Welcome to Shelf Care, where I review three books related by a theme. These aren’t necessarily the latest releases, but are hopefully books you can’t believe you missed.
On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again
-Willie Nelson, On the Road Again
This column’s theme: Road Trip!
As summer wraps up, there’s still time to get on the road and drive to someplace you’ve never seen before, but failing that, any of these three books will take you somewhere, or somewhen else…
So if you like
- Road trips
- The idea of a time traveler’s convention
- Robert Heinlien’s short story By His Bootstraps
- Shout outs to the New Hampshire Seacoast
You might like
Eli Teague has to join up with a time traveling woman to find a lost artifact before the forces trying to kill the both of them get to it first.
Eli’s eyes jumped back up to the banner, and the date below it.
JULY 20, 1960
He walked back to Harry. “Where are we?”
“We’re about a mile and half from the Nevada border.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
“Then say what you mean, Mr. Teague. No sense pussyfooting about it.”
He stared at her. Then at the Lancer. “Did we…are we in 1960?”
“Mid-1960s,” she said. “Possibly early 1966, but I don’t think so.”
“You don’t think so?”
Eli smelled the air again. Looked back at the papers. “How?”
She sighed and closed the trunk. “That question covers a great deal of ground.”
“We traveled through time?”
“Through history, yes.”
“That’s a bit of a brain teaser, isn’t it?”
“Shouldn’t…shouldn’t there have been a flash of light or a tunnel or a…I don’t know, something?”
“Do you recall the tires skidding as we approached town?”
“That was it. That was when we slipped back.”
“How?” he asked again.
“ ‘How’ will take a little more to explain.”
“Can you just give me a simple version?”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Teague, but no. This may be difficult to believe, but the mechanisms of traveling through history defy simple explanation.”
The summary describes more of the plot than I’d like, as the start of the book is a bit of a slow burn. However, this take on the American road trip is really well thought out, addressing issues like:
- What’s the least conspicuous kind of car for a time traveler to drive?
- Where do you get gas in 1860?
- How do you hunt down a time traveler,
- …and where would they hang out?
Commenting on the book, Clines said he wondered why nobody had tried to do Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere in the Americas, and then realized the difference was London was defined by it’s long enduring nature and America is defined by it’s expansion over distance: the manifest destiny of westward expansion, and that feel subtly permeates the story. Paradox Bound is a great summer read, whether you’re hitting the road or not.
Or if you like
- The idea of a road that is a time machine
- The odd alternate reality showing up
- Random assassination attempts
You might like
Roadmarks, by Roger Zelazny
Once on the road, a traveler can drive through time, taking exits to anywhen and creating off ramps to histories that should have existed. Red Dorakeen has been on the road for as long as he can remember, but that may end soon as a series of assassins are sent to kill him.
“What is it, Adolph?” he hollered. “Still looking for the place where you won?”
“Listen, Red,” said the other. “I didn’t know whether to tell you this or not, because I couldn’t make up my mind whether I hated you more than I felt I owed you. But then, I could not decide whether the information would be harmful or useful to you. So I guess it all balances out. I am going to tell you. I was way the hell down the Road earlier, and I saw it happen at the exit marked with the blue ziggurat—”
“The blue ziggurat?”
“The blue ziggurat. I saw you turn over going off there. I saw your truck burn.”
Zelazny’s writing style is minimalist, supplying enough details to keep the plot moving along briskly, and is reminiscent of hard-boiled detective novels. It makes Roadmarks a quick, entertaining read, but may leave the reader wishing parts of the story were embellished more. However, it is an interesting mix of science fiction and fantasy that’s held up well since I’d first read it as a kid. Fans of Zelazny would definitely find it worth the read. It doesn’t look like it’s been sold as an e-book, but an electronic copy is available at the Internet Archive here
Or if you like
- The movie Big Trouble In Little China
- Adventure serials
- Driving planet to planet
You might like
The Skyway Trilogy, by John DeChancie
The Skyway portal on Pluto introduced humanity to a road system that connected planets all over the galaxy, but going through a one-way portal doesn’t guarantee that there is a way back. When word gets out that trucker Jake McGraw has found a map to the whole thing he has to dodge pursuers both human and alien who will stop at nothing to get it. Further complicating this is the fact that he doesn’t have the map, but maybe a future time traveling version of him does…
“Seems like we done did us a Timer, son,” Sam whispered in my ear over the hush circuit. “Or I should say, we’re going to do one.”
“Yeah,” I mumbled. I was still thinking. A paradox presents you with few options ― or an infinity of them if you look at it another way. Any way I looked at it, I didn’t like it.
This is a fairly light read, with some interesting ideas and well-explored concepts. The idea of a time loop is teased right up front, but doesn’t resolve until the end of the series. Starrigger is the strongest book of the three in setting up how the Skyway works and getting things going. Red Limit Freeway suffers some from the middle book problem, in that it didn’t seem to advance the plot much, and then Paradox Alley answers the questions and ties up the loose ends nicely. The trilogy reads as one long book, and the adventure serial format means there are chapters, even though they are entertaining, that could be just edited out without really affecting anything. When I read these books as a teenager, I didn’t really notice that, but older, crankier me did. So, as is generally the case with anything road related, your mileage may vary.
So, what other books should be on this list? Leave your thoughts in the comments, and stay tuned for my next column where the theme will be: Fallen Angels.