Time Travel: A History - James Gleick

Staff Pick

Like Stephen Hawking, “one of those physicists who know that time travel is impossible but also know it’s fun to talk about,” James Gleick, author of Chaos and The Information, plays with a century’s worth of ideas about time, from its secret identity as the fourth dimension to alternative sequences for past-present-future, to the obsolescence of the future itself in the digital age. His point of departure for this buoyant yet substantial “history” of Time Travel (Pantheon, $26.95), a phenomenon that hasn’t quite happened yet, is H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine, published in 1895, which marked the divide between old notions of cyclical time and the modern sense of time as an inexorable advance. Until the twentieth century, there were no time zones, no daylight saving time, no centennial celebrations. Utopias and dystopias were distant lands, not visions of the future. Gleick lays out the technological and scientific contributions to this new concept of time as well as examining what the changes meant for age-old questions about free will and the nature of consciousness. But “the rules of time travel have been written not by scientists but by storytellers,” and Gleick focuses on the literature of time, dipping into works by Wells’s contemporary, Proust, and their long line of descendants such as Asimov, Gibson, Calvino, Stoppard, and Wallace. Gleick has a sharp eye for wit, puzzles, and the telling paradox; if you don’t already have a taste for science fiction, his sampler will send you after more of this “roisterous temporal complexity.”

Time Travel: A History By James Gleick Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307908797
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Pantheon - September 27th, 2016

Time Travel: A History By James Gleick Cover Image
ISBN: 9780804168922
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - September 5th, 2017