Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Third Time Travel Megapack, edited by John Gregory Betancourt

More fun with past and future
This is the third collection of time travel stories published by Wildside Press as part of their extensive Megapacks series. The Megapacks are inexpensive ebook collections, usually costing a buck, that largely consist of reprinted vintage pulp fiction, with a few more contemporary entries thrown in as well. This volume contains 18 stories of past or future exploration (though two of them are so brief you might as well just consider it 16). This may be their third time out of the gate for this subject matter, but John Gregory Betancourt and his editorial crew at Wildside haven’t run out of material yet. The Third Time Travel Megapack is every bit as good as its predecessors.

This Megapack is quite a bit shorter than the two that preceded it—less than half the length of the original Time Travel Megapack and about a third as long as the Second. It only contains one novella-length work, “The Children’s Room” by Raymond F. Jones, which is one of the book’s better entries. Though the brevity of this less mega pack may mean you’re getting less for your dollar, that’s not so bad, because it feels like there’s less junk in the attic. Although the excellent stories may be few and far between, there aren’t many stinkers either. Mostly it’s just good science fiction fare. The first and second Time Travel Megapacks each had their share of antiquated, hokey, and politically correct entries, but the third volume is almost devoid of such dross. The main offenders here are the humorous pieces, in which the punchlines have not held up well over time. The two “Ferdinand Feghoot” shorts by Grendel Briarton are dumb puns that inspire eye rolls, but each takes less than sixty seconds to read, so they don’t waste much of your time. Stories like Emil Petaja’s “Dinosaur Goes Hollywood,” on the other hand—loaded with annoying slang and dumb slapstick comedy—makes one long for more serious time-travel fare.

Three excellent tales make this Megapack more than worth its meager cover price. Philip K. Dick’s name appears prominently on the cover, and his entry “Meddler” certainly merits notice. Despite warnings about the dangers of screwing with time, a team of scientists uses a machine called the Time Dip to take pictures of the future. In doing so, they seem to have inadvertently caused the destruction of mankind, and must send an investigator into the future to see where they went wrong. Mack Reynolds, who was the best thing about the Second Time Travel Megapack, contributes another great story here with “Gun for Hire,” about a mafia hitman who is transported into the future so he can assassinate a potential Hitler-esque dictator in the making. Full of surprises, it delivers both ample laughs and suspense. The best story in the collection is “Never Go Back” by Charles V. de Vet. A scientist makes his initial trip through time, traveling back to his childhood in order to save the life of a boyhood friend. It starts out in perplexing Twilight Zone mode, but then goes off into very unexpected directions, becoming a shockingly scary, creepy, and bizarre tale of horror. For a story written over 60 years ago, it’s surprisingly graphic and frightening.

Grab bags of assorted fiction such as this are seldom perfect, and this collection is no exception, but if you like vintage sci-fi, this series of Megapacks will satisfy your craving for all things time travel. After reading The Third Time Travel Megapack, I am happily awaiting the Fourth.

The Kindle file has a lot of typographical errors; not enough to hinder understanding, but enough to annoy. One of the shortest stories was pasted twice, so it appears duplicated in its entirety. The copy I downloaded even had the wrong cover image. Wildside publishes good stuff, but they should pay more attention to quality control.

Stories in this collection
The Children’s Room by Raymond F. Jones 
Sidetrack in Time by William P. McGivern 
George All the Way by Richard Wilson
Absolutely No Paradox by Lester del Rey 
The Hohokam Dig by Theodore Pratt 
Guaranteed Tenure by H. B. Fyfe 
Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot: 42 by Grendel Briarton 
Never Go Back by Charles V. de Vet 
The Ancestral Thread by Emil Petaja 
The Sons of Japheth by Richard Wilson 
Meddler by Philip K. Dick 
The Man Who Liked Lions by John Bernard Daley 
Flame for the Future by William P. McGivern 
Dinosaur Goes Hollywood by Emil Petaja 
Time Out for Tomorrow by Richard Wilson 
Remember the Alamo! by R. R. Fehrenbach 

Gun for Hire by Mack Reynolds 

Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot: 63 by Grendel Briarton 

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