Transwarp Tuesday! Beyond Time edited by Mike Ashley

The past is the future…

My heart sank a little when I started this collection of thirteen stories on the theme of time travel. Like Captain Janeway of the USS Voyager, time paradoxes tend to give me a headache, and the first couple of stories did nothing to relieve my anxiety, since both were rather mediocre. But they were followed by a little run of four star stories and then boom! The five star stories started coming thick and fast! These collections are always arranged more or less in chronological order and I suspect that when the early ones were written, the idea of time travel itself was so original that the writers didn’t feel the need to do much with it. By the time of the later stories, though, the writers were vying to give an original direction to a well-worn path, so there’s much more diversity in how they use the theme.

There’s the usual mix of well-known and lesser known authors, although since I’m not well read in science fiction all but three of them – HG Wells, Elizabeth Sanxay Holding and JB Priestley – were unknown names to me. Some of the stories are mildly humorous, some tend more towards horror. There’s less variation in length than in some collections, with most of the stories coming in around twenty to thirty pages, which I always find to be a great length for pre-bedtime reading.

Here’s a flavour of a few of the ones I enjoyed most:

Friday the Nineteenth by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding – a story that is almost as much horror and almost as much psychological crime as it is science fiction. A husband wants to embark on an affair with his friend’s wife and she’s not unwilling. But somehow the day keeps repeating and only they are aware of it. Caught in a loop, they keep making the same assignation but never get to the point of keeping it, and we see how their guilt and selfishness begins to change how they feel. It’s very well told and manages to pack in a lot of suspense for such a short space.

Look After the Strange Girl by JB Priestley – a man slips back in time to an evening in 1902 and finds himself at a big party in the house which, in the present, houses the school he runs. There he meets a woman who seems to have been caught in the same time slip. It has elements of the tragedy of war, as the man knows the future of some of the people of the house, some of whom will die in France. It also gives a little comparison of the attitudes and habits of Edwardian women to modern women. Very well done, strange and mildly thought-provoking – quite a literary story.

Manna by Peter Phillips – this is a great story about two ghosts who were once monks and are doomed to haunt their old priory, which has now turned into a factory for making ‘Miracle Meal’ – a kind of food substance that is nutritionally perfect and tastes so wonderful it can be eaten for every meal. Remembering the hunger of their own time, they find a way to transport cans back to the 12th century, where this is seen as a real miracle. It’s well written, interesting and very amusing – the two mismatched ghosts themselves are a lot of fun.

Dial “0” for Operator by Robert Presslie – the last story in the book and a great one to finish with. An operator in the telephone exchange takes a call from a woman in distress. She tells him she’s in a phone box and there’s something outside – a kind of dark blob – that’s trying to get in. He promptly sends the police but when they get there the box is empty. However, the woman is still on the line and begs the operator not to hang up. The tension is great in this as gradually the operator realises the woman is speaking from a different time and there’s nothing he can do to help her except talk…

So from an uninspiring beginning this turned into a great collection, leaving me with a whole raft of new-to-me authors to investigate. Great stuff!

Little Green Men Rating:  :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, the British Library.

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26 thoughts on “Transwarp Tuesday! Beyond Time edited by Mike Ashley

  1. I’m glad your reading adventure ended well. At least you kept reading. Perhaps you traveled back in time somehow and told your past self to keep reading–that the book would get better. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad to hear you found so many of the stories to your liking, FictionFan. The whole time travel thing isn’t usually my cuppa, although I’ve read a few stories where it’s done very, very well. So I can see how you’d be a little unsure about this collection at first. There’s an interesting selection of authors there, too. I like it that there’s a variety; to me, it adds to a collection if there’s some diversity

    Liked by 1 person

    • The early ones have a tendency to speculate on how the world ends, and a) they’re always depressing and b) I kinda feel you don’t have to time travel to watch that at the moment… 😉 The later ones were much more to my taste, and used the basic premise in all kinds of ways. I hope they keep going with these anthologies – they’re great for introducing the reader to new authors…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Haha – it’s always better with an anthology if it starts out mediocre and then improves rather than the other way round! I’m so fickle I think I tend to rate depending on how much I enjoyed the last story… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds like a great book, I’m always a little apprehensive when it comes to a collection because I think it’s inevitable that I won’t enjoy all the stories and that may affect my overall enjoyment but I’m intrigued by this one! Great review 🙂


      • I finished this last night and thought it was excellent. There were very few that I found a little slow. I’ll agree the four you highlighted were among the best! The one about the Age of the Reptiles was pretty creepy, too. I couldn’t believe the guy wanted to go back there once he made it out!

        Liked by 1 person

        • So glad you enjoyed it too! I think Mike Ashley is great at selecting stories – he always seems to get a better ration of goodies to baddies than often happens in anthologies. Haha, yes, but where would fiction be if fictional characters didn’t behave like idiots… 😉

          Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve really been enjoying them and this one I think turned out to be my favourite of them so far. They do tend to be variable but there have been enough gems in each collection to make them well worthwhile… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The stories you summarized all sound really good, I can see why you liked this one. I especially like the sounds of the first one with the people having an affair that’s replayed over and over-they sort of get what’s coming to them, don’t they? A bit like groundhog day, but spicier haha

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