Amazingly, time travel stories may exist in both the present and the past. That is, they automatically unite the eras they feature since their characters span many historical periods. This has the potential to be both amusing and thought stimulating.
Novels that feature time travel can look back in time or forward into the future, a quality that makes them unique (or, sometimes, both). Consider reading the article “Time Traveling Books: Historical Fiction or Speculative Fiction?” if you’d want to give this some more thought.
And while time machines are a common theme in time travel fiction (see, for example, Charles Yu’s excellent How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe), they aren’t necessary for all time travel scenarios. To wit, the timeless classic that is Octavia Butler’s Kindred. In Butler’s novel, the protagonist is suddenly and without warning transported back in time to the antebellum South, a highly dangerous place for a Black American woman to find herself.
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The fascinating potential of literary time travel lies in its future as much as in its past and present. The first issue of Earthdivers, a “historical slasher” comic series by Stephen Graham Jones, will be released in October. (Incidentally, Jones has also explored time travel in other works, such as Ledfeather and The Bird is Gone.) There will always be a nice time travel novel available for reading.
BY KIESE LAYMON
Kiese Laymon’s time-traveling novel on racism in several eras was reissued in 2021. The book was first released in 2013. This is the tale of “City” Coldson, a high school student who makes a fool of himself in a nationally broadcast spelling bee. His history begins in 2013, but he is soon taken to live with his grandmother in a sleepy southern hamlet, where strange things start to happen. In a metafictional twist, the protagonist finds a novel by his own name, published in the 1980s, titled Long Division. Before you realize it, Laymon has taken you on a crazy voyage spanning half a century and facing racism in its various forms. The year 1964 makes an appearance.
THE MEXICAN FLYBOY
BY ALFREDO VÉA, JR.
When Simon Vegas went to Vietnam, he bought a time machine. and ever since then he’s been attempting to fix it. When he finally gets it operating, things will go crazy, and quickly. Simon’s time machine has a specific mission: to track out instances of wrongdoing and send their victims to a perfect afterlife. A number of well-known people make cameo appearances, but the novel’s core themes are those of power (or lack thereof), compassion, empathy, pain, and justice. Since Alfredo Véa, Jr. is at the helm, there is a deft blurring of genre borders, with the central question of whether or not Simon’s time travel experiences are genuine or only in his imagination.
AN OCEAN OF MINUTES
BY THEA LIM
Uncannily current, this is a time travel book. Already thought-provoking, the worldwide backdrop of the book’s publication a year before the COVID-19 epidemic adds another depth of meaning. The United States is in the midst of a terrible epidemic in 1981. Seem familiar? While Frank is ill, individuals of the future have perfected time travel in an effort to stop the epidemic. Polly has therefore mortgaged her future in order to rescue him. Of course, nothing ever goes smoothly when love and time travel are involved; their plan to be reunited at a specific time and location is derailed when Polly is accidentally transported too far into the future. Lim’s work explores Polly’s search for Frank while also raising profound themes about love, connection, and our turbulent times.
THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE
BY HEIDI HEILIG
As the offspring of a time traveler, Nix has apparently seen and seen it everything. A fantastic journey, to be sure… Nix’s father, however, is charting a course toward an unknown time and place: the year before Nix was born. Unfortunately, Nix’s mom passed away during labor and delivery. The most pressing issue is figuring out what her dad plans to do once they arrive at their destination. Then there’s Kash, Nix’s nefarious crush who messes with everything. Those who like Heilig’s The Girl From Everywhere will enjoy the sequel, The Ship Beyond Time.
THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR
BY AMAL EL-MOHTAR AND MAX GLADSTONE
A semi-epistolary work written by the likes of Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone is almost guaranteed to pique the reader’s curiosity. Their unlikely heroes are fighting on opposing sides of a conflict: biology vs technology. Yet, love. Despite the odds being stacked against them, despite the fact that they are caught in the middle of a battle, and despite the very real threat their correspondence poses to each of them, they continue to maintain it. Love.
BY NATASHIA DEÓN
When it comes to time travel novels, this one is definitely out of the ordinary. The main character, Lou, has the gift of eternal life. The fact that she awoke in an alley with no recollection of how she got there makes her seem like an amnesiac as well. The protagonist, Lou, is a journalist in Los Angeles during the Great Depression. The story centers on her as she strives to establish herself and defies several stereotypes along the way. However, she eventually finds a new buddy, and to her utter dismay, she realizes that he looks just like one of the cartoon characters she’s been sketching for years. Deón weaves a tense mystery that will have you thinking about large and tiny issues long after you’ve put down the book.
HERE AND NOW AND THEN
BY MIKE CHEN
A time-traveling story with a secret spy as the main character can’t go wrong, right? However, I would argue that this is impossible. In San Francisco, Kin Stewart is leading a rather suburban existence, but he doesn’t need require rescuing from that. It’s his life, a pretense he’s keeping up until someone from the future comes to take him back to his true life, which is more than 150 years in the future. However, it takes nearly two decades for assistance to arrive, and in the meanwhile, Kin has married and begun raising a family. While entertaining with its unique perspective on time travel, Chen’s story also has a satisfyingly deep level of exploration into the myriad variables that create the self.
MIKO KINGS: AN INDIAN BASEBALL STORY
BY LEANNE HOWE
The oldest book on this list is Miko Kings, but it doesn’t make it any less interesting. The interesting characters in Howe’s story all play important roles as they root for the Oklahoma Miko Kings, a Native American baseball team, as they compete for a state title. A date: 1907. In the same year that Texas became a state, the United States formally recognized Oklahoma (much of which had previously been called Indian Territory). Hope Little Leader is embroiled in events that are far bigger than his function as pitcher for the squad, with that political past hanging in the background. In addition, there’s the eccentric yet brilliant Ezol Day, whose ideas on time combine linguistics with Indigenous epistemologies. Conspiracies, romance, and political maneuvering—this tale has it all. The book also includes some amazing non-standard literary components, such as newspaper clippings and handwritten diary entries.
A BUBBLE OF TIME
BY PEPPER PACE
What would you do if you were 50 years old and found yourself transported back to your 16-year-old self in high school? In Pepper Pace’s humorous and astute time travel novel A Bubble of Time, that’s exactly what happens to Kenya Daniels. It’s like she’s 16 again, but with the wisdom of the past 50 years. For those of us who remember the crazy times of the ’80s, it’s hilarious to watch Kenya relive those years through the eyes of her younger self. However, Pace’s time travel book is also reflective, touching, and surprising in its own ways.
BEFORE THE COFFEE GETS COLD
BY TOSHIKAZU KAWAGUCHI
Imagine you have the ability to go back in time; what would you change? What if you could go back in time, but only for a brief period of time and without affecting the present? For example, in Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s time travel novel, there is a Tokyo cafe located in the basement where this is conceivable. but just from the café Customers (and employees) of the café enjoy time travel for trivial but meaningful reasons due to the unique limits placed on their daily schedules. What a very wonderful reflection on the minor regrets we all carry with us through life. Fans of this book will be glad to hear that it is the first of a trilogy that will also include Tales from the Cafe, which was published two years ago, and Before Your Memory Fades, which will be published this coming November.
BY NATASHA PULLEY
A thrilling adventure awaits you in The Kingdoms! It’s not just a time travel story; it’s also historical fiction. The narrative begins with Joe Tournier’s bewildered arrival in 19th century England, but this isn’t the England of your textbooks; this England is a French colony. A mystery postcard shows up shortly after his arrival. Not only is it addressed to him, but it is written in English, which is illegal in this world. Joe ventures all throughout Scotland (and a parallel Scotland) and beyond in his search for answers. Like all of Pulley’s other writings, it’s a compelling read.
So, the next time you’re looking for a new book to read, consider picking up one that features time travel. You may just find yourself whisked away on a journey through both the present and the past! Have you read any of these amazing books? Let me know what you think in the comments below.