BOOK REVIEW: 'The Time Traveler's Guide to Time Travel' a temporal treat
Time: the final (first?) frontier.
That temporal thread which double stitches us all to a one-way hem from the birth canal to the mortuary slab is not the sort of thing that seems to beg for a satirical guidebook treatment.
Fortunately, authors Phil Hornshaw and Nick Hurwitch had a nigh-inexhaustible supply of geeky fun from all frequencies of the science-to-fiction spectrum when they took on “So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel."
The book is set up as a sort of crash course for prospective time travelers, preparing them for the great difficulties they will encounter not only in establishing temporal dislocation but also in surviving for more than a few moments in hostile historical environments.
Tongue-in-cheek textbooks are a genre of their own these days, and readers of semi-scientific staples such as “America (The Book)” and “The Zombie Survival Guide” will know roughly what they’re getting into.
The guide cites Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Stephen Hawking with equal reverence as the likes of “Back to the Future’s” Doc Brown and “Doctor Who’s” Doctor. And a few characters who aren’t doctors, too.
The guide’s best moments come when it casually blends science with fiction, such as when quintessential quantum theories and perplexing paradoxes are distilled into more accessible nuggets of wisdom involving DeLoreans and quaint terms like “grandpappycide.”
While it covers substantial territory and some concepts legitimate both in current scientific discussion and potential to flummox, the guide maintains a breezy tone and is mercifully playful with the head-scratching quandaries that compose its main fare.
For maximum pleasure, it helps to be familiar with far-flung fiction such as “Alien,” “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” “Lord of the Rings,” “Army of Darkness,” “Indiana Jones,” “StarCraft,” “Warhammer 40,000,” “Firefly” and many others, all of which come up within the space of a few chapters.
Hornshaw and Hurwitch are very upfront about their intended audience, but in parts they lean too heavily on outside material.
The aforementioned inexhaustible well of references is a bit bloated on the popular sci-fi side, filling chapters on the robot apocalypse and dawn of interstellar travel with exhaustive lists of characters, tropes and concepts lifted — clearly with love — from all kinds of places. It becomes, well, exhausting.
While the bizarre consequences of time travel can make logic a bit fuzzy, the book’s descriptions of various eras become downright woolly in parts, using some sci-fi bits at their face value while shrugging off others.
It seems the eponymous molten-metal robot from “Terminator 2” is a reasonable element to insert into a more generic robot uprising, whereas Klingon is just a pejorative term for an alien species that looks a lot like Klingons from “Star Trek,” but they get mad if you call them that.
I don’t know; I’m not a time traveler.
Despite a few sections wherein pop culture reigns overly supreme, “So You Created a Wormhole” is a worthwhile book from two young authors who have clearly demonstrated their potential.
It competently uses a head-spinningly complex concept as a vehicle for a humorous and thought-provoking ride, which readers don’t have to be total geeks to enjoy, though it does help.
Don’t leave your epoch without it.