The best novels about time travel and the paradoxes that arise

Seth Chambers Author Of Little Bird
By Seth Chambers

Who am I?

I've been an avid reader of SF in general, and its sub-genre of time-travel, for most of my life, and have tackled this topic in my own writings as well. Time-travel tales often deal with inherent paradoxes, such as the Grandfather Paradox, which asks: If you go back in time and kill your grandfather, would you then never be born and therefore never commit the murder? If so, then your grandfather lives and you were born and . . . Such paradoxes boggle the mind and provide fascinating territory for SF authors to explore. 


I wrote...

Little Bird

By Seth Chambers,

Book cover of Little Bird

What is my book about?

Little Bird is a powerful SF novel of love and transformation featuring a young Chinese woman with the remarkable ability to shapeshift into any form she desires. She has a very strong personality, and yet also struggles with her own identity. Who is she, after all, when everything about her can change overnight? 

Song falls in love with a museum curator named Alex, who assures her that he loves her for who she is inside, and not for the myriad beautiful women Song becomes for him. They get engaged, but then their love faces its ultimate obstacle when Song's very identity changes so that Alex no longer recognizes her.

The books I picked & why

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Up the Line

By Robert Silverberg,

Book cover of Up the Line

Why this book?

This is a novel that explores all the complexities and paradoxes and oddities associated with time travel. It takes place in a future world in which time travel is a part of life, and so must be monitored and regulated like any other technology. Because time travel holds such a huge potential for disaster, strict rules must be established and enforced. But what happens when somebody flaunts those rules for their own personal enjoyment? This novel explores these concepts in a wild, and often erotic, fashion. 

This book really perpetuated my love of time-travel tales and all the complexities involved in a society where time travel is an accepted norm. It's a totally fun novel that deals with some truly existential concepts in an entertaining way and inspires that sense of wonder that fans of SF crave. It's one of those stories that stick with you for many, many years after reading.

Up the Line

By Robert Silverberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Up the Line as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Time travel spelled problems for the couriers of the Time Service. Shuttling backwards and forwards over the centuries they had to be wary of creating paradoxes - like meeting themselves watching the sack of Rome, or sleeping with their own ancestors.

Of course, it also gave them the chance to amass wealth by the discreet use of their prior knowledge. The penalties were fierce and the Time Police implacable in their pursuit of lawbreakers. But it was still worth taking the risk.

Jud Elliot took it when he met the marvellous transemporal paradox called the Pulcheria. He couldn't resist her…


The Chronocar: An Urban Adventure In Time

By Steve Bellinger,

Book cover of The Chronocar: An Urban Adventure In Time

Why this book?

This contemporary SF novel deals with a lot of the nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts aspect of time travel, as well as providing an intriguing story. So many time-travel stories gloss over many of the implications of this technology, but The Chronocar doesn't shy away from such concepts. It also features believable, rough-around-the-edges characters and a truly surprising plot twist. Also, one of my favorite things about this novel is how reminiscent it is of Golden Age SF. 

The Chronocar: An Urban Adventure In Time

By Steve Bellinger,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Chronocar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Imagine being born the son of a slave with the mind of a genius. That was Simmie Johnson in the years following the Civil War. After a perilous escape from lynch mobs in Mississippi, he manages to earn a PhD in physics at Tuskegee, and in his research discovers the secret of time travel. He develops a design for a time machine called a Chronocar, but the technology required to make it work does not yet exist.Fast forward 125 years. A young African American Illinois Tech student in Chicago finds Dr. Johnson’s plans and builds a Chronocar. He goes back…


The End of Eternity

By Isaac Asimov,

Book cover of The End of Eternity

Why this book?

This is probably the first time-travel book I ever read, way back when I was about twelve. It drew me in and ignited my love of science fiction and time travel both. Here was a world in which a class known as Eternals travel about time ensuring that history proceed according to plan. To be effective, Eternals stand apart from the timeline, and must be impartial and virtually without emotion. Ah, but what happens when an Eternal falls in love with some woman in the timeline? What will happens to his impartiality? 

I decided to reread this novel decades later, and was happily surprised to find that it stood the test of time. It was still fascinating as when I first picked it up oh-so-long ago.

The End of Eternity

By Isaac Asimov,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The End of Eternity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A spellbinding novel set in the universe of Isaac Asimov’s classic Galactic Empire series and Foundation series

Due to circumstances within our control . . . tomorrow will be canceled.

The Eternals, the ruling class of the Future, had the power of life and death not only over every human being but over the very centuries into which they were born. Past, Present, and Future could be created or destroyed at will.

You had to be special to become an Eternal. Andrew Harlan was special. Until he committed the one unforgivable sin—falling in love.

Eternals weren’t supposed to have feelings.…


11/22/63

By Stephen King,

Book cover of 11/22/63

Why this book?

Okay, this novel totally took me by surprise. In it, Stephen King has departed from his usual domain of horror to craft a science-fiction, time-travel thriller. The premise is somewhat simple: What would happen if somebody traveled back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination? Ah, but then come the complications! The timeline is almost a living entity that seeks to preserve itself. This is truly a monumental novel that is the result of massive research combined with King's storytelling mastery. 

11/22/63

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked 11/22/63 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a major TV series from JJ Abrams and Stephen King, starring James Franco (Hulu US, Fox UK and Europe, Stan Australia, SKY New Zealand).

WHAT IF you could go back in time and change the course of history? WHAT IF the watershed moment you could change was the JFK assassination? 11.22.63, the date that Kennedy was shot - unless . . .

King takes his protagonist Jake Epping, a high school English teacher from Lisbon Falls, Maine, 2011, on a fascinating journey back to 1958 - from a world of mobile phones and iPods to a new world of…


Slaughterhouse-Five

By Kurt Vonnegut,

Book cover of Slaughterhouse-Five

Why this book?

Here is a story that sticks with you for decades! It's a wild mix of time travel, aliens, war, and philosophy. The main character, Billy Pilgrim, becomes unmoored from his present to become like a ping pong ball in time, often traveling back to his time as a POW. Along the way, he meets up with the Tralfamadorians.  Oddly enough, these aliens look like toilet plungers, but they also have a much broader view of time and space than do humans. After reading Slaughterhouse-Five, our own views become a bit broader, a bit more Tralfamadorian-like. 

Slaughterhouse-Five

By Kurt Vonnegut,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked Slaughterhouse-Five as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A special fiftieth anniversary edition of Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece, “a desperate, painfully honest attempt to confront the monstrous crimes of the twentieth century” (Time), featuring a new introduction by Kevin Powers, author of the National Book Award finalist The Yellow Birds
 
Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time
 
Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous World War II firebombing of Dresden, the novel is the result of what Kurt Vonnegut described as a twenty-three-year struggle to write a book about what he had…


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