One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence (47North, 2019) audiobook read by Matthew Frow (Brilliance, 2019) Lawrence makes good use of the 1980s setting and constructs a well-paced, not-too-unbelievable plot around the speculative element (time travel). The book’s main appeal, though, is its quintet of idiosyncratic but down-to-earth characters. These are particularly well-served by Matthew Frow’s audiobook reading.
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig (Canongate, 2017); audiobook read by Mark Meadows (Clipper, 2017) The jumping about throughout history is all fine and dandy—Haig does setting well—but the protagonist verges on insipid and so the journey, though pleasant enough, becomes an unremarkable trundle towards an underwhelming destination (despite the female characters offering some spark).
Your Name dir. Makoto Shinkai (CoMix Wave Films, 2016) [Japanese; available dubbed or with subtitles] A sharply cut anime SF feature film, combining an eerie sense of mystery with poignant love story and abstruse time travel paradox (by way of body-swapping). Writer-director Makoto Shinkai makes clever use of minor characters and takes the story in unexpected directions.
The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer (Puffin, 2013); audiobook read by Maxwell Caulfield (Brilliance Audio, 2013) Colfer is a dab hand at characterisation—be it his protagonists, bit players or villains—and Caulfield’s narration gives distinct voice to each. The time travel story (lively if somewhat extemporised) sees teens on the run in both modern and Victorian London.
Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park (Thomas Nelson, 1980); audiobook read by Kate Hood (Bolinda, 2012) Ruth Park mixes time displacement with coming-of-age in a classic of Australian literature. 14-year-old Abigail Kirk, having fought with her mother, finds herself transported back to Sydney of 1873. Amidst the historical realism unfolds a beautifully told tale of hardship and self-discovery.
Night Watch by Terry Pratchett (Doubleday, 2002); audiobook read by Stephen Briggs (Isis, 2002) Night Watch is one of Pratchett’s least funny Discworld novels, in the best possible way. The gallows humour remains but the story — a poignant time travel paradox that sees Sam Vimes mentor his younger self through a bloody revolution — is more focussed.
Assassins from Tomorrow by Peter Heath (Lancer, 1967) Published four years after Kennedy’s assassination, this pulp novel takes what might have been an intriguing premise and treats it with sufficient blandness to turn slush rancid. What worked in Heath’s head leaves the reader no dignified option but to give up.
Alcatraz, Season 1 (Fox, 2012) Somewhat predictable (with stock characters; even the mysterious reveals were formulaic) but it would have been interesting to see if Alcatraz had a destination in mind for its well-acted then-and-now procession of fugitive, time-displaced inmates. Another cancelled programme carrying echoes of Brimstone.
Red Dwarf X by Doug Naylor (Dave, 2012) Although still somewhat an aging caricature of its earlier series, Red Dwarf X brings back the laughs through six cleverly constructed (if frivolous) episodes. ‘Lemons’, in which the Dwarfers misassemble a flat-pack anti-aging machine, consequently time-travelling and meeting Jesus, is a highlight.
Time and Time Again by Ben Elton (Bantam, 2014) An ex-soldier is sent back in time to prevent World War One. Elton’s focus is less on changing history, more on the contrast between today’s spoiled society and the boundless potential of yesteryear… until this perfectly paced paradox novel hits its straps.