BEYOND TIME: CLASSIC TALES OF TIME UNWOUND / EDITOR: MIKE ASHLEY / PUBLISHER: BRITISH LIBRARY PUBLISHING / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
From the end of the world to life on Mars, from monsters to the threat of artificial intelligence, the British Library has brought us several collections of weird and wonderful sci-fi tales under the editing guise of Mike Ashley. Now the classic sci-fi collections turn their attention to time travel; the staple of science fiction starting with H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine through to more modern travels in programmes such as Doctor Who and classics such as Back to the Future.
The collection of eleven stories starts with Edward Page Mitchell’s The Clock That Went Backward, in which two cousins see the untold power of an eccentric great-aunt’s old clock. Elsewhere, we have Miles Breuer’s The Book of Worlds in which a professor is able to read the passage of time like a book at the cost of his own sanity; The Reign of The Reptiles by Allan Connell shows the twisted effect of time on the concept of human evolution. Additionally, literary giant J.B. Priestley’s contribution Look after The Strange Girl is included in which a man from the future must protect a women for reasons unknown. The collection concludes with Dial “O” for Operator by Robert Presslie, about a phone call made from the future.
Beyond Time is one of the more challenging collections that the British Library has released so far. As per usual, Mike Ashley brilliantly weaves together the collection with thorough commentaries about each story which provide background to each tale; whether it was fears of the future with the ever growing threat of nuclear war in the mid twentieth century, a satirical response to Tennessee’s Butler Act, which denied the teaching of evolution, or a response to the teachings of J.W. Dunne. However, some of tales are quite easily forgotten since popular culture has been saturated with time travel fiction for the last 150 years; the ones that stand up are the stories with more unconventional takes such as Priestley’s Strange Girl or Presslie’s Dial “O”. In short, despite a brilliant commentary on all the tales, some of the tales will not be everyone’s cup of tea.