Tag Archives: time travel

R = Revisionism

It turns out that I am a revisionist. I rewrite history, correcting the standard view, particularly the standard view of the history of the interpretation of the Bible. Generally I’m all about remembering that women also read, interpreted, and wrote about the Bible. Women also did theology, wrote about it, and their books were published.

Not so long ago, I used the word “revisionist” as a derogatory term for some historical fiction, those that had a character that seemed to reflect twenty-first century views rather than those of the time period where they lived. I need a new word for that, because I think that reading our times back into history is a trap that anyone revisioning the past can fall into. It seems legitimate to revisit our understanding of history as we look at the data differently, as we find new data, and as we see ways earlier historiography was biased. It does not, however, seem legitimate to impose new or late concepts backward in time. It is difficult to avoid this as we read old texts from our present with our categories, with our own understandings of the way the world works. It seems, however, that attempting to avoid imposing our view of the world upon old texts is a key discipline in reading old books well. I refer you to C.S. Lewis The Discarded Image for some thoughts on reading medieval texts well.

In other revisionist news, I’ve just finished this book:


It is wonderful. Quantum Theory. Time Travel. Changing History. Ridiculous Acronyms. What more could you want? And Neal Stephenson. Seriously. Go get the book. Have fun.

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Nine (fiction) books on my to be read pile

True Confessions: I went to a bookshop today. Is anyone surprised? I was. I wasn’t really planning on it, but it turns out the new Book City Bloor West is open. I am so happy there are books in the ‘hood again, I went in and bought books. The three books I bought have been added to my growing To Be Read Pile. Here are 9 randomly grabbed books from my fiction to be read pile. The first three I bought today, the others I acquired as noted.

  1. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. Why have I not noticed this book before? Possibly people have pointed it out to me but I couldn’t see it for various reasons.
  2. Divergent by Veronica Roth. Now A Major Motion Picture! But I’ve also been intrigued by what I’ve heard about this YA dystopia. My friend the Library Page is a fan.
  3. Longbourn by Jo Baker. My Orthodox Colleague is muttering about the pollution of the shades of Pemberley again, but I can’t help it. It is Austen FanFic.
  4. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood. I got this for Christmas but Whim has not taken me to this book quite yet. I’ll get there soon. Almost there. (I’ve just finished reading The Pleasures of Reading in An Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs, who talks about reading Serendipty and Whim. These things, he argues, are vital to the well-rounded reading life.)
  5. Millenium by John Varley. A Time Travel Thriller! according to the cover. I recently re-read a Varley book (Red Thunder) and enjoyed it so much I went Varley-hunting in several used bookshops. I scored a bunch. This is one of them.
  6. The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe. Lent to me by 1Mom a while ago, but Whim has not yet encouraged me to open the cover.
  7. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. The ambitious choice. I picked this mass market seventies edition up at one of my local used bookshops. The owner and I had a little chat about whether it was actually a readable book or not. We both agreed that the mass market format made it less formidable looking.
  8. Domino by Ross King. I’ve read King before and enjoyed his historical fiction. I found this used somewhere, so I picked it up.
  9. Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom. I really like Sansom’s murder mysteries set in the reign of Henry VIII. This is not so much set in the reign of Henry VIII, but I thought I’d give Sansom’s other work a try as well.

What is on your to be read pile?


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Sunday Excursions

This is not an excursus, but an excursion, a small trip around a few old books I read during my two months of silence. It does not follow the numerical sequence which I picked up with my Four Reasons post of yesterday, and which I’ll continue tomorrow, in the tradition of other Sunday posts this year so far.

Time Travel: Of course one of my reasons for reading older books is time travel. I travel to a different age, whether or not the author sets the book in his or her present, it is the past now. At times the author sets the book in some imagined future, but that is still time travel of a sort. I read one book set in the author’s future during my little blog break: Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke. C.S. Lewis though very highly of this book when it first came out. I think it was mentioned in one of his letters. Lewis’s mention of Childhood’s End was the reason I picked the book up in the first place. It is certainly an interesting take on the visitation by UFOs/aliens story. If you haven’t read it and enjoy SciFi, I’d recommend it. It is vaguely Buddhist just as Orson Scott Card’s books tend to be rather Mormon.

Russia: I’ve now read two Russian Novels, both by Tolstoy. I should probably branch out and try some other Russian Author as well. Dostoevsky might be next. I did not revisit War and Peace, rather I read Resurrection. I began this book during Holy Week, and found it appropriate reading for the season. It is very good, and, I think, pretty accessible for Tolstoy. It is his last novel, first published in 1899. It gave me a different view of pre-revolutionary Russia.

England: Four books took me to England, two to the early 19th century, and two to the first half of the 20th century. Northanger Abbey, the Jane Austen I hadn’t read before, is quite amusing. Austen sends up gothic novels very well. Great Expectations is the first Dickens novel I’ve read. I have read A Christmas Carol, but it is better called a novella I think, and I know the stories of A Tale of Two Cities and Oliver Twist, but have never read the books. I quite enjoyed Great Expectations considering that I had low expectations as I thought that possibly Dickens has been over-hyped. I’m not as convinced of the over-hyped opinion as I once was. I’ve more Dickens on the shelf for this year, so we’ll see what comes of those. Both the Dickens and Austen books are set in the early part of the 19th century. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh is set in the second World War, but recollections of the narrator give his story through the 20s and 30s as well. This has an interesting theological twist or two in it, and I’d like to hear what YOU think of the ending. Finally, His Last Bow by Arthur Conan Doyle brings Sherlock Holmes into the 20th century in a collection of short stories that are not entirely sequential, but include a story set during the first World War.

New England: Finally, I listened to Little Women by Louisa May Alcott on audio book. I still think that this is a rather moralistic/moralizing book that is not very theologically sound. It was interesting hearing it read, as I couldn’t skip bits as I tend to do when re-reading. I heard a lot more foreshadowing of who the boy next door would end up with than I’d noticed when reading the book.

Those are some of the places I’ve gone while reading, how about you?



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W is for Women!

Of course, you knew that — this whole alphabet is about women writers. Which Woman? you may well ask. Well, let me tell you.

Wwomenis for Willis, Connie Willis.

Who? Yes, that’s the point! A woman who you haven’t heard much about. Ok, some of you out there know perfectly well who Connie Willis is, but I bet its only a few. The Constant Reader, the Norwegian, and — I’m not sure if there’s anyone else. Oh maybe the Vicar’s Wife out there in Alberta.

Connie Willis writes great time travel books and other speculative fiction. I particularly recommend To Say Nothing of the Dog, and Doomsday Book. Because the books are time travel, they are not your normal science fiction — yet the time travellers start in the future, but not any future I’ve imagined. I’m not sure what disaster occurred to make Willis’s Oxford the way it is, but that is part of the fun — looking for clues and thinking about what happened between now and that imagined future.

This is also a reminder of International Women’s Day! Why do you think I waited to write my W entry? Happy IWD and happy time change.


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N the Nay-sayer

N is a bit negative really. Possibly a nihilist. Nobody & nothing: both are aspects of N.

N with mermaidis for Niffenegger, Audrey Niffenegger. Niffenegger has written two novels: The Time Traveler’s Wife infamous book, made into a movie, book club favourite. Of course I like TTW, it is about time travel. I like time travel. It is the coolest thing in books. But I really like Niffenegger’s second novel. That one really got in my head. Her Fearful Symmetry is nothing like anything else you’ll read. It sneaks up on you and then the ending just — well I can’t even describe it. I haven’t had the opportunity to talk with many people about HFS because hardly anyone has read it. Everyone read TTW and loved the tragic romance, but HFS I haven’t heard much about. I thought it the stronger of the two books, but I could be wrong.

Have you read Niffenegger’s other novel, HFS? Tell me what you think.

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Outlandish, Thursday Next, and Garage Sale Sales

I finished Outlander and can only recommend that you run away if you ever see the book anywhere around you. Waste. Of. Time. I got to the end, threw the book down and (mentally) yelled YOU MUST BE JOKING! No plot, no character development, little discussion or thought on the issues of time travel, little thought at all, and some superficial theology pitched in at the end. Blech. Must find something to read to take the taste out of my brain. Go see the reviews on goodreads for more, I can’t really add to the 1/2-star reviews there. They say it all, and I don’t want to think about it any more. Take all the gushing 5-star reviews with a large handful of salt.

In happier news, I’ve got a Thursday Next book on my iPad from the library, One of Our Thursdays is Missing. Yay for Jasper Fforde and Thursday Next! (What!?!?! You’ve never heard of Jasper Fforde and Thursday Next?? Get to the library now.) I’m irritated by the fact that the EPUB copy of OOOTIM has the map of Fiction Island sideways, then when you turn the iPad to see the map not sideways, the image rotates. Another eBook irritant. Fortunately the fantastic Mr. Fforde has the map on his website. I like maps in books a lot. I’ve talked about that before around here.

I’m still thinking about the lack of book sales at the garage sale on Saturday. Some of the non-fiction went quite quickly, including a book about how everything works. The mother of a small boy picked that up, along with a baseball glove for said small boy. Some of the mysteries went, but they didn’t go as quickly as I’d hoped. Everyone commented on the number of Ian Rankin books, but there were just as many of other authors. The sale I enjoyed making the most was to a 30ish guy who bought my 2 Gordon Korman books because he read them when he was younger. It was totally a nostalgia buy, and something I wasn’t really expecting. I did see other people pick up books, then put them down as though they shouldn’t buy books though they wanted to. Why not? What’s wrong with buying books, especially when they are $1.00 or less? Oh well, some books found new homes.

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Garage Sale Tales & Other Monday Musings

I didn’t sell as many books as I hoped at the garage sale. But I’m down 3+ boxes, which is better than being down none at all. It wasn’t as hard to sell the books and other things as I thought it would be — though I must admit to pricing some glasses high when I didn’t want them to go. The item I really wanted to get rid of didn’t sell. It is a decorative plate that some of my friends have described as evil because it is so very ugly and tasteless. But this is a blog about reading books, not about kitschy things I’ve been given and can’t get rid of.

Because of the sale and the Great Apartment Hunt I’ve not been doing as much reading as usual. I finished 1Q84 last night, and, to my horror, found it was the first book I’d actually finished in September. Have you read 1Q84? You should. It is thick and intimidating, but really interesting. There are lots of references to other books in it, 1984 of course, but others as well. One of the main characters is a writer and he reads a lot.

I’ve not quite finished Outlander which I mentioned in my last Current Reading post. I cannot recommend the book at all. It has no apparent plot and the characters rush around being punished, being tortured, or having sex. That is all that happens. There are no interesting musings about time travel. The book is pointless, unless you want to read about people being punished, tortured and etc. The interesting bits about the time and how to live and survive are all avoided. The time traveller is not shocked by all the injuries that result from the punishment and torture because she was a nurse in a field hospital in WW2. The plot appeared to be about Claire (the time traveller) getting back to her own time, but then that changed, and now I’m not sure where it is all going. So not recommended at all. How did this become a NYTimes bestseller and have a series that followed? Most odd.

How is your reading going for the month of change that is September?

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Time Travel

I had an interesting discussion about time travel this week with my new friend the classics scholar. We talked about interesting time travel books we’ve read, and whether time travel is desirable let alone possible. I am still reading Outlander and this began our discussion of the thing.

The classics scholar thought, based upon her knowledge of Roman society and technology, that a Roman dropped into the 21st century would be able to get by. Not too much has changed in terms of urban infrastructure. The Romans invented concrete. Possibly the Roman would be surprised by how much we use concrete. Of course metal-working technology has improved and the combination of metal and concrete leads to skyscrapers that were not achieved in Roman times, but a Roman engineer would figure it out pretty quickly. Electricity might baffle. But even tablets were something Romans used, we just have ways of linking tablets that they didn’t have.

I suggested that it might be much more difficult for a person from the twenty-first century to be dropped in ancient Rome. I think I’ve said in a previous post in this blog that many books that involve time travel fail to give a sense of the past as alien, as a foreign country. Crichton’s Timeline does it best in books I’ve read so far. The classics scholar mentioned a story about a collector who sent a time traveller to collect extinct animals — and what they thought were small cuddly animals turned out to be dangerous beasts. That sounds like an interesting book, but she couldn’t remember the title/author details. Anyone got a clue on that?

What are your theories on time travel? I’m not sure that going back is either possible or desirable, though I think it would be interesting. Going forward faster? Maybe. But then could you get back? That is the key question of A Scientific Romance by Ronald Wright, and you should all go and read that if you haven’t yet.


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Currently Reading…

I’ve got two novels on the go as well as my theological reading and a book about prayer. Lets start with the novels.

1. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. This is really good. You should probably read it despite its intimidating size and odd title. Notice that it is One Q 84. I kept trying the letter I in searching for it instead of the number 1. The world has shifted and so one of the characters decides to rename the year 1Q84 instead of 1984. Enough said.

2. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I’ve never read Gabaldon before, and wanted to start with the first book. I’ve a thing about time travel, so the premise was interesting to me. I’m not impressed, though, with errors of historical fact that appear in the first few pages of the book. The book’s present is Scotland, 1945, around the vernal equinox. The heroine is an army nurse who is just back from the war, and the rationing has just been lifted. Erm, the war in Europe didn’t end until May of 1945. People wouldn’t have been released from armed forces service when the book is set. Rationing in the UK didn’t completely end until the early 50s. Now it may be that Gabaldon is writing about an alternate history in a slighty different world, but lets make that obvious instead of shifting easily verified facts about a major event in the main character’s life.

3. The New Testament and the People of God by N.T. Wright. Methodology and history and theology all together. I’m enjoying this very much. Wright is a good writer, who makes his points clearly. This is a virtue not often found in academic writing on the New Testament, or, for that matter, in any theological discipline.

4. Opening to God by David Benner. The subtitle includes the word Prayer and the phrase lectio divina and that subtitle is what actually caught my eye. The book is the print version of a Lenten series given in Victoria, BC a few years ago. This is also a good book. One cannot speed-read it, and that is appropriate, given that lectio divina is by definition meditative reading.

What are you reading?


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This week it is a Saturday List: Top SciFi

In the summer, NPR put out a list of the top 100 Science Fiction books. Note that some of the items are actually SciFi series. I’ve done a quick count and I’ve read 23 items on the list. I’ve heard of many of the books, and I own quite a few that I haven’t read just yet. I’ve also started into a series or two that I didn’t count as I am not yet finished.

I’m slightly bemused by the inclusion of The Time Traveller’s Wife on this list, though time travel is generally part of the SciFi genre. I’m also disappointed that none of Guy Gavriel Kay’s works made the top 100. Possibly he isn’t well known enough in the USA?

Happy browsing and deciding which SFF book to read next. Or possibly to try first!


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