Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt (Penguin Group, 2009)
On the cover of this novel, Jack DeVitt was described as the successor to sci-fi greats Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, and I can see why. His style screams “20th century middle-aged male.” Asimov and Clarke were very popular, intelligent, forward-thinking writers, but they had a very male-oriented perspective. That being said, the book is well written and hard to put down. But McDevitt’s time travelers follow much looser rules than those set by other science fiction authors (such as Connie Willis). It’s perfectly acceptable for a time traveler to exist twice in the same time period, for instance. The men in this story visit times from ancient Greece to the present (and even the future) with very little concern for their impact. They’re not completely selfish though – they bring back a whole collection of ancient Greek plays that had been lost to us.
Timeline by Michael Crichton (Alfred A. Knopf, 1999)
I learned about this science fiction novel from the late 90s in a book review of another book, and decided to track it down. It was definitely worth it. Crichton became famous several decades ago for Jurassic Park, which was made into a successful (and terrifying) motion picture about dinosaurs come to life. This story about archeologists who travel through time to the 14th century French setting of their dig is equally (if not more) violent and gory, so if there is ever a movie I won’t be watching it. As a book where the images stay safely on the page, however, it was excellent. Every chapter is simply titled with the countdown timer telling how many hours they have left until the battery dies that powers the chip that will take them back. The two men and one woman spend basically the entire book from the moment they land in the 14th century running for their lives and trying not to get killed. Just read the book: it’s very exciting.
How to live safely in a science fictional universe by Charles Yu (Random House, 2010)
If you’re looking for a really way-out science fiction book, this is it. In this world everyone has access to time travel, and uses it. They want to correct past mistakes but since they can’t change the past, they end up in endless loops. The protagonist is a time travel machine technician, who eventually gets stuck in a loop himself trying to understand his parents better. The commentary is pretty hilarious but there are some serious insights as well.