Good Reading : July 2005
categorical Romantic fiction In Diana Gabaldon’s Cross Stitch, passage through a stone circle and a genetic predisposi- tion land Claire Beauchamp 200 years in the past, where she becomes embroiled in rebellion and clan war – and a choice between a Scottish warrior and the husband she has left behind. Gabaldon is open about her decision to add time travel to her six-book time travel series (the sixth book, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, is due to be published in September this year). ‘It’s all Claire Beauchamp’s fault,’ she writes in Through the Stones: A Companion Guide to the Novels of Diana Gabaldon. ‘If she hadn’t refused to shut up and talk like an eighteenth-century woman, these would have been perfectly straightforward historical novels.’ Indeed, time travel is a useful way to over- come the anachronistic heroine of historical romances, and has the added benefit of giving new twists to the travails of star-crossed lovers. Jude Deveraux, Lynn Kurland and Karen Marie Moning have all written time travel romances. Comedic fantasy fiction Fantasy writers have it easy compared to their SF brethren: they can use magic to achieve time travel. In Night Watch, a recent addition to Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ series, Commander Vimes is unwittingly sent to his own past by the Monks of History, where, with scant concer n for paradox, he trains his young naïve self in the finer points of police work in the crime-ridden Londonesque city of Ankh-Morpork. Pratchett explores a similar theme in his chil- dren’s book Johnny and the Bomb, which features Mrs Tachyon and her bags of stored time. Jasper Fforde and Robert Rankin have also used time travel in their comedy fantasies. Children’s fiction Fiction for children is a rich field for time travel, particularly into the past, where good writing and research can transfor m a dull history lesson into a tale about real people. Jane Yolen takes this tack with The Devil’s Arithmetic . Jewish teenager Hannah, ignorant of the tr ue hor ror of the Holocaust, awakens in a village in Poland in 1942. The villagers are ar rested and transported to a concentration camp, where Hannah and the readers lear n firsthand what the Jews and other prisoners experienced. Despite knowing the future, Hannah can do nothing to prevent it. ‘She kept remembering more and more ... About the death camps and the cre- matoria. About the brutal Nazis and the six million dead Jews. Was knowing – or not knowing – more frightening? She couldn’t decide.’ The life of American plantation slaves undergoes a similar treatment in A Girl Called Boy by Belinda Hur mence. Not all children’s time travel fiction is so sombre – Ruth Park’s classic Playing Beatie Bow, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and Alison Uttley’s A Traveller in Time are among the many choices. General fiction Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of the most recent and most main- stream time travel novels. Henry is an invol- untary time traveller: a genetic condition called chrono-displacement disorder flings him unpredictably (and naked) back and forth in time. He first meets Clare when he is 28 – but she has known him since she was six, when a naked 36-year-old man begs her to fetch him clothes. Henry cannot change the past or the future, adding to the poignancy of the story and the growing tension. Clare, the non- time traveller, is the novel’s centre and chronological anchor in this unusual look at how love triumphs over time. If none of these genres appeal to you, time travel can be found anywhere. Do you like crime fic- tion? Try Before the Cradle Falls by James F David. Mysteries? Ann Dukthas’ ‘Nicholas Segalla’ series. Political fiction? Time on My Hands by Peter Delacorte. British humour? Stephen Fry’s Making History.Thrillers? Timeline by Michael Crichton. A trip to other times or characters from other times ar riving in ours, changing the past or accepting the irrevocable, manoeu- vring around paradoxes or jumping headfirst into them; always different, time travel adds an entertaining and educational twist to your favourite genre. Like SF writers, non-SF writers are fascinated with the idea of time travel, but they are not hampered by having to over-explain how it happens. Instead, their focus is the out-of-time characters. goodreading 21 Illustration on far left from the front cover of Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book, published by Allen & Unwin; illustration on near left from front cover of Ruth Park’s Playing Beatie Bow , published by Puffin.