Title: A Swiftly Tilting Planet
Author: Madeleine L'Engle
Image via The Warden's Walk
Just how long does it take for something to become a classic? By the early '90s, classic rock stations were already claiming U2 as one of their own. ESPN has its Instant Classics, an excuse to replay a game from Sunday again on Monday. As such, I think a book written in 1978 can stake claim to classic status. That's 33 years, a generation-plus, after all.
I have long been a skeptic of time travel narratives. For one thing, they are rarely done well. For another, I often get the sense that TV shows turn to time travel when they've run out of other ideas. With Lost, there's no question that was the case. Even with a sci-fi classic like Star Trek, I can't help feeling that their time travel stories are a bit awkward. I'd prefer a showdown with the Borg anytime. In short, a time travel story must have well-established rules and must abide by them. In fact, the same can be said for fantasy and sci-fi literature in general. Even an imaginary world must have limitations in order to be plausible.
Settling in to read A Swiftly Tilting Planet, I quickly realized that a big part of why I'm so particular about time travel stories is this very book. I think I must have read it for the first time in my early teens and it has always been my favorite of L'Engle's Time series. She clearly put a lot of thought into time travel and as such, she did it right. Her explanations of the five dimensions and tesseracts in A Wrinkle in Time have stayed with me my whole life.
I'm not sure what it was about this, the third book in the series, that was so meaningful to me. Perhaps as a boy, I was better able to relate to Charles Wallace than to Meg. Perhaps as a young adolescent, the socio-political issues addressed in the book fueled my own developing social consciousness.
But then, there is so much to like about this book. I love how the chapter titles follow the lines of the rune. I love the fact that science and spirituality are not treated as mutually exclusive concepts. I love Gaudior, the unicorn who serves as Charles Wallace's guide. He is not an Aslan/Gandalf equivalent. He reminds me more of Clarence, George Bailey's guardian angel in It's a Wonderful Life: vulnerable, uncertain, yet unfailingly devoted.
Thanks to Wikipedia, I have learned that there are two further sequels in the Time series that I didn't even know about before: Many Waters and An Acceptable Time. I may need to check those out at some point.
I hope that you, too, will join the 12 Books in 12 Months challenge. Details are here. My own list and books read by others shall be maintained on the pages list on my sidebar. Other blogs currently participating:
My Wife - Wikes! Hikes on the Long Trail
Mrs. Mock - Exclamation Point (!)
Two friends of My Wife are also participating: TonTon via Facebook and The Hermitess via Goodreads.
If you'd care to join the challenge, please let me know by commenting below or e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please tell me how and where I can follow your posts. Don't be shy about suggesting other categories, either. It is my intention to compile a new list of 12 once this one is completed. My only parameter is that no one should have to buy anything in order to complete the challenge - nothing beyond a library card required.