The Time Traveler’s Almanac, edited by Ann and Jeff by Vandermeer – An Ongoing Review

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Introductory thoughts 3/19/2019

I came across this anthology of short stories on time travel, and I really couldn’t help but decide to give it a shot. It is a huge anthology with 65 different short stories. I may never get through all of it, but as I read, I will give my thoughts on it and try to review the stories as a go. However, I won’t be giving a detailed account of every story. This will mark more as a way for me to track as I read and express my thoughts when necessary.

Each story is detailed below, and hyperlinked in the Table of Contents.

Update 7/30/19

I have continued to listen to the occasional story. Most of them are great. If you are interested in hearing any, let me know. I’ve read ~17hrs according to my podcast app. The total book is 40+hrs.

Table of Contents

Introduction  • essay by Rian Johnson

Part I: Experiments

  1. Top Ten Tips for Time Travelers • essay by Charles Yu
  2. Death Ship • (1953) • short story by Richard Matheson
  3. Ripples in the Dirac Sea • (1988) • short story by Geoffrey A. Landis
  4. Needle in a Timestack • (1983) • short story by Robert Silverberg
  5. Another Story or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea • [Hainish] • (1994) • novelette by Ursula K. Le Guin (variant of Another Story)
  6. Hwang’s Billion Brilliant Daughters • (2010) • short story by Alice Sola Kim
  7. How the Future Got Better • (2010) • short story by Eric Schaller
  8. Pale Roses • [Tales from the End of Time • 1] • (1974) • novelette by Michael Moorcock
  9. The Gernsback Continuum • (1981) • short story by William Gibson
  10. The Threads of Time • (2004) • short story by C. J. Cherryh (variant of Threads of Time 1978)
  11. Triceratops Summer • (2005) • short story by Michael Swanwick
  12. The Most Important Thing in the World • (2011) • novelette by Steve Bein
  13. Himself in Anachron • [The Instrumentality of Mankind] • (2013) • short story by Genevieve Linebarger and Cordwainer Smith
  14. The Time Machine (excerpt) • [H. G. Wells’ Time Machine Universe] • (2013) • short fiction by H. G. Wells
  15. Young Zaphod Plays It Safe • [Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] • (1986) • short story by Douglas Adams
  16. Time Travel in Theory and Practice • (2013) • essay by Stan Love

Part II: Reactionaries and Revolutionaries

  1. A Sound of Thunder • (1952) • short story by Ray Bradbury
  2. Vintage Season • (1946) • novelette by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore
  3. Thirty Seconds from Now • (2011) • short story by John Chu
  4. Forty, Counting Down • [Justin Kloster] • (1999) • novella by Harry Turtledove
  5. The Final Days • (1981) • short story by David Langford
  6. Fire Watch • [Time Travel] • (1982) • novelette by Connie Willis
  7. Noble Mold • [The Company Short Fiction] • (1997) • short story by Kage Baker
  8. Under Siege • (1985) • novelette by George R. R. Martin
  9. Where or When • (1991) • novelette by Steven Utley
  10. Time Gypsy • (1998) • novelette by Ellen Klages
  11. On the Watchtower at Plataea • (1988) • novelette by Garry Kilworth
  12. Alexia and Graham Bell • (1987) • short story by Rosaleen Love
  13. A Night on the Barbary Coast • [The Company Short Fiction] • (2003) • short story by Kage Baker
  14. This Tragic Glass • (2004) • novelette by Elizabeth Bear
  15. The Gulf of the Years • (2010) • short story by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud (trans. of La gouffre des années 1987)
  16. Enoch Soames: A Memory of the Eighteen-Nineties • (1916) • novelette by Max Beerbohm
  17. Trousseau: Fashion for Time Travelers • essay by Genevieve Valentine (variant of Trousseau: Fashion for Time Travellers 2013)

Part III: Mazes and Traps

  1. The Clock That Went Backward • (2013) • short story by Edward Page Mitchell (variant of The Clock That Went Backwards 1881)
  2. Yesterday Was Monday • (1941) • short story by Theodore Sturgeon
  3. Is There Anybody There? • (2000) • novelette by Kim Newman
  4. Fish Night • (2013) • short story by Joe R. Lansdale [as by Joe Lansdale]
  5. The Lost Pilgrim • (2004) • novelette by Gene Wolfe
  6. Palindromic • (1997) • short story by Peter Crowther
  7. Augusta Prima • (2011) • short story by Karin Tidbeck (trans. of Augusta Prima 2009)
  8. Life Trap • (1979) • short story by Barrington J. Bayley
  9. Lost Continent • (2008) • novelette by Greg Egan
  10. The Mouse Ran Down • (2012) • short story by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  11. The Great Clock • (1966) • short story by Langdon Jones
  12. Traveller’s Rest • (1965) • short story by David I. Masson
  13. Delhi • (2004) • short story by Vandana Singh
  14. Come-From-Aways • (2009) • short story by Tony Pi
  15. Terminós • (2005) • short story by Dean Francis Alfar
  16. The Weed of Time • (1970) • short story by Norman Spinrad
  17. The Waitabits • (1955) • novelette by Eric Frank Russell
  18. Music for Time Travelers • essay by Jason Heller (variant of Music for Time Travellers 2013)

Part IV: Communiques

  1. What If • (1952) • short story by Isaac Asimov (variant of What If …)
  2. As Time Goes By • (1983) • short story by Tanith Lee
  3. At Dorado • (2002) • short story by Geoffrey A. Landis
  4. 3 RMS, Good View • (1990) • short story by Karen Haber
  5. Twenty-One, Counting Up • [Justin Kloster] • (1999) • novella by Harry Turtledove
  6. Loob • [Goster County] • (1979) • novelette by Bob Leman
  7. The House That Made the Sixteen Loops of Time • (2011) • short story by Tamsyn Muir
  8. Against the Lafayette Escadrille • (1972) • short story by Gene Wolfe
  9. Swing Time • (2007) • short story by Carrie Vaughn
  10. The Mask of the Rex • [Files of the Time Rangers] • (2002) • novelette by Richard Bowes
  11. Message in a Bottle • (2004) • short story by Nalo Hopkinson
  12. The Time Telephone • (2002) • short story by Adam Roberts
  13. Red Letter Day • (2010) • short story by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  14. Domine • (2007) • short story by Rjurik Davidson
  15. In the Tube • (1922) • short story by E. F. Benson
  16. Bad Timing • (1991) • short story by Molly Brown
  17. If Ever I Should Leave You • (1974) • short story by Pamela Sargent
  18. Palimpsest • (2009) • novella by Charles Stross

Story Overviews and Discussions

*I may give these a second try considering I don’t remember much about them.

Fish Night, Joe Lansdale, (★★★★)

Read before August 2019

There was one titled “Fish Night” that was recently adapted into a short film on Netflix’s new anthology series Love Death and Robots. I love it because it was history of the earth type story. Out in the Arizona desert, where the sea once covered the terrain, ancient ocean life dominated the region. Much of the life is now extinct, but what if past life we’re ghosts like all the story’s of humans after life. It tells the story of ancient life haunting the desert nights. Not only was it artistically beautiful, it was a really fun story that peeked my interest. 5/5 stars. From Part 3.

Come-From-Aways, Tony Pi, Rating: ()

Read before August 2019

There was another story about history (human history boo). It was told by an expert in linguistics of a character, also a linguist, who comes across a man whose dialect doesn’t match the times. From this, she deciphers he is a traveler of the past. The story touches on the problem of time traveling into the future, becoming a piece of history and leaving those you know and love. 3.5/5 stars, rounding down. From Part 3.

The Weed of Time, Norman Spinrad (★★★★★) and Life Trap, Barrington, J. Bayley (★★★★)

Read before August 2019

Another Fascinating story, the Weed of Time, was about a plant that gave the individuals the sight of all time in their life from conception to death. I don’t want to spoil the story, but it was much more of a tale of caution. Imagine knowing what was going to happen but trapped unable to change anything. There was a similar story, Life Trap, about a temple of monks who sought truth found truth they wish they never had. Life, as the story put it, was a cycle of living dying and being reborn as your younger self. The terrifying reality of it all was that you’d have no knowledge and as such would be unable to do anything to change it. On the surface, they seem like the inverse, but the main idea of being trapped in a cycle is there. 4.5/5 stars rounding up (The Weed of Time) and 4.5/5 stars rounding down (Life Trap). From Part 3.

Red Letter Day, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, (★★★★)

Read before August 2019

What could that possibly mean? “Red Letter Day.” Well that is the day your future self sends you a letter recollecting about your future. Think of it like a coming of age. At a certain point in your future you gain the right to write your younger self, around graduation of High School. In it, you can inform yourself on whether or not you are going on the right track. Naturally, I am sure you can think of a hundred problems with this, and of course, that is the premise of the story. I won’t ruin it any further than to say, it assumes the information of the future can change the past. As I have delved into a multiverse of time travel stories, I have grown sympathetic towards the idea that the past cannot be changed. Any attempts to change it make it the way you experience it in the first place. Nevertheless, that is not how this story handles it, but it still does it masterfully. I thoroughly enjoyed it. 5/5 stars. From Part 4.

The Time Telephone, Adam Roberts, (☆)

Read before August 2019

Again, another fun premise. This is a world where the information (telephones) can be sent to the past. It opens with a conversation between a mother and daughter, but it ventures off in an odd direction in the end. It felt like the mother and daughter were just to set up the premise, but I won’t go much deeper so as not to ruin the main plot. Just understand, there are limits to how far information can be sent back in time, and that should get your mind rolling as to the type of scenarios you might get from that. 3.5/5 stars, rounding up. From Part 1.

At Dorado, Geoffrey A. Landis, ()

Read before August 2019

This is a story about a world with a series of wormholes that act like intersections along a highway. Of course, there was more to it than that, but that’s the gist of it. It was a find story, nothing too exceptional. A wife or lover of a man, lives at one of these way stations (wormholes), and the man is a sort of traveler who has to go from station to station for work or something. 3.5/5 stars rounding down. From Part 4.

3 RMS, Good view, Karen Haber, (☆)

Read before August 2019

This is probably one of the better stories (but not the best of the best). It’s basically about the past (or future) being like a place to settle down/live/maybe vacation. You aren’t to alter the past, but you can live there. Think of it like working in the city but living in the suburbs. You choose a place and commute. Then it just deals with the realty of living in the past without altering it–inadvertently or for ethical reasons. 4/5 stars. From Part 4.

Twenty-One, Counting Up and Forty, Counting Down, Harry Turtledove, (★★★★)

Read before August 2019

These are two separate stories, each in a different section of this anthology. I wouldn’t say this was the best story I’ve read by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a solid story told from two different perspectives (told as if older self interacts with younger self and from a younger self being contacted by the olders self). Sort of like the Red Letter Day, this is about a man from the future trying to change mistakes he thinks his younger self has made.

The problem is, the way he goes about doing it feels contrived. The author is so desperate to tell a particular type of story, that he insists this is the only way for the older self to get what he wants. Furthermore, he fails to recognize the problem isn’t his younger self, its that his older self not willing to acknowledge his own flaws.

It is a fun story. Overall, I can’t help but feel it is limited by convoluted choices by the author made for plot purposes rather than a natural progression of the story. I don’t want to spoil anymore of the story, but I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that there are some serious problems around consent that the author never really addresses. 5/5 stars for both stories. From Part 4.

Is There Anybody There?, Kim Newman, (★★★★)

Read before August 2019

really really liked this story. It was one of my favorites. It was about a psychic from the past being contacted by an internet troll  from the future. At first you wonder if it is a spirit, but it turns out its not. I won’t ruin the story, but it is a very satisfying read. I say that as someone who is very much against the idea fof “psychics” because in the real life they’re frauds and hacks who harm people. 5/5 stars, and one of my favorites. From Part 3.

A Sound of Thunder, Ray Bradbury, (★★★★)

Read before August 2019

I write this as the Sound of Thunder is heard outside. Of course, the thunder of the story is not from any storm. This is a very good story about the implications of time travel. In particular, what would happen if you travel back 10s of millions of years? How fragile is the evolutionary tree that leads to us the other forms of life? A species isn’t defined by any one individual, but it raises the question, how important are they. This is fascinating story about time travel and biology. I wish it was more theoretical on the biology front, but it is still an amazing premise. It fills me with excitement wondering about the stories that could be told from this premise, or, perhaps more significant, the reality that is ingrained in this story. It is hard not to read this and ask fundamental question about the history of life on Earth and humans in particular. As a geologist and astrologist it is hard not to get lost in my imagination. Needless to say, this is highly recommended. 5/5 stars. From Part 2.

Lost Continent,” by, Greg Egan (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

This is a story is told of a refugee who escaped his time to a world that was supposed to be free of the dangers of his time, but what he found was far less accepting. It is basically a story that mirrors the story of migrants today. It was particularly poignant with recent decisions by the Trump administration. 3/5 stars. From Part 3.

*”The Clock that Went Backward,” by  Edward Page Mitchell (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

A guy and his friend come across this weird clock his aunt has. It can go into the past. From there, they do a bit of exploring. I enjoyed this. 3/5 stars. From Part 3.

How the Future Got Better,” by Eric Schaller (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

A family is able to watch the future unfold over the television (see themselves watching TV, slightly in the future). I didn’t quite get the point of this story. 3/5 stars. From Part 1.

The Threads of Time,” by C.J. Cherryh (★★★★☆)

Read before August 2019

Here, travelers can move forward in time, to distance reaches of the future. However, strict paradox laws prevent them from going backwards, and a select few agents are put in place to enforce that law. This is a good story with a good overall arc. Although, I don’t think it stood out too much. 3.5/5 stars rounding up. From Part 1.

Triceratops Summer,” by Michael Swanwick (★★★★★

Read before August 2019

An MIT student messes up an experiment leading to the escape of dinosaurs from the past into the present. This was a lot more calm then your classic Jurassic Park type of story. It was more about mild annoyance and appreciation of and for the creatures. It is a good story. 5/5 stars. From Part 1.

The Lost Pilgrim,” by Gene Wolfe (★★☆☆☆) 

Read before August 2019

A traveler is sent back to do something that he forgets. I remember this because I remember much I disliked it. It is confusing and not very enjoyable. It seemed unnecessarily convoluted. 2.5/5 stars rounding down. From Part 3.

*”The Great Clock,” by Langdon Jones (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

An old man takes care of an old clock related to time. I don’t remember any more details. 3/5 stars, but take it with a grain of salt. From Part 3.

*”Palindromic,” by Peter Crowther (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

There are aliens. This is another one I really remember nothing about. 3/5 stars, but take it with a grain of salt. From Part 3.

*”Against the Lafayette Escadrille,” by Gene Wolfe (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

Obviously, there is something to do with time travel. I am pretty sure I read this but don’t remember a thing. It is apparently in the Confederate eraRating: Meh (because I don’t remember anything) From Part 4.

The Final Days,” by David Langford (★★★☆☆)

Read before August 2019

This is about a nominee for president who had amazing confidence and poise because they had the benefit of knowing they were going to win. 3/5 stars. From Part 2.

The Gulf of the Years,” by Georges-Oliver  Chateaureynaud (★★★★☆)

Read before August 2019

A man travels to see his mother, on the day she died, I think? Its a bit morbid. Rating: Good, 4/5 stars. From Part 2.

Death Ship, Richard Matheson, (★★★★)

Read 8/15/2019 (and earlier in the summer)

I realized early on that I had already read this story. It is the first story of the entire anthology, so it seems I listened to it before I imported it into my podcast and forgot. It is a great story to reread. It was particularly great because even as I remembered reading it, I forgot how the story played out in the end. We follow a ship with a small crew set to find life on other planets. They land on a distant planet and find a crashed ship. On it: themselves, dead from the crash.

I can see why the Vandermeers would choose to have this story first. It forces us to think about the implications of time travel, or rather, it forces us to think about how the hell it would work. We follow the crew members as they struggle to understand 1) what is happening and 2) how to avoid the atrocity they are witnessing. I am a big proponent of past-future interconnection. That is my made up way of saying, even if we could go back in time, anything we do to change it would end up being a part of the events that causes it (or at least had an effect that did not change it). There are plenty examples of this, and I am pretty sure I’ve touched on this already.

This is the reality these crew members have to deal with. At least, that is the real horror from where I am sitting. Nevertheless, they act as though they can change it, but this becomes sort of a Pascal’s wager. If they’re wrong, and you can’t change anything, you lose nothing for believing it because it’s a helpless situation regardless, but if they’re right, you have everything to gain from believing. There are plenty of problems with Pascal’s wager when it comes to God, but I won’t get into that here. My point is, this is the dilemma they face.

Personally, I think I would shutdown, convinced it is hopeless. They don’t do that here, and its a thrill to watch it unfold. To be clear, things will not always go the way you expect. Even having read the story, the author surprised me on multiple occasions convincing me one thing then another and then another. Where it actually lands was something I didn’t even see coming. That is great story telling. 5/5 stars. From Part 1.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North ★★★★★

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Start 1/31/19

With the ending of one book, I am starting another. I have already explained my fixation with time travel, so maybe it is understandable why I would choose this as my next book. It was also nominated for a series of literary awards (e.g. Arthur C. Clarke Award).

Another reason that contributes to my decision to read this is that I became aware a couple years ago that I have a tendency to read more male authors than female (not including rereads of harry potter 😉 ). I would go on spending the next year only reading female authors to try counteract that bias. I ended up reading some of my all time favorite books (Kindred [another time travel story] and I know why the caged bird sings). I no longer restrict myself to that same rule. Although, I am acutely aware of this bias and try to overcome it. Let me be clear, this isn’t me saying equality demands I read both sexes equally. I do it because I might otherwise overlook an entire suite of potentially amazing books hitherto unknown to me.

I am about ~13% in, and I am enjoying it. It’s similar to ground hogs day. Another book I really enjoyed was Replay. It wasn’t an exception book, but it was a thrill to read. It told the story of a man who died, and woke up in his body ~25 years earlier. He gets to relive his life than he does it again. Another book this reminds me of is, Life after Death. I enjoyed that, but not as much. It was much more a story of a girl who lived through the world war (or one of them) who would die and start over, beginning to have vague recollections of her past life. I’m not a big fan of war stories, and I also love a book that leans in to the time travel. I think this book does that.
I came in expecting it to be a story of one life after the other. It’s not quite as direct in its storytelling which is interesting.

Update 3/6/2019

I am about 50% of the way through the book. I still feel the same way. It is a great book. It has a lot of similarities to other stories without being too derivative. Furthermore, it’s established clear rules and a clear end game. The overall structure has proven to be less linear than I expected, which is a pleasant surprise. I haven’t listened to it in a couple weeks. I just need to get back into it. So far, I would definitely recommend.

Update 3/11/2019

I’m 70% through the book, and writing that number makes it feel further along than I originally thought. The book is still amazing. The story has become very compelling, and it is a struggle to do work this Monday morning when I’d rather be listening to the book! I am very pleased with this book, not simply because I love time travel, but because it is wonderfully told and well thought out. When dealing with time travel, it require a clear understanding of the rules. Often, the story revolves around working toward the slow revelation of these rules. That is what makes this book so exciting. It is hard not to become immersed into the story. The story begins with an untraditional approach of telling the life story of the main character without divulging key plot points. That is to say, the story is not linear. However, it becomes more linear as we pivot from the origin of Harry August to the prevailing threat to him and his kind. The transition from one to the other is seamless, and it makes for a great story.

Update 3/12/2019

I’m 91% through the book. ~1hr to go, or 45 minutes with the 30% speed up I use. I’m sad to know it’s ending, but I’m eager to keep reading. It is so nice to be so easily engulfed by a good story following the atrocity that was “The Dry.” As I approach the end, I am nervous as to what might happen to the main character. I think I know, but the title suggest a certain finality which could prove catastrophic to his endeavors. Without spoiling it, the character is facing a certain force blind with ambition, unwilling to acknowledge the harm they are causing. If he fails, it could prove to be the end of the world. I love how the author is able to incorporate serious consequences, in some cases irreversible, even though we are dealing with a protagonist who seemingly starts his life brand new every time he dies. In some time travel stories, you can just undo everything and all is well. At which point, the story becomes void of any real consequences. This author sets clear rules for the story, and it makes for great suspense.

Update 3/12/2019

It is the end of the day, and I have finished the book. It was amazing. It is so sad to reach the end but also gratifying. This was a great book; it is by far the best one I have read this year. I highly recommend it (if that isn’t already obvious). The ending did not disappointed. The problem was pretty binary (the protagonist either win or you lose), so there wasn’t a lot of directions the author could go. Nevertheless, I felt like it was entirely possible that it could be either one. I won’t say what happens, even vaguely, on the off chance that someone is actually reading this post this in depth. I wouldn’t want to spoil it. I give it an easy 5/5 stars.

March 2019 Reading Update

End of March Update

I am finding my 5hrs per week goal an easy target to meet. I am not keeping up with all my podcasts :-/, but I am enjoying what I am reading. I’ve begun reading short stories and essays. Although, I am doing it in my podcast app, jumping between stories, and that makes it more difficult to track my time. I am pretty sure I did at least, probably more, 24 hours of listening/reading. The goals are going well, but I like to set myself up to fail. I am going to bump my weekly reading to 6 hours. The summer is coming, so its doable.

I am enjoying the essays and short stories. They are an easy way to pick something interesting without needing to dedicate a huge amount of time to it. It also means I am reading a large diversity of things which I love. It may mess up my yearly goals just because they are large collections. Obviously, I can’t count them each as a book, but I am reading them individually and may not read the entire volumes.

With that in mind, I am trying to make sure I give myself some time dedicate to single book/story. To Say nothing of the Dog is my current read. See that section for more.

Update 3/11/2019

As I ended the first week, I found myself with ~.5 hr to go for my 5hr per week goal. I did that last night as I cooked and cleaned. Although, this is on the week of the book club where I rushed to finish to the Dry, so we will see how well I am able to stick to it. I still like the 5hr goal. It is a good motivator because I know how well I work with a clear quota and/or outline to follow. I am over an hour in this week which is a good start, but I think part of that has to do with how great the 15 lives of Harry August is.

The Dry by Jane Harper – ★★☆☆☆

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Introductory thoughts

This is a thriller novel set in Australia. I don’t know a lot about it. I am reading it as a part of a book club some of us in my department are participating in. I’ll admit, I am hesitant. There are so many books I’d like to read either because they satisfy a certain niche of mine or because it seems to be receiving a lot of praise (i.e. awards) or both. I haven’t even heard this one.

Update 3/6/2019

I’m 64% through this book, and I am thoroughly disappointed. I fear it may have just been my attitude going in. Nevertheless, I see nothing special about this book. It is mildly interesting and easy enough to follow along, but even 2/3rds of the way through I’ve yet to feel the uncontrollable urge not to stop. At this point, I am only reading it for the book club. I am going to recommend a new way of suggesting books (like a poll where everyone votes like a ranking system). This book was suggested while we all sat around throwing out ideas. I really think we need to have a better idea of what it is we are signing up for, or I’ll just bow out.  Perhaps I am being pretentious, but I like to read two types of books. 1) There are books that satisfy a certain niche of interest (time travel being a big one, as well as horror and Stephen King in particular), and 2) then there are books that are recognized for their uniqueness, creativity, and/or their handling/addressing complicated issues. This book does neither. I’ve read Dan Brown and John Grisham (back in the day); those were at least compelling.

Update 3/11/2019

I finished it. I don’t like it. To be fair, I rushed through it. I forget a lot of the finer details, but in my defense, I don’t think it deserves that level of attention. I definitely would not recommend this book. It wasn’t terrible, but why waste your time with something so mediocre. There are better books–more compelling and interesting books. 2/5 Stars

February 2019 Reading Update

End of February Update

February was not a great month for reading. I did a good bit towards the First 15 Lives of Harry August in the early parts, but I’ve since not gone back. I started the Dry only recently because I know the book club is coming up. The Dry, I’m pushing through it at 1.6 times the regular speed. That’s how little I like it. For a bit of context, I am listening to The 15 lives of Harry August (a book I am loving) at 1.3 times the regular speed, which I try to do to get through them more quickly.

As we get closer to April, my audiobook time is waning. In addition to my game of thrones rewatch, I am pushing through the several recap shows I listen to along with it. When it finally arrives, I will be listening to 4-5 different recap shows of GOT, so I am going to have to try extra hard not to forget about my reading time. That’s really my listen so far here; I need to be aware of how much I am reading and make a point to do it when I am going a long time without it.

Moving forward, I am going to set a 5 hour per week quota, with a ~24 hour monthly quota. I’ll adjust that as I start to get a better feel of how much I am currently listening (as I begin to track it quantitatively).

The Time Travelers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – ★★★★☆

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Start late 2018

Considering my feelings toward Firestarter, it may not be that hard to understand why I decided to start the next book and flip between the two to change it up while I finish the first. I’m about 1/3rd of the way through The Time Travelers Wife, and I’ve got a lot to say, and not a lot of it is good.

I’m a huge time travel fan. I’ll read or watch the shittiest of stories just because of my love for time travel. Still, I was hoping for better with this one. The story isn’t dull. I don’t mean to suggest that. It’s fun and enjoyable. Maybe thats why so many lists suggest its the best time travel story, or maybe its merely popular because of the film by the same name. I think a saw it a long time ago. I don’t remember much, so I’m sure I will rewatch it when done.

However, my problem with the book so far is how the author handles several issues in the book. Let’s start with the basic premise: a time traveler falls in love with a girl, who first meets him at the age of 6, and who he first meets at ~28. This sort of estranged love story makes for a nice fantasy, but the author tries to lend it with a level of realism that leaves it feeling more like Woody Allen marrying his adopted daughter. This girl knew him from when she was a child. I get there are problems with him being moved around time, but if he really wanted a relationship with her you don’t begin it with her as a young child. Its creepy, and the book just ignores this. Some may call it a necessary problem, but I already said the easy way of avoiding this is by living afar, not exposing yourself to her. Even then, there are problems here, but it is a fantasy love story after all.

I wish I could say the problem ends there, but I think that is just the first way in which the author decides to avoid addressing any serious topics in any serious manner in this book. When Henry, the main character, hits puberty, there is a scene in the book where he at two different stages of the age 15, briefly contemplate exploring their bodies before his dad walks in and then storms off. His father won’t speak to him for 3 weeks. He and his father never seem to discuss it or his sexuality, nor does Henry really delve very deeply into it himself. Just before his dad walks in, Henry is describing the scene to the reader when he makes it very clear, “I’m not gay!” On its own the scene feels somewhat minimal, but then there are multiple times where his sexuality comes into question. One man calls him a fag because he time traveled without clothes and so was nude. Henry processed to go ballistic, beating the guy to a bloody pulp and sending him to the hospital. The book moves on without addressing this obvious insecurity with his sexuality or the underlying anger issues this speaks to.

I can see so many people reading this (assuming people actually read this) and think I am just being too sensitive. Books are a way of addressing difficult topics, and great science fiction does by interlacing that discussion with a fun and unique idea. This is a unique idea, but the story is superficial and lacks any real depth. In the end, it is just another mediocre story.

UPDATE – 1/29/19

I’m enjoying the book. I can still recognize the antiquated ideas of the author seeping through. That aside, it is a fun book, and the author isn’t afraid to put her characters into pretty bad situations. I’m about 2/3 of the way through.

Finished – 1/30/19

I finished the book, quicker than I was expecting. The first thing I would like to say was that I enjoyed the ending. The story is essentially the life of Henry, told from different perspectives of his self and his wife. While he may be a time a traveler, the story stuck to a standard outline. That being said, I don’t think it is a spoiler to say the ending revolves around his ultimate death, and it is a depressing death. Things get dark towards the end. I really enjoy it when a writer isn’t afraid to touch darker tones.

I won’t say anything more about the ending, so as not to spoil it. Going into it, I felt it deserved maybe 3.5 stars, rounding down to 3. I’m inclined to round up now because of the ending. My biggest issue with that is how poorly the author handles the various issues I’ve mentioned. They are not obvious throughout the entire book, but they are pervasive. Even to the end, I noticed questionable actions without really addressing it. For instance, Henry and his wife are going through a rough patch. Henry (at age ~40) meets 15 year old wife and becomes unfairly mean towards are. He feels rightfully bad about it, and kisses her to make up for it. To which she says, “you’ve never kissed me before.” His response is over his own recklessness of forgetting and much less about the oh I’m 40 and kissing a 15 year old. Fact is she may become your wife (Mr. Woody Allen) but she’s a child with a child mind. That mind is warped to be enamored with a man more mature than her, but that isn’t consent. A similar problem arise on her 18th birthday, where they have sex, for her first time. His thoughts are of course on the legality of the situation.

I’m saying all this a couple days after finishing, so my thoughts are a bit muddled. Nevertheless, I can’t separate the problems I have with their entire relationship from how I perceive the book. It is a fun book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I still cringed in a lot of places. Nevertheless, I rate it 3.5/5, rounding up.

January 2019 Reading Update

Beginning Reading (January)

I really want to read at least 10 books. I’ve got a list of ~15 ready to tackle, but I often find my tastes change fairly quickly. Part of what keeps me from reading is that I listen to days worth of podcasting every month. I tend to alternate between podcast binging and audiobook binging, and sometimes a lot of music. My goal is to fit in a decent amount of books this year. Furthermore, my goals are to read more new books. There are a lot of books I love to reread. Harry Potter is the most common; I’m currently on book three again. While I read, I hope to make note of how I enjoyed (am enjoying it). I also really want to make sure I expose myself to a broad field of fun reads to books that make me think.

To do list (books I am currently hoping to read this year)

I have a list of ~15 books I am hoping to read this year, organized and ready to go (this feel apart quickly). My goal is to read fun books, thought provoking books, and educational books. I’ve tentatively ordered them to keep myself from growing tired of one.

I think I have 200+ books marked as wanting to read on goodreads for a variety of reasons, and that can be intimidating. This list i composed of 1) am intrigued by and 2) be uniquely thought provoking (I’ve dropped the idea of reading nonfiction science books. I have enough science in my life). My assessment is sufficiently hand wavy that it is very subject to change (update: it did).

My attempt to work in some science books is already being undermined by my choice of The 15 Lives of Harry August. Even Religion and science was a lazy choice being super short. I also don’t know if I’ll be able to manage several of this non SK fiction stories for the simple fact that I only have so much attention with an audiobook. I suppose that list is more than 15, but I throw in extra SK as something to fall back on in if I feel tired of books that make me thing :-p . Another common theme is my desire to finish the Oxford Time Series (OTS). It was one of the highest regarded scifi stories, every book winning a nebula I think with Connie Willis being one of the top sci fi writers (and of the few major female scifi writers, see Octavia Butler as an even rarer black women scifi writer).

End of January Update

I’m nearly done with The Time Traveler’s Wife, and I finished Firestarter. That puts me well on track to finish 10, but not quite the 15 I’m hoping for. I may need to find more times to listen. The problem is I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I don’t really want to stop. I listened to a bit of Harry Potter too :-/ (guilty pleasure); that’s something I’m trying not to do. I could listen to something new. Plus, Harry Potter is a slippery slope. A chapter turns into a book, turns into a rewatch of the entire series. It’s a tough one for sure :-p.

Firestarter by Stephen King – ★★★☆☆

firestarter-12

Start late 2018

I begin the year reading Firestarter in December 2018. I read a lot of Stephen King, including most of his major hits. I decided to try Firestarter on a whim. I’m about 2/3rds of the way through. Its enjoyable but nothing exceptional. At first it had me excited, so much so that I decided to watch the film staring Drew Barrymore. The film follows the book pretty closesly. It was an old film, but fun. My problem moving forward is I don’t think the book adds anything special. Some books are great, even greater than the film or greater in a different way, but I don’t think this is one of those books. It really speaks to the mediocrity of the book. I want to finish it because 2/3rds is pretty far not to finish, but its more a job now than something I really enjoy.

Finished 1/29/19

I’ve finished the book. I enjoyed it. It did have more than the movie. I think it had more room to tell what was essentially the same ending in a more logical manner. That said, this was not exceptional. Stephen King has so many great book; if I was going to be suggesting one, it wouldn’t be this one. 3.25/5 stars

The Magical Sensation that’s Gripped the Nation

Rays of light pierce the dark and sinister clouds that fly overhead, but light has yet to defeat all the shadows of the night. Everything is consumed by darkness, and formidable dangers lie in wait. Fierce waves crush one another as they work as one to reflect the structure that now lies in shambles. Hogwarts, as ubiquitous as the boy it houses, lies in ruin and is on its way to being little more than ash. Fear grips at my insides threatening to rip them to shreds.  The image says it all. The world-wide phenomenon that has managed to ensnare millions of fans is now coming to an end, and the fans are anxious to witness its grand finale. As I sit cross legged outside the theater, I am surrounded by fans screaming in unbearable anticipation for the upcoming movie that is now only hours away. There are movie props all around us, and the fans are slaving over the small indulgences, drinking in everything they have to offer. However, in all of their admiration of the giant posters, no one stops to think what messages might be hidden behind the mysterious exteriors. They are fans of all ages. Most of the fans are young adults, but there are people old enough to be my parents and others who are not even in their teens. Each fan has his or her own story. I first met J.K. Rowling’s magical world when I was eleven. I have grown alongside Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and as their journey comes to an end so does a decade of my life.

However, the story isn’t over yet. My attention leaves the horde of people around me and returns to the poster that so entices me. Though fraught with darkness, there is a bright patch of sky where the sun has begun to rise that catches my eye, but a dark shape blocks my full view. It is the focal point of the entire image, and it stirs a mixture of emotions inside me. It is the center of the magical world, so the depiction of Hogwarts burning to a crisp fills me with shock. Even though I have read the books, I was not prepared for this. It is far worse than I had ever imagined. Below the dying building lies its reflection as if it has to watch itself as it burns, knowing it is happening, but unable to do anything to stop the destruction. I wonder what caused the flames or if someone will ever bring order to the chaos. I look closer. I question whether there really are two figures within the flames about to battle, for I am convinced that they are there. It is the final showdown that everyone is anticipating. My initial shock and fear turn to uncontrollable longing to witness the duel play out. Will good triumph over evil, or will the dark wizard forever rule the world? The battle will decide it all. I am lost within the story, yet I force myself to concentrate more on the poster and the task at hand. I remove the magnifying glass from my mind’s eye, and I allow my gaze to focus on something far less discrete.

At the center of the poster lies the only text aside from a short phrase at the top of the page. The short phrase can wait. The center reads “Hp7” in the signature Harry Potter Font. The abbreviation does two things. It shows how large the Harry Potter franchise has become, and the producers realize this and use it to their advantage. The title makes a statement so bold that even people not in the target audience will be drawn to it. In addition to flaunting its world-wide reputation, the abbreviation limits the number of distractions from the overall illustration. The overwhelming image completes its message with the phrase at the top of the page. In contrast to the first film, which declared “Let the magic begin!” on its poster, this film proclaims “It all ends here.” Fear crawls up my spine and I’m covered in goose bumps. The phrase completes the message that the burning school began, for this is the beginning of the end.

All hope for triumph dies away, and I am left with fear. However, the glint of the sun rise still holds a bit of hope, and I grasp at it even if only to deceive myself that all is not lost. In the first film it is night in the poster, and we entered into a world blind to the evils that threaten us. Yet this light signals hope and the start of a new era. It is time for the long and cold night to end, so that we may live in peace.

We are lost in darkness, and the light is our guide to whatever lies ahead. The end is coming and there will be a new beginning, but it could be for good or evil. The image does a brilliant job at catching the attention of fans, but those who lack interest in the series will show little interest in the poster. Only a fan can catch all of the important factors within the illustration. The poster works to rejuvenate the interest for those whose attention has waned overtime, and it does so masterfully.

Written September 8, 2010 with slight edits on March 27, 2015 by Joshua Hedgepeth