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Three Great Time Travel Books for People Who Don’t Like Science Fiction

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I was never a fan of science fiction. I have a vivid imagination but with the exception of the original Star Trek, there’s something about stories set on different planets, or filled with aliens or with robot point-of-views that disconnects me from the story in a way in which I can’t recover.

But I’ve discovered in the past few years that much like my coffee, I do enjoy science fiction in very specific ways.

My latest novel An Intrigue Of Witches is a treasure hunt founded in a historical mystery with coded messages and puzzles to be solved. It combines my favorite genres: mystery, adventure, fantasy and science fiction.

My favorite time travel tropes are ones grounded in reality, set in the near future and fueled by hard science – meaning the scifi elements have to be scientifically accurate and logical. I enjoy reading science fiction that is believable and almost doable with our contemporary understanding of science and level of technical advancement.

But I also need my scifi to have a lot of heart. Poignancy. Be character-driven and based in family connections and interpersonal relationships. I suppose I need some sort of anchoring, if I’m to explore science fiction in a way that makes sense to me.

I have probably watched more scifi TV and film than I have read books in the genre, but the few I have read share the same four elements: a government or military context—because let’s face it, if time travel is a thing, it’s highly probable that the military and or government will seek to control the technology.

Secondly, based on the frequency in which we are advancing in technology, it will happen sooner than later. Thirdly, the scifi elements are based on technology that is already existing in the real world. And lastly, include a well-developed main character, who themselves are navigating significant relationships with their family and friends throughout the story.

To that end, here are my three recommendations for time travel books suited to readers who don’t usually read science fiction.

Version Control by Dexter Palmer

This novel almost appears to not to be about time travel. Like it’s not a dark, looming shadow over the characters in the story. The main character, Rebecca is living her life, dealing with the minutiae of being an adult, while her husband, a scientist is hard at work on a device that is like a time machine but definitely not a mechanism for travel through time.

The most important events are happening off the page, but they are impacting the lives of the characters in the most incalculable of ways. It’s a very nuanced, indirect look at time travel, and how it could impact lives.

Here and Now and Then, by Michael Chen

This story is about a regular Joe that readers can relate to. The main character, Kin Stewart lives in our world. He is a husband and father, works in IT and struggles to maintain a positive relationship with his daughter. The twist? Kin is a government time traveler from the future who was stranded in the past when one of his devices malfunctioned. With no way to return to 2142, he creates a life for himself in his past and our today.

What could go wrong? A lot. Especially when a team member finally returns to bring him back to his world and a family he doesn’t remember. At its heart, this is a family drama, a story about hard choices and the impact time travel can have on every day people.

The Rise And Fall Of Dodo by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland

The main character in this book, Melisande Stokes, is an expert in linguistics and languages at Harvard. Her life is irretrievably changed when she randomly bumps into a military intelligence operator who asks her to translate some very old documents that may prove a long history of magic in the world, abruptly cut off in the mid-1800s. This mishmash of history, fantasy, science fiction, time travel and witches provides an intriguing look at how the government might try to fix history if they had access to both magic and time travel.

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