While suffering from Doctor Who withdrawal, I came across this time travel tome in the science fiction section of Indigo. The authors advertised on the cover (Douglas Adams! Isaac Asimov! Ursula K. Le Guin! George R. R. Martin! H.G. Wells!) would have been enough to pique my interest on their own. The beautiful matte cover (which I have since destroyed by dropping my copy in the tub) impressed the graphic designer in me, while the intimidated size of The Time Traveler’s Almanac promised hours (days) of reading. The tiny font of this 948-page volume is necessary to keep a book containing 72 stories a manageable size.
A quick Google search for reviews of the book revealed overwhelming positivity from the GoodReads community, and the price-to-page-count ratio was more than fair ($29.99 CAN before tax), so I purchased the book and carried it lovingly home, filled with the thrill of a new geeky find.
And it was worth it. While some stories in this anthology are a bit stuffy or long-winded for me, there are others that are clever, poignant, eloquently written. While not every story will suit all tastes, there’s something here for everyone: strange worlds, the mundane-turned-strange, paradoxes, cross-temporal corporations and agencies, the far future, the distant past, lived lived and re-lived, silly adventures, cerebral contemplations, hardcore science fiction, and wistful romance. I found I liked the first half to two thirds of the book best, but it’s possible that I just lost steam near the end after a month-or-so-long marathon of nightly reading. That, or the creativity (sometimes heartwarming, sometimes silly, sometimes tragic) of some of the pieces contained within The Time Traveler’s Almanac (such as Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Another Story or a Fisherman of the Inland Sea”, Connie Willis’s “Fire Watch”, Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore’s “Vintage Season”, and Tamsyn Muir’s “The House that Made the Sixteen Loops of Time”) left me far pickier by the end of the book than I was at the start. The book contains an impressive eclecticism not only in terms of the content of each story but in terms of the era the stories are from. In a way, some stories contain double the time travel, embodying the values of the time they were written (some were written as early as the 1800s) as well as providing the author’s tale of the future or past. Some stories feel dated, while far more speak to the power of the written word to transcend the eras between reader and writer. I recommend giving each story at least a page before moving on, as some will surprise you.
The book’s boast that it is “the largest and most definitive collection of time travel stories ever assembled” feels entirely justified. In addition to the 72 stories, the book also includes short essays on time travel between sections, ranging from tongue-in-cheek instructions to explorations of scientific theories around time travel. This anthology increased my appreciation for and knowledge of time travel literature and, more broadly, the science fiction genre overall dramatically (and I say this as someone who was exposed to Star Trek in utero). And in addition to being enriching (to borrow the diction of some 19th century authors), it is a fun, wild read, one that I will probably return to many times, doubling back on my own literary timeline.
If you like Doctor Who, science fiction, short stories, time travel, or any of the authors whose work is bound between these sprawling pages, I’d advise that you find yourself a copy of The Time Traveler’s Almanac.