I’ve had ideas for new posts rattling around in my brain for months, but, to be perfectly honest, I just haven’t had the mental or emotional energy to get the words down. It started with the election or, really, with the campaign. It was just so dispiriting and disheartening and now it feels like it’s sliding into the dystopic and it was sometimes all I could do to get up and get dressed and get going. Being engaged with the world or creating things was way far beyond what I could muster. I’m not sure that I’m feeling much more sparkly now, but I’m hoping that prattling on about books to anonymous strangers on the internet will help me pull myself back out of the abyss.
Of course, I’ve also been thinking I’d like to go back in time and change things. I don’t know if I could, though. Change things, I mean. I’m pretty sure time travel isn’t possible. Yet. Or maybe ever because, if it were possible, wouldn’t someone have come back to let us know. Or are we getting into time paradox territory now? Or maybe our current reality is because someone tried to come back and fix something and instead just messed it up more? Now I’m just making my own head hurt. But, still, time travel has been on my mind a lot lately and I realized I’ve been reading quite a few books that use it as a plot device in one way or another.
It all started with Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter, but spread from there and covered multiple genres. Dark Matter is really more of a thriller with a time travel/multiverse angle, so it’s great for all you “I don’t read Science Fiction” people.
What’s that you say? You don’t read thrillers either? Okay, then how about Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, and Matthew Wilson? It starts out in the ’80s and has enough nostalgia and weird goings-on to tide you over until the next season of “Stranger Things” hits Netflix. (And, yeah, the time travel doesn’t really come into play until Volume 2, but since that came out in December, I don’t really feel like I need to be shouting “Spoiler Warning.” And, also, the time travel angle is one of the least interesting plot devices.)
It’s possible you’re not a graphic novel person, or that you think you’re not a graphic novel person. I said earlier that my time travel reading spanned genres and there was even a more literary entry: The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn. It’s about two time travelers who go back to 1815 to befriend Jane Austen and possibly steal an unpublished manuscript of hers. It’s a quiet novel, lacking in fight scenes, but full of emotion and ethical dilemmas and straining against societal strictures.
If you want something with a little more humor, though not lacking in depth or emotional resonance, there’s Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays, which is about a smart guy making stupid choices in the name of love. Or something he thinks is love. It’s somewhere in between straight Science Fiction and Literary Fiction, but definitely tilting to the S-F side of the fence.
And, then, there’s the most unabashedly Big Giant Genre Fiction Novel of the lot, and that’s Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland’s The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. which is about how science killed magic and now a shadowy organization is attempting to use science to bring magic back and keep it from disappearing in the first place. It’s long–nearly 800 pages (or 24 hours plus on audio)–and complicated and I’m not sure how I feel about the ending, but the interfering and incompetent government officials also made it feel the most relevant to me. It’s also the one that sparked in me the wish for my own time machine. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that when someone in one of these books went back to change something for the better, they almost inevitably made them worse.
(Note to future me: Please stop coming back in time to fix things. You’re just making it worse. And if, by some chance, you’re not making it worse, I don’t want to know.)
Billie Bloebaum is a bookseller at Third Street Books, and she’s pretty sure her future self didn’t travel back in time and create our current reality, but she can’t be sure, so she’s offering her deepest apologies, just in case.