Time travel is one of my favorite science fiction sub-genres. It's a longtime mainstay of science fiction literature, but it also seems to be making a resurgence in television as well. Timeless is a TV show in which a team of travelers attempt to stop a supposed terrorist from changing history by changing the outcome of famous historical events. In Frequency (based on the film of the same name), a cop uses a radio that allows her to talk with her father twenty years in the past, when he was still alive; together they try to stop a serial killer. Both of these shows use time travel to good effect, but for my money, the better stories are still found in books, where there's more room to explore the implications of time travel.

If you like time travel or want to see what all the fuss is about, here are 7 recent time travel stories that you should know about…

 

Pilot X by Tom Merritt

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3.22 pilotxIn Pilot X, the Alendans are an advanced race who have the ability to move through space and time. They assume the role of guardians of the timeline, which can be impacted with even the smallest of changes. They are in conflict with two other races who can also affect time in their own way: the Sensaurians, an organic hive mind that can send thought messages throughout its own history; and the Progons, a machine race who can communicate backwards in time. The title character, Pilot X, has managed to create peace between the three races. Or has he? Pilot X (or, as he is soon to be known, Ambassador X) soon discovers that a secret dimensional war is being fought in the shadowy corners of spacetime by the Sensaurians and Progons. The only solution to the impending death of everything that ever was appears to be the destruction of all three races, including his own.

 

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

In the retro-future of Mastai's wonderful novel, all of the classic visions of our glorious Utopian future have come true. Think flying cars and bustling futuristic cities and you'll get the idea. But don't get too used to that future. It isn't long before an unlucky man, out to prove his worth to his super-genius father, uses his dad's time machine to travel back in time to witness history. Except, he changes the past and returns to an alternate present day which, from his perspective, seems downright Dystopian. Not-really-a-Spoiler Alert: that Dystopia looks a lot like our world. Mastai's novel has something for everyone: its treatment of time travel satisfies lovers of mind-bending time travel; the middle parts of the book read like thought-provoking mainstream fiction dealing with relationships; and the narrator's voice is witty enough to evoke genuine smiles.

 

3.22 SF_timeonmyhands Time on My Hands by Daniel M. Kimmel

In Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel, Kimmel gives readers well-versed in the trope of time travel an additional hook: all the events of the story take place in a single day. The protagonist, Professor Price, recounts the story of how he acquired a time travel device that he may or may not have invented. It's the story of love and redemption and how the path to Professor Price's future was found in the past. Instead of avoiding the time paradox, this book grabs it by the time loops and breaks it open, examining the ethical implications of using time travel.

 

The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig

In The Girl from Everywhere, teen time traveler Nix sails on her father's time ship to make sure that she's still around when her father tries to save her mother who died when she gave birth to Nix. In the sequel, The Ship Beyond Time, Nix takes the helm of the ship and feels like she is in control of her destiny. When she learns that she is going to lose someone she loves, Nix resigns to change her fate, even if it means manipulating the flow of time to do so. Come for Heilig's fantasy adventure, but stay for the interesting exploration of free will vs. fate.

 

The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman

Another fun time-traveling fantasy adventure is Genevieve Cogman's Invisible Library series, which revolves around a spy named Irene who works for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities in existence. Despite it science-fiction-sounding premise, the alternate worlds allow for locations that are pure fantasy, filled with the supernatural. In The Burning Page, Irene and her partner (Kai, a dragon prince) face an old enemy who is not just after a single valuable book in an alternate world, but hellbent on destroying the entire Library itself out of existence. 

 

3.22 SF_threeyears Three Years with the Rat by Jay Hosking

Layer mystery and personal introspection into time travel and you end up with Jay Hosking's Three Years with the Rat. The mystery surrounds Grace, a graduate student in psychophysics who is working on a research project with her boyfriend, John.  As noted by the narrator – Grace's wayward brother, who is taken into Grace's circle of friends – Grace's behavior turns angry and is especially directed at John. Then she goes missing. Shortly after, John does too.  Looking for answers, Grace's brother goes to their apartment and finds a mysterious box big enough to crawl into, a lab rat, and a note that reads "This is the only way back for us." From there, he begins a journey that questions the nature of space and time, towards a confrontation that forces him to think about the nature of who he is.

 

Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson

In the near future of Robert Charles Wilson's Last Year, the ability to travel back in time is possible, but there's a catch.  The time doorway only opens into an alternate past. That is, it opens into an alternate world's past that is similar to our own past, but only up until the date it's accessed. Each alternate past can be accessed only one time and once the doorway closes, it's gone for good. One such doorway leads to a version of late 19th century Ohio, and it's been open long enough for a small city to spring up to entertain visitors from the future. The city even employs natives to help. One such native, Jesse Cullum, has seen the prospect of a glorious future and has grown sour on his own present. He's also fallen in love with a woman from our time and intends to follow her back when he learns that the doorway will soon be closing.

John DeNardo is the founding editor of SF Signal, a Hugo Award-winning science fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. You can follow him on Twitter as @sfsignal