If you could travel in time, would you visit the past or the future? I think I’d prefer the past. The future might be too frightening. I like time-travel stories, hence the appeal of this anthology of 13 stories dating from the ‘classic’ era of science fiction. Excepting one by H G Wells, the stories are not well-known today, so I was looking forward to discovering some ‘forgotten’ authors. There’s an introduction to the history of time-travel in fiction, plus mini introductions to each author. Although these were interesting, I didn’t think they were particularly well-written. There were some typos in the book too, suggesting that the stories needed to be edited more thoroughly.
‘The Clock That Went Backward’ by Edward Page Mitchell is a historical adventure into the siege of Leiden.
‘The Queer Story of Brownlow’s Newspaper’ by H G Wells has a paper from the future somehow delivered to a man who only has a scrap to prove it.
‘Omega’ by Amelia Reynolds Long is fascinating, with experiments sending people mentally through time, which allows them to physically transform into beings from the past and future.
‘The Book of Worlds’ by Miles J Bruer has somewhat incomprehensible science and maths, but is a warning about how looking into the bleak future can send you mad.
‘The Branches of Time’ by David R Daniels is a thought-provoking journey into the far future, an update on Wells’ The Time Machine.
‘The Reign of the Reptiles’ by Alan Connell is an excellent adventure story which engages with the evolution vs. creationism debate.
‘Friday the Nineteenth’ by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding is a well-written Groundhog Day-style comedy about a man and woman arranging to have an affair the next day, but which never happens because they keep reliving Friday. It predates Frederik Pohl’s ‘The Tunnel Under the World’ and is the earliest ‘time loop’ story I’ve read so far.
‘Look After the Strange Girl’ by J B Priestley focuses on the differences between pre- and post-World War generations but is very underwhelming.
‘Manna’ by Peter Phillips is an odd story about time-travelling monks who enjoy eating a new plant-based superfood from the future.
‘Tenth Time Around’ by J T McIntosh is a badly-dated romance in which an author keeps returning to the past to have another go at winning a woman’s heart.
‘The Shadow People’ by Arthur Sellings is intriguing and sad tale of a couple from the future, where the world has ended. It reminded me of Ray Bradbury’s stories.
‘Thirty-Seven Times’ by E C Tubb is about a bullying professor, supposedly dead, haunting his assistant. They keep meeting at different points in time.
‘Dial ‘O’ for Operator’ by Robert Presslie. A good concept, of a telephone booth transported to the future, with a woman in distress calling the switchboard for help. Anti-climax ending, however.
I enjoyed several of these stories very much, while others were mediocre. The publication years of the stories were rather uneven; 1 from the 1880s, 1 from the 1920s, 4 from the 1930s, 1 from the 1940s and 6 from the 1950s. I would have preferred a better range. Why include a single story from the 19th century? And were there no decent time-travel stories written during the forty years after that?
I’m not sure if I’d recommend this anthology or not. Certainly it introduced me to some authors I’d never previously heard of. The selection was hit and miss, though.
First published in 2019 by the British Library under their Science Fiction Classics imprint.