Wednesday, June 4, 2008

"Ti-i-i-ime, is on your side"

Lately, it seems like the idea of "time" keeps coming up. Perhaps it's the changing of the seasons, or maybe it's the cicadas that are making their once-every-seven-years appearance, or possibly it's the every-four-years events of the Presidential election and the summer Olympics. Either way, it's gotten me thinking about books that have used time as one of its main themes. For my first post, I'm going to discuss a few of these books that have caught my attention.

The Time Travelers: Book One in The Gideon Trilogy
Linda Buckley-Archer
Published by Aladdin Paperbacks, Simon & Schuster

When Peter Schock's father breaks his promise (again) to do something special for his birthday, Peter's au pair, Margit, takes him to the country to visit her friends' farm. There he meets strong-minded Kate Dyer. When Kate's father takes Peter and her to his work so they can see the anti-gravity machine that he and his colleague are working on, everything goes wrong. Something happens to the anti-gravity machine and somehow Peter and Kate are transported back in time to 1763. Before they have a chance to learn of their new surroundings, the anti-gravity machine is stolen by the evil Tar Man. With the help of Gideon, Peter and Kate travel throughout 18th Century London fighting thieves, meeting King George, and making random appearances in 21st Century London (at one point, they're floating in a supermarket parking lot). This is an exciting series for younger readers interested in historical England.

London Calling
Edward Bloor
Published by Alfred A. Knopf

When Martin Conway turns on his deceased grandfather's antique radio, through the static he hears a voice from 1940 London calling out to him for help. From here, Martin meets a small boy, Jimmy, who shows him London during the 1940 air raids that crippled the city, but showed England's strength that eventually led to the defeat of Nazi Germany. It is through dreams that Martin travels back in time to witness firsthand the destruction of war and the toll it takes on a city's inhabitants. London Calling is a great look at family sins and redemption.

Cathleen Davitt Bell
Published by BloomsburyUSA
On shelves July 2008

Michael Kimmel doesn't feel connected to his family. His father his distant towards him and his outgoing, intelligent sister seems to be everything he is not. The only strong connection he has is to his estranged grandfather. The problem is, his grandfather is dead. Instead of moving on to the "great beyond," Michael's grandfather seems to be trapped someplace in between. Because of their connection, Michael is able to "slip" through the river of the dead to experience the memories of his recently-deceased grandfather. As sort of a bystander, he watches key moments from his grandfather's life unfold. With the help of unlikely group of friends and family, Michael struggles to remain in the land of the living. Because if he can't figure out why he's slipping into the beyond, he may be stuck with the dead forever.

If you like these, try these adult titles:

Einstein's Dreams(1993)
Alan Lightman
Warner Books

While Albert Einstein works on his Theory of Relativity in 1905, he dreams of worlds where time's effects vary. Through thirty nights of dreams, we see thirty worlds each with a different effect of time. For example, time is a circle, bending back on itself. The world repeats itself, precisely, endlessly." Or another where, "time is like a flow of water, occasionally displaced by a bit of debris, a passing breeze." Another, one of my favorites, where "the world will end on 26 September 1907. Everyone knows it." There is a plot here, but the enjoyment of the book comes from the worlds that Lightman imagines for Einstein.

Sherman Alexie
Published by Black Cat, Grove/Atlantic

Zits, the Native American protagonist of the story, is a troubled teenager floating through the foster system until his 18th birthday when he'll be considered an adult and on his own. Hilarious and horrifying, Zits is a "superhero" for the ages. What starts as a bank heist and ultimate act of violence turns Zits into a time traveling hero where he has the opportunity to save the American Indians of the past and perhaps rewrite history. He becomes a corrupt FBI agent involved in Red River, Idaho, then becomes a small child at the Battle of Little Big Horn, followed by a entering the body of a modern day airline pilot, only to return to his today self in a violent ending. The story is haunting, but Zits' take-no-prisoners attitude will have you laughing one minute only to find yourself weeping the next.

Time's Arrow(1991)
Martin Amis
Published by Vintage International

Dr. Tod. T. Friendly dies then wakes up feeling much better. As a passive viewer, Friendly watches his life unfold before him- in reverse. This leads to a seriously warped sense of humanity. Doctors seem to be monsters since the patients come in all patched up, only to have the doctors mangle them to near death. To seduce a woman, you break up with her, treat her like garbage, until she is your lover. Year by year, Friendly's life comes down to one horrifying moment in his younger self's past. One of the coolest books I've ever read, Time's Arrow is sufficiently creepy in all the right ways. A great look at the oddities of humanity when seen in reverse. In Friendly's distance and misunderstanding of how the world works, his role as narrator makes this novel one of the best written in the last 20 years.

A couple of other newer books of interest:

The Midnighter's Club series
by Scott Westerfeld
Nick of Time: An Adventure Through Time by Ted Bell

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