Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Brief History of Time Travel / John Rasor

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Non-Fiction

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

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John Rasor is the author of three books, Roadkill, How Lost Got Lost, and A Brief History of Time Travel. He grew up in California during the 50s and 60s, served in the armed forces, and had a professional career in manufacturing and aerospace. During his later years he enjoyed a job as a Hollywood messenger where he mined interesting inside information for his time travel book. He recently moved to Arizona to be near his adult children and grandchildren.

For more, visit his website.


A Brief History of Time is like an encyclopedia of time travel stories providing brief summaries of books, movies, TV shows, and short stories that use time travel in their plots. The book includes classic time travel stories such as H.G.Wells’ The Time Machine and Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court to literary works like Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein to Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. The book also delves into TV series like “Star Trek,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, “Lost,” and “Fringe” picking those shows highlighting a time travel adventure.


I’d expect fans of time travel to love this book. Those who are unable to suspend disbelief (since we all know time travel is impossible), obviously won’t. For fans, it will remind them of old time travel favorites, possibly send them off in search of movies, books, and episodes of TV shows they haven’t seen, and fuel their imagination as they consider what rules or conventions for when and how time travel is “possible” work best for them. (The author’s rule is that the writers of a book, movie, or show have to be consistent, although he tends to be forgiving when they stretch their own rules.)

I came at this from somewhere in the middle. I’m not a big science fiction fan, which is where time travel is most often found. Yet I have no problem suspending disbelief when it does. I’m not much of a TV watcher or movie buff either (and both of these are a large share of what is covered). Although, for me, there were times when the book drug, as the author discussed the plot of one more movie or TV series episode and how time travel fit in, most of the time I found the book interesting and entertaining for three different reasons.

The first is his passion for the subject as well as a sense of humor about it. Passion is contagious and his love for time travel came through. As an example of the sense of humor, here is Rasor’s explanation of science fiction.

Science fiction differs from fantasy in that science fiction is based on science, but with corners cut or gobbledygook substituted for true scientific facts.

The second was he got me both thinking about fictional time travel, both in the different ways it is depicted and what approaches I find most believable and entertaining, but also what a wide variety of approaches to time travel there are.

That variety is part of the third. While I claim to not be a science fiction guy, Back to the Future has to be considered science fiction, yet it is among my all-time favorite movies. Although I might be termed the anti-Trekie (I’ve never understood, or at least gone along with, the tendency of my fellow geeks to love this series), this was a reminder that science-fiction isn’t just travel through space, whether in this galaxy or one far, far away. And many instances of fictional time travel are neither science fiction, nor what you probably think of when you think of time travel. For example, the movie Groundhog Day (another favorite). I was surprised how many instances of time travel were a part, whether large or small, of books, movies, and TV shows that I’d classify as comedy, romance, or something else far away from science fiction, with that one little exception.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a long list of shows to go check out on Netflix.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four stars

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