’s not a universal truth. But, I think it should be.
I mean, think about it. Every other method of travel has a governing body of some kind to make sure people get where they’re going as safely as they can. There are so many rules for driving, they have whole books full of them! Pilots train and train, laws are enacted, and vessels have regulations before sailing on the high seas.
Are these systems perfect? Of course not. But, in concept, they’re there to regulate people’s behavior and try to keep chaos at bay. So, why wouldn’t the same apply to time travel?
Time travel poses a huge risk should someone mess it up. Ask Timmy Turner and his Time Scooter. Ask George Bailey and his Wonderful Life. Changing timelines, even the smallest thing, can change the entire world’s trajectory for the worse.
Enter: the timeline regulators. Sometimes called time agents, sometimes an unnamed government body, sometimes just…a man. These are the people keeping the timelines how they should be. They fix holes left by people that should-have-been, send the people out of time back where they ought to be.
The good news? There are so many books about this very thing out there, just waiting for you. Whether the time agents are the good guys or the bad, here are 10 novels about timeline managers or cleaner-uppers or whatever you want to call them!
Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett
When Jeremy Clockson is asked to build a perfect clock, he doesn’t know The Auditors intend to freeze time in it forever. This would leash the chaos that is unpredictability. Luckily Death’s granddaughter, Susan, a History Monk, and an auditor living amongst humans are there to try to keep time exactly where it belongs. Will they save the humans’ timeline or will it be trapped behind glass forever?
This is How You Lose the Time War by Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar
Time agents on different sides of a war for the “perfect” timeline are not supposed to be friendly. And they’re definitely not supposed to develop feelings for each other. But when Red and Blue take up a correspondence, hiding letters in different times for each other to find, their dedication to eradicating the other side is no longer on stable ground.
Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen
On the surface, Kin is just an IT specialist with a wife and a teenage daughter. But only he knows he’s a time-traveling agent stranded in the ’90s after a mission went south. After eighteen years of adapting to his new life, stuck in time, a team arrives to bring him back to where he belongs. But what about the family he made in the past and the one he left in the future?
Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
The rules of time travel are clear. Even James, convicted criminal that he is, knows that. When he’s selected to be a time-traveler harvesting resources from Earth’s past long after humans have fled for the stars, he knows to change nothing. But when he meets a scientist doomed to death, his life of crime isn’t over quite yet.
Only a Monster by Vanessa Len
At sixteen, Joan learns her fate: to be a monster who can steal years from the humans around her. It only takes a touch and she can time travel. But there are monster hunters out there who are determined to stop her and her family from stealing time. Too bad one of them happens to be the gorgeous Nick, her coworker and major crush. Will her family survive on stolen time or will the slayers get in their way?
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Ned is a temporal historian, traveling through time to rebuild a cathedral of years past. When it’s discovered he’s experiencing time lag, he’s sent to 1888 to recover and also preserve a timeline while he’s at it. What he isn’t expecting? Love at first sight. It’s romantic and wacky in equal measure.
Doing Time by Jodi Taylor
Time travel is no-holds barred. At least, until people started changing timelines willy nilly. Then the Time Police were created to keep timelines the way they’re supposed to be. New recruits Jane, Luke, and Matthew are determined to fix anomalies and keep the order. Through assignments across time, the trio adapt to the challenges of working together.
The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz
Tess and her friends are determined to erase any trace of a sexist man from their timeline. But the temptation to change her own past is too tempting to resist. Too bad another group of time travelers is out there, trying to stop their every change for the fate of women and turn it in the opposite direction. As a time war breaks out, the future hangs in the balance. Who will make it back and what future will they even be going back to?
Paper Girls, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan (Writer), Cliff Chiang (Illustrator), Matt Wilson (Colorist), and Jarek K. Fletcher (Letterer)
On their paper route after Halloween, four twelve-year-old girls stumble in between warring sides of a time war. Caught in the crossfire, they’re sent from 1988 into the future and now have to find a way to get back home. Who should be allowed to change the past and should they? That’s at the heart of this nostalgic, pop-culture-ridden graphic novel series.
The Named by Marianne Curley
The Named fight against the Order of Chaos, and teenage Ethan is a trainer within their ranks. The Order, determined to alter the past to earn more power in the future, must be stopped. But as Ethan and the other Guardians of the Named struggle against the powerful group, he and his trainee Isabel must do all they can to keep the timeline safe from chaos.
Time travel on the mind? Here are 20 must read time travel books or these 4 books about lost time!