“Detours in Time” by Pamela Schloesser Canepa

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“Back to the Future” is one of my favorite movies of all time, and this book had various similarities. Who isn’t fascinated with the concept of time travel and its various paradoxes? The characters in this story were vivid and engaging, a middle-aged professor named Milt and his younger female friend, Tabitha, whose nickname is Pinkie. Their time base is 1997. and they venture forward to 2047, and then back to 2018 due to a mishap while they were time-shifting. While it was supposed to be mostly a pleasure trip of exploration, much as we would visit a foreign country, naturally it turns into more.

Milt’s curiosity as a scientist drives him to unearth information about his future as well as Pinkie’s, which has a strong impact on his outlook and motivation. The view of the future was well-done, with interesting political and scientific developments that influenced the popular culture, including a second civil war which has once again divided the USA. These were all presented in a credible manner which showed the author’s great imagination and research skills regarding such things as body modification and hybridization. The growing feelings and budding  romance between the main characters as their friendship evolves gave additional depth and interest to the story.

The author did not belabor the scientific aspects of time travel or why it might be possible, so it wasn’t what I would consider “hard” sci-fi. In this story time travel wasn’t available to everyone, only them, much like it was in “Back to the Future”, since Milt was the one who initially discovered it. The expected paradoxes come into play, as well as moral and legal implications.

I really liked the author’s straight-forward, family-friendly style, which moved along smoothly with a steady stream of suspense, action, and dialog. Additional plot twists toward the end set the stage for a sequel, which should be equally engaging. I look forward to what lies ahead for Milt and Pinkie as they seek to untangle the twisted web of time that results from their adventures.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

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Review of “Stealing Time” by K.J. Waters

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I have three fairly basic criteria that will earn a book an instant 5-star review: It makes me laugh, it makes me cry, and it keeps me up past my bedtime. As you have probably guessed, “Stealing Time” definitely hit the mark.

I also have tremendous respect for an author who takes nine years to bring a book to completion. Now, of course, this is really bad news if you have to wait that long for the next episode, which hopefully won’t be the case! But IMHO, there’s a certain richness that a novel achieves with time versus those that are kicked out in a few weeks. No offense to those who do so, of course, I’m probably just jealous, because I’m another one who takes a while to finish up a book. Sometimes much longer than nine years, but that’s another story. What I’m getting at is the quality of the characters, imagery and plot details show when a book, like a fine wine, has aged a bit, giving the author time to rethink, embellish and perfect their story. Yeah. Like a fine wine.

As a time travel story, this one is outstanding. The mechanism that transfers the heroine, Ronnie, back in time is in the realm of science fiction, i.e., credible, but not belabored. Thus, this is not true science fiction fodder, but more in the realm for those who love historical fiction since the majority of the story takes place in 18th Century England with some flashbacks (or would it be flashforwards?) to Florida enduring Hurricane Charley, back in 2004, which precipitated the transfer.

The research for this period of time was incredible. The reader is truly transferred back in time to a world so different than ours it feels like another planet. If you don’t think the world has made any progress in the past two hundred fifty years, you definitely need to read this book. While today’s world definitely has its problems and fundamental human nature doesn’t change, it’s incredible to get a glimpse of what England was like back in 1752. Wow. I, for one, am reminded how lucky I am to be living in this century. There are plenty of undercover lessons here, too, with regard to superstitious and unreasonable beliefs that drive a culture, in this case the ridiculous view of what qualified a woman as a witch and how she was subsequently tried and treated. Chilling and horrifying are the first words that come to mind.

The imagery and action was absolutely breathtaking, especially the last fourth of the book, at which point I just sucked it up regardless of the late hour and finished. Since this is the first book in a trilogy, I knew everything wouldn’t be solved, but it did provide a satisfying ending, though there were certainly plenty of unanswered questions to drive the reader’s hunger for the next volume. I highly recommend this well-written story to anyone who loves a thriller, historical fiction or romanticizes the past. Believe me when I say we have come much farther than you may think.

You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

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Review of “An Extended Journey” by Paul Sherman

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This exceptionally well-written and flawlessly edited story has everything a good time travel story demands. Note, however, that it’s more fantasy than science fiction since the means of delivery to the past is in the realms of the paranormal. Thus, don’t expect some exotic high tech means to remove the characters from the present time. This detail, indeed, is but a moot point given the tremendous message of this meticulously researched historical novel, but I wanted to throw it out there just in case you’re expecting sci-fi.

More often than not, time travel stories have more of a philosophical theme as they tread the line between fantasy, history and “what if” speculations. I recommend this story to those interested in American History, particularly the period around the Revolutionary War. The author’s research is apparent in the convincing details that take the reader back to another but not necessarily simpler time.

This story features David Dearns and his family which comprises his wife, Monica, and two young daughters, Jane and Katelyn, who are unexpectedly transported from modern times back to Colonial Williamsburg in 1781. The transition is great, given they’re visiting that location in modern times and thus surrounded by numerous individuals dressed in period costumes and buildings that date back to the time of the American Revolution, which is in progress. You can sense their confusion, particularly when they suddenly realize not only where but when they are.

This event was not simply coincidence, however, but clearly a matter of being chosen to accomplish a specific mission at the behest of a mysterious black woman they know only as Aunt Harriet. Their task is to intervene with Thomas Jefferson in a manner that convinces him to end slavery as part of the yet-to-be-written American Constitution. Since I want to avoid spoilers, that’s all I’ll say about plot details so future readers can fully enjoy the story as it unfolds.

There were some areas where the story seemed to drag, but it was so well-written that the slow pace was forgivable. It also served a purpose in establishing the time, place and mood of the times as this 21st Century family gradually acclimates to life in the late 1700s. If you’re a history buff, you’re likely to thoroughly enjoy it. A bit more culture shock would have added to the realism and perhaps picked up the pace in those pages capturing the details of life at that time. The plot action definitely accelerated toward the middle and took off from there with well-sustained suspense.

Historical details were plentiful and expertly integrated. The matter of changing history and the various paradoxes introduced by the family’s presence were addressed in a clever and sometimes unexpected manner, such as the premature albeit inadvertent introduction of modern technology. There were numerous places where I laughed out loud at some of the main character’s witticisms and sarcastic thoughts though his propensity for profanity was a bit troubling and could turn off certain potential readers. Many religious folks have a keen interest in American History and are often more forgiving of an expletive here and there, which is all too common today, than profanity. It wasn’t excessive by any means, and was mainly in the first part of the book, but would have earned a few cringes from various folks I know who would otherwise love the story.

Matters of free choice were suitably addressed and demonstrated the “butterfly effect”, i.e., where one small event institutes major change. On a personal as well as collective level, I’m sure all of us could point to various decisions that could have been made in a more constructive manner given 20:20 hindsight. The decisions of those who run countries certainly affect thousands and even millions and the consequences of bad ones splash on all concerned, many of whom suffer far more than the perpetrator.

As physicist Michio Kaku and various others have noted, parallel dimensions are a possibility included in quantum theory. Some have even speculated that every possible outcome of every decision ever made is represented somewhere, which I frankly don’t buy into. Nonetheless, starting a new track as a solution to time travel stories, e.g., Spielberg’s “Back to the Future” trilogy, works here for the sake of reader satisfaction. I’m not a big fan of historical novels, but the author’s strong writing skills kept me immersed in the story. More often than not, I find my inner editor slipping out while reading which, to his credit, did not occur. Such exceptional writing alone makes this book worth reading.

You can pick up your copy at Amazon here.

An Outstanding & Thought-Provoking Time-Travel Tome

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While the premise of going back in time to alter history isn’t new, the author’s skill in its presentation coupled with his unique insights will satisfy science fiction and history buffs as well as anyone with an eclectic taste for literature. Indeed, this story possesses the makings of a classic. It’s highly intelligent, flawlessly edited, and I love the author’s straight-forward yet ethereal style which flows with the essence of timelessness that you’d expect in a book that involves time travel. His skillful writing combined with the fact his name is a pseudonym leaves the impression that he may, indeed, be a time traveler himself. The title is perfect, a thought-provoking glimpse of the nature of time and how far it could be stretched were it breached or controlled, the scope of its content undoubtedly epic.

As this tale begins, time travel has already been achieved and a multi-disciplined committee of academics privy to the technology directs its use to keep humanity’s history on the proper track. Three previous attempts didn’t work out as hoped, but the problems have supposedly been solved by scientist, Lawrence Henry, a.k.a. Hank, whose breakthrough discovery removes the troublesome paradoxes. Thus, Hank and his fiancée, Frances Newton, set out to establish humanity in a New Historical Age.

Those with whom they interact see them only as a very tall, mysterious gentlemen and a red-headed woman who serendipitously slip into their respective eras at historically important times. Each fable is independent and captures a nexus where a decision made by an individual, some famous historical figures, others not, takes the world in a new direction. These included encounters with Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, King Henry VIII, Marcellus and Archimedes. As a reader I was immersed in the flavor of the moment and felt as if I was observing a profound moment in history unfold.

Events prior to those in recorded history were touched on as well, such as the invention of writing and numbers, the wheel, the transition to an agrarian society and even a new look at man’s best friend. The episodes operate on multiple levels which will satisfy casual readers as well as history lovers or those with philosophical tendencies. Each carefully selected situation demonstrated the author’s thorough understanding of history, was well researched, and included some little known facts packaged as a tremendously enjoyable story stylishly written. I haven’t read the preceding volumes in the Elastic Limit series, but this one stood well on its own while nonetheless leaving me with the desire to read the previous volumes, which this one ties together.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

What’s Behind the ‘Science’ in Science Fiction? (Part 1)

You don’t have to be a scientist to enjoy science fiction. If you’re lucky, you may learn a few scientific facts painlessly while enjoying a good read, or at least that’s my goal as a science fiction author. But what exactly lies behind stories categorized as science fiction?

Science, of course, but it goes beyond that because it often addresses the impact of technology on society. Science alone is a real snoozer if you don’t combine it with how it affects your life. Unless you happen to be a rocket scientist, however, much of the actual science in science fiction stories often gets lost in the plot. But guess what? Then you’re missing a lot of the fun, too. If you’re someone who thinks that science is really cool stuff, you may want to know more about the actual science behind such things as time travel, teleportation, other dimensions and telepathy. But here’s the bad news. You needed to learn to crawl before you could walk or run and know the alphabet before you could read, so before you can get to the good stuff you need to know the basics.

In the Beginning there was Classical Physics

Originally physics only dealt with, big surprise, physical phenomena. It related to mass, motion and time, things which were apparent in the world around us. Math was used to create formulae to calculate their relationship to one another. Using algebra, if you knew two of the quantities you could figure out the third. A common example is D=vt (Distance equals velocity times elapsed time) which when rearranged become v = D/t. If that sounds vaguely familiar maybe it’s because in a more familiar form, velocity = miles/hour or miles per hour.

Classical physics derived from D=vt. To do so gets into higher math called calculus which is an interesting subject in and of itself. It was invented simultaneously way back in the 17th century by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Liebniz in order to solve more complicated problems such as orbital dynamics. More on that some other time. For now just file away the notion that the world of classical physics mostly involves the movement of objects in your everyday world such as how long it takes to get to work or school, how much momentum a baseball has when hit by a star player or how much energy there is in a garbage truck moving at 65 mph.

For a long time scientists thought that these basic formulae could explain everything in the universe. After all, they do a pretty good job of dealing with everyday life. They also thought that if you took everything down to the most fundamental level you could predict anything that might happen in the future. This was called determinism and in many ways reinforced the concept of fate and denied the idea of free will. This was the philosophy of the day, as noted in the movie “A Knight’s Tale,” where it was pointed out that it was extremely difficult if not impossible to “change your stars.” You were dealt a certain hand in life that you had to play. Period.

As is often the case, however, when an individual or group of like-minded people think they know everything there is to know, they eventually find out otherwise. Indeed, life isn’t that simple and toward the end of the 1800s and early 1900s new discoveries showed that indeed they were flat-out wrong. Not just a little wrong, but really wrong. For starters, the elements definitely did not consist of air, water, earth and fire.

More on that next time when we get into atomic theory. Stay tuned.

© Copyright 2014 by Marcha Fox
All Rights Reserved

What Exactly IS Einstein’s Theory of Relativity?

 

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Is time travel possible? Why can’t we travel faster than the speed of light? Do clocks really run at different speeds depending on how fast you’re moving? Does gravity really warp space and time as well as bend light?

These possibilities have been used in science fiction for decades. H.G. Wells’ classic, “The Time Machine,” was published in 1895, before Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity was even published in 1905. This goes to show that man’s imagination was exploring the possibility of such things long before it was proven scientifically. In fact, Einstein stated himself that “Imagination is more important than knowledge” and it was his own propensity for what he called “thought experiments” that brought him to the concept of relativity in the first place. Supposedly, he was staring at a gas light one foggy night wondering what it would be like to travel on a light beam and shortly after that the Special Theory of Relativity (STR) was born.

The main point of the STR is that the only thing that’s constant is the speed of light; time is not, space is not. The speed of light, 186,000 miles per hour, is often referred to simply as c. In fact, the term “miles per hour” which you hear every day contains the basis of a physics equation related to time and distance. In other words, if you only know simple algebra you can understand how the distance you travel (length or L) depends on how fast you’re going (velocity or v) and for how much time (t), or L = vt. Simple.

But there’s a catch. That only applies to what is known as an inertial reference frame, or one that is not moving. Now I’m sure you know that the Earth is moving, through space as well as around the Sun, but as far as you’re concerned when you’re riding in a car the Earth is standing still. However, when you get into what are known as relativistic speeds or those closer to the speed of light, that equation changes.

For L = vt, any of those values is considered a variable, meaning it can change. However, the speed of light is constant. Therefore, the only things that can change are the distance (L) or time (t). And that’s where things start to get weird. The scientific terms are length contraction and time dilation. Length contraction means that distances get shorter when traveling near the speed of light and time stretches, meaning that time passes more slowly for someone traveling at the speed of light even though to them clocks would appear to move at the same rate as they do to you.   This is why they say that someone who traveled to a distant planet may only think they’ve been gone for a few years while a century or more will have passed on Earth. Time and distance are both relative and thus the term “relativity.”

As far as a time machine is concerned, going forward in time seems more feasible than going back but that’s not to say it’s impossible. However, the STR really doesn’t postulate going back in time, only that clocks run at different rates. This has been proven at the atomic level by observing atoms that have a known rate of decay (or lifetime) traveling at relativistic speeds where they last longer as measured by Earth clocks.

So why can’t we travel faster than the speed of light? This comes back to the speed of light being a constant. Energy of movement, or what is required to move something, is defined by the mass of the object times its velocity squared, or E = mv2. Starting to sound familiar, like the infamous E=mc2? Here we go again, velocity can’t change so the others must and what this boils down to is that the energy required far exceeds what can be achieved as the mass increases, which also occurs at the speed of light. So, according to Einstein, the reason we can’t travel at the speed of light is because at those speeds the mass of the vehicle will exceed its ability to carry the fuel necessary.

Of course if you’re a UFO fan like myself, you may wonder how they could possibly get here and move erratically like they do. And that brings us to Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity which relates to gravity. Gravity is a force that creates acceleration, or a change in velocity. Drop something and it accelerates to the floor or ground. According to Einstein, the gravity of large objects like the Earth or Sun will also warp space and time. When you see those pictures depicting a blackhole they usually show a funnel-shaped grid, indicating how the force field around it warps space.

Gravity can even change the path of light, which was proven by Sir Arthur Eddington during a solar eclipse on May 29, 1919. When you look up at the sky the stars are in predictable locations, which is why they have been used for navigation, even by the “star tracker” on the Space Shuttle until the advent of the Global Positioning System, a.k.a. GPS. However, during a solar eclipse, there is a massive gravitational object available in the sky (the Sun) that when darkened by the passage of the Moon, allows the stars to be visible during the day. Knowing where the stars should be versus where they appeared showed a difference that proved Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. This has been proven repeatedly since then by observing distant stars, an effect known as gravitational lensing, which will sometimes even cause an object to appear to exist in two places.

As far as UFOs are concerned, it appears that they utilize extremely high magnetic fields combined with certain radioactive elements to create a gravity field around the craft itself. This, in turn, provides the vehicle with its own gravitational field, essentially creating its own reference frame so that it no longer is subjected to Earth’s gravity and can thus move in ways that defy what our known technologies can currently achieve as far as hovering and drastic changes in direction.

Einstein wanted to discover a Grand Unified Theory that explained how all the forces in the Universe related to one another. He was never able to do that and scientists today continue his quest. The evidence today, however, suggests that they are getting close! Various new theories continue to evolve such as String Theory, which relates to subatomic particles (or those smaller than an atom) and M-Theory which suggests there are multiple universes. Quantum Theory is another fascinating subject that’s been around for a while with significant potential for science fiction such as telepathy. More on that next time.

Marcha Fox is the author of the Star Trails Tetralogy which includes the novels “Beyond the Hidden Sky,” “A Dark of Endless Days,” and “A Psilent Place Below.” The final volume, “Refractions of Frozen Time” was released in March 2015. With a physics degree from Utah State University and over 20 years working at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, she is never at a loss for something new to incorporate into her stories. Her Facebook Page is https://www.facebook.com/marchafoxauthor and her book website is http://www.startrailssaga.com. Follow her on Twitter @startrailsIV.