The best time travel novels that respect the paradoxes

Paul Levinson Author Of The Plot to Save Socrates
By Paul Levinson

Who am I?

I am an author of science fiction, as well as nonfiction, a singer/songwriter, and a Professor at Fordham University, and time travel has played a role in all of these endeavors.  I’ve written four novels and numerous stories which feature time travel, several songs (for example, “If I Traveled to the Past”), and talk about it in my classes.  The opportunity of going back in history and stopping a bad thing has always intrigued me, as has traveling to the future to see how things turn out. The paradoxes that can get in the way of that make thinking and writing and talking and singing about it even more fun.


I wrote...

The Plot to Save Socrates

By Paul Levinson,

Book cover of The Plot to Save Socrates

What is my book about?

Sierra, a graduate student in Classics, is shown a recently discovered dialog of Socrates in 2042, in which a time traveler offers Socrates a way to escape death by traveling to the future. Thomas, the elderly scholar who has shown her the document, disappears, and Sierra begins to investigate the provenance of the manuscript with the help of her scholar boyfriend, Max.

The trail leads to time machines in gentlemen's clubs around the world – and to a time traveler posing as Heron of Alexandria in 150 AD. Complications and time loops proliferate as Sierra tries to discern who is planning to save or kill Socrates. Historical characters from Alcibiades to William Henry Appleton, the nineteenth-century American publisher, to Plato and Hypatia appear. 

The books I picked & why

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The End of Eternity

By Isaac Asimov,

Book cover of The End of Eternity

Why this book?

Time travel is easy to do – in fiction. In reality, paradoxes engendered by time travel almost certainly make it impossible. If I travel to the past and change something that I didn’t like, how would I have known to travel to the past in the first place? If I travel to the future and you see me wearing a blue shirt tomorrow, what happens to my free will to put on a green shirt tomorrow? Time travel in fiction that respects the paradoxes is not impossible, but neither is it easy to do. The End of Eternity does this exquisitely and glues you to every page. Plus, it offers a cool way to contact someone in the future: place an ad in a newspaper.

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.…


The Door into Summer

By Robert A. Heinlein,

Book cover of The Door into Summer

Why this book?

I’ve always thought some of the best science fiction focuses on what could be happening next door – not battles in space, not patrols that police time, but just a family living or a small business down the street. The Door into Summer exults in this everyday life, and throws in such chestnuts as suspended animation just to keep the pot bubbling. The result is a story that could be happening to you and me.

The Door into Summer

By Robert A. Heinlein,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Door into Summer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A popular and enduring time travel tale by one of science fiction's all-time greats

When Dan Davis is crossed in love and stabbed in the back by his business associates, the immediate future doesn't look too bright for him and Pete, his independent-minded tomcat. Suddenly, the lure of suspended animation, the Long Sleep, becomes irresistible and Dan wakes up 30 years later in the 21st century, a time very much to his liking.

The discovery that the robot household appliances he invented have been mass produced is no surprise, but the realization that, far from having been stolen from him,…


The Mindtraveler

By Bonnie Rozanski,

Book cover of The Mindtraveler

Why this book?

Romance and love are of course great inducements to time travel, and have animated many a time travel novel and series. I like The Mindtraveler the best. It combines the struggle for true love with an astute knowledge of physics, a keen eye for the academic landscape, and a witty sense of humor.

The Mindtraveler

By Bonnie Rozanski,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With more of her life behind her than ahead, Margaret Braverman, a physicist teaching at a small college, cannot help but regret the things she never quite got right. Most important among them was the tragic ending of her romance with her brilliant colleague Frank, something she has never gotten over. And, of course, it would be glorious to get even with that mean-spirited, conceited, womanizing Caleb Winter. After years of experimentation in the back room of her lab, Margaret has finally built a time machine. The key, she discovered, is in teleporting not the body but the mind. And…


Timescape

By Gregory Benford,

Book cover of Timescape

Why this book?

If you think about it, communication back in time from the present triggers the same kind of paradoxes as physically traveling to the past. If I send information to the past about which horse will win in what upcoming race, how come I didn’t already know that in the present to begin with? Timescape offers a great, scientifically knowledgeable account about how something like that might play out.

Timescape

By Gregory Benford,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Timescape as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The year is 1998, the world is a growing nightmare of desperation, of uncontrollable pollution and increasing social unrest. In Cambridge, two scientists experiment with tachyons - subatomic particles that travel faster than the speed of light and, therefore, according to the Theory of Relativity, may move backwards in time. Their plan is to signal a warning to the previous generation.

In 1962, a young Californian scientist, Gordon Bernstein, finds his experiments are being spoiled by unknown interference. As he begins to suspect something near the truth it becomes a race against time - the world is collapsing and will…


The Time Machine

By H.G. Wells,

Book cover of The Time Machine

Why this book?

This is actually not the first time travel novel – Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee and Bellamy’s Looking Backward preceded it by a few years – but it’s the first that can properly be called science fiction rather than fantasy, since Wells provides a machine to do the time travel. It respects the paradoxes in a straightforward way, by telling a story of travel to the future that doesn’t run into any mind-twisting paradoxes at all.

The Time Machine

By H.G. Wells,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Time Machine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A brilliant scientist constructs a machine, which, with the pull of a lever, propels him to the year AD 802,701.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket-sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition of The Time Machine features an introduction by Dr Mark Bould.

The Time Traveller finds himself in a verdant, seemingly idyllic landscape where he is greeted by the diminutive Eloi people. The Eloi are beautiful but weak and indolent, and the explorer is perplexed by…


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