Friday, February 27, 2015

Time Travel (Part II)

(Continued from Part I)

Finding Love and Romance

“Finding love and romance” is the third theme of the time travel novels I have read. Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife features Henry, who is a prisoner of time. It sweeps him back and forth in his own lifetime, with no rhyme or reason, and drops him into other decades of his life. He drops in on Clare when she is 6, and thus begins a time-defying lifelong passion.

In the classic novel Time and Again by Jack Finney, Simon is enlisted by a secret government project to hypnotize himself into 1880’s New York. He goes back to investigate a mystery, but falls passionately in love with a woman in the past and must decide which era he belongs in.

Another classic time travel romance is Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, in which English nurse Claire and her husband travel to Scotland in 1945. Claire is transported through a magical stone to 1743, meets a young soldier named Jamie, and embarks on a passionate romance. Of course, Claire must choose between her lover and her husband.

In a similar vein, in Jacqueline Sheehan’s Now & Then, Anna, a lawyer, must travel to Ireland to get her nephew out of jail. On her travels, she buys a mysterious piece of cloth that somehow zaps both Anna and her nephew back in time 164 years, where she becomes romantically involved with an Irish smuggler, and her nephew achieves fame and fortune as a wrestler.

In Beatrix Williams’ Overseas, 25-year-old Kate falls head over heels in love with a millionaire investor on Wall Street, and in a parallel story, manages to find her investor love in World War II France, where he is a soldier whose life she must save if she is to meet him again in the future.

And, in Susanna Kearsley’s The Rose Garden, Eva is swept three centuries back, to 1714, where she meets the original owner of her home, falling deeply in love with him.

Changing History

The last theme I examined in time travel novels is “changing history.” In 11/22/63 by Stephen King, Jake, a high school teacher, discovers he can step through a portal into 1958, and can visit the past for as long as he likes, whenever he likes, arriving back in the present exactly two minutes later each time. He embarks on a mission to stop the Kennedy assassination.

In Blackout and All Clear, by Connie Willis, time travel is a common practice among historians in the year 2060. Three of them travel to England in the 1940’s to do research on World War II. While altering the past is supposed to be impossible, discrepancies begin to pop up, suggesting that someone has altered the past and ultimately, the outcome of World War II.

Similarly, in Orson Scott Card’s Pastwatch, scientists from the future routinely visit the past to study different cultures, and one of them decides to stop Columbus from arriving in the Americas, as this moment has been determined to bring disaster to the world.

In Jack Finney’s sequel to Time and Again, entitled From Time to Time, government agents again send Simon back in time, this time to stop World War I.

And in The Map of Time by Felix Palma, a time traveler in Victorian London, who knows H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, decides to go into the past to kill Jack the Ripper before Jack the Ripper kills his girlfriend.

Is all of this time travel actually scientifically possible? There are some books that examine this, including Time Travel and Warp Drives by Allan Everett. You can also go online to study the scientific aspects of time travel online study the scientific aspects of time travel. The consensus seems to be that time travel to the future is much more plausible than to the past. But do any of these novels address my fundamental problem of wanting to become and remain younger? Not really. I could change some mistakes, find a new romance, change some history, and have a great rip-roaring adventure. But if I try to reverse my age, the message seems to be that life in the present, living it the old fashioned way, is the way it was meant to be lived. So, I will continue to read about time travel, and I will continue to ponder its possibilities. But time will march on, and so will I.

Heather W.

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