The story begins at the turn of the previous century, with the young H. G. Wells writing and rewriting the fantastic tale that became his first book and an international sensation: The Time Machine. It was an era when a host of forces was converging to transmute the human understanding of time, some philosophical and some technological: the electric telegraph, the steam railroad, the discovery of buried civilizations, and the perfection of clocks. James Gleick tracks the evolution of time travel as an idea that becomes part of contemporary culture from Marcel Proust to Doctor Who, from Jorge Luis Borges to Woody Allen. He investigates the inevitable looping paradoxes and examines the porous boundary between pulp fiction and modern physics. Finally, he delves into a temporal shift that is unsettling our own moment: the instantaneous wired world, with its all-consuming present and vanishing future.
(With a color frontispiece and black-and-white illustrations throughout)"
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-07-04
- Reviewer: Staff
In a dazzling voyage through the concept of time, science chronicler Gleick (The Information) explains that, “like all words, time has boundaries, by which I don’t mean hard and impenetrable shells but porous edges,” challenging readers to consider the porousness of reality as depicted in philosophy, science, and literature. Beginning with an homage to H.G. Wells, whose 1895 novel The Time Machine influenced both writers and physicists, the book careens back and forth, “free to leap about in time.” The popularity of Wells’s story paved the way for a willingness to accept the paradoxes in the science of Einstein, Eddington, and Feynman, among others. Gleick explores the wealth of speculation that was set in motion when time became considered fluid. Can one go back in time and prevent one’s own birth? Does time travel create “forks” in the universe with alternate events? What does it mean to be outside of time? Gleick quotes from scientists and writers who have wrestled with these questions, and he explores the way novels, short stories, films, and television programs have handled eddies in time (his suggested reading list is priceless). Deeply philosophical and full of quirky humor—“The universe is like a river. It flows. (Or it doesn’t, if you’re Plato.)”—Gleick’s journey through the fourth dimension is a marvelous mind bender. Illus. (Oct.)