The Trouble with Time Travel (ed. by Catherine Valenti, Laurie Gienapp)

The Trouble with Time Travel is a short story collection edited by Catherine Valenti and Laurie Gienapp.
Finished on: 6.7.2021
[I won this book in a LibraryThing Early Reviewer give-away.]

I like time travel stories, so this anthology sounded very nice. As usual with anthologies, the quality between stories varies a little, though overall I’d say that it is pretty good, albeit not great, here. Definitely good enough to check it out – you’ll probably finde one or the other story you like here.

The book cover showing a man with a walking stick walking across a cloud towards a huge clock. Clouds, man and clock are all floating in the universe.

Time Trial (Liam Hogan)

Professor Winklebaum is working on his time machine when he suddenly finds himself in front of time court, accused of a crime he didn’t commit yet.

Time Trial is fun and would actually fit nicely with the Loki series in its idea (not necessarily the execution that is quite different). It’s an enjoyable start to the collection, albeit not a story that will burn itself into my memory.

Round Trip (Catherine Valenti)

Mitch wanted to quickly visit his daughter 30 years in the future and then return. But when he arrives at her door, he realizes that things didn’t work out that way.

Round Trip is caught a little in an exposition dialogue spiral and would have maybe profited from being a little longer and having things actually happen instead of characters telling us about how they happen. But it is nice to read.

A Totally Original Idea (L.L. Lamando)

Larry has had it with Nazis and how they are everywhere. So he decides to travel back in time and kill Hitler. When he arrives he realizes he is not the only one who had that idea.

A Totally Original Idea is a story with a rather unlikeable protagonist that still works because it has a bit of a sardonic undertone. I liked it.

How to Save a Ghost (V.A. Vazquez)

Sutton MIlls is a ghost hunter, renting a supposedly haunted AirBnB. To her surprise, she not only sees the ghost, but can actually interact with him.

This story was very cute and romantic, and I very much liked the idea behind it. Definitely a favorite of mine from the collection.

Wink (LC Burri)

Carl has always been able to wink to jump a little bit back in time. He has always kept this ability a secret, but after he tells his girlfriend Angie about it, things shift between them.

Wink felt very… male to me in its entire perspective, and in a pretty annoying way. And by that I don’t just mean that it was written from Carl’s perspective, but especially the way he talks about Angie and generally Angie’s development in the story. I did not care for it.

Temporally Out of Service (Jason E. Maddux)

During his observation of a woman, a private eye gets on an elevator in a hotel that does more than just transport him a couple of floors – and it’s the only way he can do what he was tasked with.

The story was nice enough, but I couldn’t really get warm with it. On the one hand, private detective stories are not so much my thing, and on the other hand there is this angle that the woman becomes happier once she starts collecting recipes which also rubs me the wrong way.

I Only Time-Travel During School Hours (Desmond Warzel)

Two childhood friends use their time machine to visit their old haunts. To not run into themselves, they only do so during school hours. But when they do have an almost-encounter, old sadnesses come to the forefront.

This is a very nostalgic story, a little sad, and very much convinced that the past was somehow better. Though I don’t agree with the latter, I liked the story and the mood it sets.

Early Balloting (Brian K. Lowe)

Bob gets the coveted call that he won a Nebula Award. Or rather that he will have won it in the future, but only if he accepts it.

This one is an unusual one. I thought the idea generally interesting, until it veers away from the time aspect to an “everybody wins” thing that seems to ridicule criticism of meritocracy – when meritocracy absolutely deserves to be criticize. Without that part, I think I would have liked the story a lot more.

Got Time (Lee Rutty)

Guy gets a visit from his future self who promises to show him how he can turn his entire life around with the help of a time machine. But it’s a little tricky.

The story is entertaining and well-paced. Though I can’t say that I absolutely loved it, it’s probably among the better stories in the collection.

Chronead (Nyki Blatchley)

Corinna is a nymph. A nymph of time, to be exact. And she gives Alex the chance to travel in time. He chooses to go to meet Cleopatra.

This story, too, was very male. The beautiful nymph who wants the dude just because the story demands she want him. The dude who goes to save another beautiful, powerful woman who had basically given up before he came along. Not my thing.

Coming Back for a Drink (Jonathon Mast)

A bar that draws time travelers sees a new patron – a young girl who claims to be the owner’s younger self. The owner suspects, though, that she is just saying that to get a drink despite being underage.

Coming Back for a Drink was another favorite in this collection for me. It builds from a nice idea to get honestly emotional, and still has a sense of humor. Very sweet.

Peek-A-Boo (Dianna Duncan)

Sam was nominated for an employee award, but he is too nervous to accept it. To calm his fears, his wife Sheryl suggests that he could visit Peek-A-Boo – they offer a glimpse into the future.

This story is almost entirely dialogue and packs pretty much everything in those dialogues – from inner voices to exposition. It’s not a style I grew warm with, although the idea from the story was nice.

Subtle Ways Each Time (Y.M. Pang)

After they break up, she goes on to have a big career, but he can’t stop thinking about her. Inventing a time machine, he hopes that he can win her back.

This story has beautiful, a little more lyrical language, which I liked, but I found the messages of the story (love or career, love or the end of the world, the fate of the world depends on one single person) a little troubling.

Pair O’Dons (Templeton Moss)

Donny just broke up with his girlfriend Amanda when he is accosted by his future self, who is just popping by without being able to give any info about the future. Except he does, in a way.

Pair O’Dons is fun, light and entertaining. It’s not the greatest story ever told, but I enjoyed it.

Reaching Up, Reaching Back (Holly Schofield)

Content Note: domestic violence

She waits until Amanda has killed Ed in self-defense. Then, using her knowledge of the future, she steps in and makes sure that Amanda won’t be convicted for the murder.

This story is nice, maybe a little too neat, but I liked it, although I didn’t connect very deeply with it.

The Unseen Traveler (R.J. Meldrum)

George, Percy and William have been friends for ever, when George announces that he wants to create a time-machine, inspired by H.G. Wells. But time travel can have more than one unintended consequence.

I liked that we got a historical setting for time travel in this one, and there is a certain timeliness to this story now in 2021 (and 2020). I also appreciated the open ending to this one. Definitely one of the stronger stories in the collection.

The Waiting Room (Frank Roger)

Content Note: suicide

Dr. Gallagher makes the unsettling experience of having one of his patients return to his practice. This has never happened before and he needs to figure out what happened.

I liked this story that plays with time travel in more than one ways, but doesn’t overdo it. Very entertaining.

Show Me the Future (Katie Kent)

Ever since Megan was 13, she knew that she could time travel and has always made sure to make the right decisions. But by the time she met her husband Tim, she had grown weary of knowing things beforehand. When she tells her husband about it, though, he is intrigued and wants to see the future, too. But knowledge isn’t always bliss.

This story made me want to feel for a relationship that became instantly problematic for me when Tim kept pressuring Megan. That meant that the story fell a little flat for me.

The Travel Agency (Laurie Axinn Gienapp)

Daphne hasn’t been working long for The Travel Agency, but she has already learned that their work isn’t normal travel agency work. Her colleague Henry is promising a more thorough training, but there’s something he has to deal with first.

I have a feeling that I didn’t quite get all that was going on in this story – the different factions and what the Travel Agency is actually doing, but I guess there is something here about really bad old-fashioned hiring practices at the very least.

The Cleanup Crew (Jesse Bethea)

As Deputy Sheriff, Margo is called to check out a strange man standing in a field with an umbrella. That man is actually waiting for her – together with his colleagues, he has something to tell her.

This one felt a bit different from the rest of the stories, considering yet another angle – not the perspective of the time traveler themself, but rather somebody who was “time traveld on”. It was a fine finish for the collection that I enjoyed.

Summarizing: If you like time travel stories, why not go for it?!

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