Cover image of "Quantum Time," a tale of time travel

Science fiction authors have been toying with the concept of time travel ever since H. G. Wells wrote The Time Machine in 1895. Some stick to known physics, building stories around travel near the speed of light—or space travel near a black hole. Some posit time travel through wormholes or other portals. Others just dodge the question, assuming some yet undiscovered technology will make it possible. And now comes Douglas Phillips, author of the bestselling Quantum series, with a slightly new twist. In the third entry in his series, Quantum Time, he tells a tale of time travel grounded in quantum “time compression.” Don’t ask. It works—in the story, at least.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Time travel is possible now.

So, here we are, back with the people we met in the first two books in Phillips’s series. Daniel Rice, of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. World-renowned particle physicist Nola Pasquier of Fermilab. And Aastazin, or Zin, the android sent from the loose alliance of alien civilizations known as Sagittarius Novus, humanity’s guide to the stars. All three played central roles in engineering humanity’s First Contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. Of course, that only came after Pasquier’s seemingly accidental discovery that moving into the fourth dimension could compress space, enabling near-instantaneous travel over immense distances. And now another such serendipitous discovery has opened up the prospect of time travel.

But wait. There’s a catch.

Through time compression, you can only move safely into the future. Oh, you can move back to where you came from. But it looks as though you’ll die in the process. And, far, far worse, somebody else has discovered time travel—and he’s out to trigger a nuclear war. Which Daniel knows because a messenger arrives from the future warning about impending doom, then promptly dying. He bears a message for Daniel to travel to a specific time and place thirty years in the future. Of course, now the White House and the Pentagon will become involved, because Daniel is, as we know, a government official. And the wheels of drama start turning.

Quantum Time (Quantum #3) by Douglas Phillips (2019) 371 pages ★★★★☆

Artist's rendering of time travel, the central concept in this tale of time travel
Time travel is one of science fiction’s most common themes. In Quantum Time, Douglas Phillips imagines that quantum physics will open the way through “time compression.” Image: Adobe Stock

Unfortunately, the bad guys can travel through time, too.

So, what’s all this about a nuclear war? Well, we know all about that because Doug Phillips has told us. On board an American nuclear submarine in the Pacific, a crewman in a critical position in the nuclear arming sequence is about to substitute the real codes that will release the sub’s missiles on Vladivostok and San Francisco. And why would he do this? He’s a nutcase, profoundly immersed in an extreme version of fundamentalist Christianity—and God has told him to do it. Yes, that other guy who discovered time travel is a deranged fundamentalist preacher who masquerades as God. And that sets up the inevitable clash between Daniel Rice and the preacher. Much nastiness will ensue.

So, as you can see, Quantum Time doesn’t make any sense from a scientific standpoint. Oh, Phillips spends a fair amount of time offering up pseudoscientific arguments for how and why time travel works here. But no matter. The book is hugely entertaining, full of dramatic scenes, with surprises all along the way. Just suspend disbelief, and go along for the ride.

About the author

Photo of Douglas Philips, author of this tale of time travel
Douglas Phillips. Image: author’s website

According to the bio he wrote for Amazon, Douglas Phillips “has two science degrees, has designed and written predictive computer models, reads physics books for fun and peers into deep space through the eyepiece of his backyard telescope. Doug lives in Seattle, travels the world with his wife, hikes with his two sons, and becomes a child all over again with his grandchildren.” Phillips is the author of eight science fiction novels to date, including six in the Quantum series

I’ve also reviewed the first two books in the Quantum series:

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