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Genre Kryptonite: Time Travel

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Jessica Pryde

Contributing Editor

Jessica Pryde is a member of that (some might call) rare breed that grew up in Washington, DC, but is happily enjoying the warmer weather of the desert Southwest. While she is still working on what she wants to be when she grows up, she’s enjoying dabbling in librarianship and writing all the things. She can be found drowning in her ever-growing TBR and exclaiming about romance in the Book Riot podcast (When in Romance), as well as on social media. Find her exclamations about books and pho on twitter (JessIsReading) and instagram (jess_is_reading).

Picture it:

A nineteen year old girl, studying abroad for the summer. Her entire cohort has traveled by bus to the town of Rimini, a popular beach resort town, to celebrate the end of the term. After checking into the hotel, her roommates change into their swimwear and prepare to head down to the beach, urging her to come along. She refuses.

You see, she has about sixty pages left in The Time Traveler’s Wife, and she just wants to be left alone to finish it.

Good thing, too. Or those tears would have embarrassed her on the beach.

Almost a decade before, a curious twelve year old picks up the romance novel her mother has just finished. A time traveling wedding dress, you say? Sign her up. It would only take a little bit of research to discover that that particular author had a few novels centered around time travel of some sort.

It would hook her for life.


Well, if you hadn’t guessed, that girl was me. And I love me some time travel. I don’t care if it’s a campy television series about a quirky two-hearted alien with a big blue box or literary treatise on the space-time continuum. Point me in the direction and I am there. It’s one of the reasons I held on for the first five thousand pages or so of the Outlander saga. Why I read Vortex even though Tempest hadn’t really impressed me. Why I’m determined to wait to buy Timekeeper in paperback instead of just grabbing it on Kindle.

Many preteens interested in time travel start out with Madeleine L’Engle; I started out with Jude Deveraux.

legendAs I said before, it began with the time-traveling-wedding-dress in Legend, about a modern-day chef who inherits an antique with–you guessed it–a big ass wedding dress in it. When she decides to try it on (I would have put it through dry cleaning, but hey), poof, she’s in Legend, Colorado, a perfect little town home to a perfect man, Cole Jordan. The story goes in a different way than expected, and I discovered very soon after finishing it that Legend was not the first of Jude’s “my soul will find yours” collection. So I kicked back with A Knight in Shining Armor, my favorite of hers to this day and one of very few exceptions to my No Rereading Rule, and Remembrance (honestly I remember more the sensation of adoring than any of the plot). But this trifecta of time-falling left me with a strong affinity for time-travel stories.

When I look at the stories I’ve liked in the recent past, there are four kinds of time travel involved:

For Science!

timelineThis group of time travelers have scientifically experimented with and explored the possibility of time travel. The movie Timeline, for instance, drew me immediately; Gerard Butler AND time travel? Count me in double. So when I decided to make the source material my inaugural Crichton read, I sort of knew what was going to happen, but knew that it would be way different from the the movie. With the incorporation of a lot more science and a lot more history, I was very happy with the outcome.

Other For Science! titles include the great A Wrinkle in Time (if you haven’t already read it–can you believe it’s been over FIFTY YEARS since it was published?) and When You Reach Me, an homage to Madeleine L’Engle with a fun bit of the 1970s involved. Also, the Gaslamp graphic series Girl Genius (also in a novelized form I haven’t checked out yet) has hinted at some kind of machine that peers through time, but we haven’t really been told much about it yet.

Oh Crap, How Did I Get Here? (We Might Never Find Out)

These time-travelers “seem to have fallen through time” in the words of our favorite Sassenach In Scotland, and sometimes the reason for the shift is never explained. This is a trope found in several novels, whether romance or adventure story. While Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series is probably the most well known of this group, there are others, including the three Jude Deveraux books mentioned above, and the YA novels Steel and A Wish After Midnight (where we can definitely say that the time-shifts are for very different purposes).

tempest coverWait, I can Time-Jump? (Crap, There It Goes Again)

The Time Traveler’s Wife is the most obvious example of this kind of time-travel–a person themselves, for whatever reason, has the ability to move around in time. They’re not tied to an object, or a machine. They just do. In Tempest, a young man curses this ability when he encounters some people trying to kill him and gets stuck in his own past–and has to avoid not just Current Himself, but the girl he loves. In Timeless, a teenage girl strikes up a relationship with a great boy–who just happens to live 80 years in the past.

Screw You, Captain America! (Feel The Malice Running Through My Icy Veins)

I don’t know, Captain America just keeps getting sent places, whether it’s into his own mind, a separate dimension, or back into time. It’s always done maliciously, and some kind of way Reed Richards is always the one to get him back.

And then there’s Shadow of Night, which gets its own category because A. Witchcraft and B. Are they saving the world or saving themselves? Or just going on a honeymoon in time? I don’t even know, but Deborah Harkness is an Early Modernist and I get so happy reading sixteenth century details.

In my future:

Flight by Sherman Alexie

Kindred by Octavia Butler (I’ve already dealt with the complete aghast pointed toward my having not yet read this one. I just can’t bring myself to do it yet. But I promise, I will. I even own a copy. I’m just…not ready.)

X-Men: Days of Future Past by Chris Claremont et al

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Timekeeper by Alexandra Monir

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells (Yeah, I know.)


Do you like time travel? What are your favorite time stories?


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