Can you help me identify this book? I read it in the 80s. What I can remember:

  • It was about a group of people who get sucked into a parallel universe / another world after a device malfunctions and explodes. This devices transports everything in its surroundings to this other place.
  • Under these people there are scientists or science students (unsure what exactly they were) which participated in the building of the device which malfunctions.
  • Once this group realizes they are somewhere else they try to get back to the earth, but the device doesn't work / was not transported / was destroyed after the trip.
  • They spend most of the story trying to rebuild a new device so they can get back. When the device is done they realize it transport them to an even more unfriendly world than the one they are in. They conclude the devices probably connects to random worlds and they will never be able to return to earth.

Some additional points after seeing the answers:

  • It is a science fiction book, no fantasy involved

  • There is no time travel.

  • They only travel once at the beginning of the book. At the end when the machine is built they just test it and realize that the portal doesn't bring them back to earth.


3 Answers 3


This sounds very much like John G. Cramer's Twistor. A physicist exploring a new theory builds a device that shifts the contents of its field into an alternate dimension -- but is accidentally shifted, along with two kids (relatives of his, as I recall, but not his own children), into the interior of an immense tree. The shift swaps the contents of the field on the two sides, so the lab is filled with a huge sphere of wood.

The remainder of the book is about reestablishing communication between the shifted trio and their home dimension, then restoring function of the device so they can return home -- while keeping the thing out of the hands of some baddies who want to use it to commit terrible crimes.

The "random world" sounds like a conflation with the TV Series, Sliders -- in Twistor, the titular device was able to contact a multitude of universes, but was (fairly) easily adjusted to reconnect the home world with the one the lab had been transported into.

  • 2
    Thanks for the answer. Unfortunately, this is not the book I mean. All people in the group were about the same age and definitely adults. The device was not configurable in any way, so this group had no possibility of changing the destination once it was built (mainly the reason they give up after building it the hope to be able to go back to Earth)
    – julodnik
    Dec 13, 2017 at 13:28

Sounds almost, but not quite like Michael Crichton's Timeline:

ITC's founder Robert Doniger, tells [Professor Edward] Johnston's students that Johnston has used their quantum technology to travel to the year 1357.

The students then follow to try to retrieve the professor before more damage occurs to their universe/timeline.

A grenade returns through the machine and explodes, damaging the present-day transit pad.


ITC and Stern [student who stays in 1999] repair the transit pad just in time for the travelers' return.


André [another student] stays in 1357 and lives a happy life. Doniger, being a generally horrible human being, is sent to 1348 to experience the Black Death.

Poetic justice!

  • 1
    This was a late 90s novel, still could be it, but probably not. Dec 13, 2017 at 16:55
  • Timeline is a great novel, but not the one I was looking for. Thanks though!
    – julodnik
    Dec 14, 2017 at 8:58

Unlikely to be the answer, but The Fionvar Tapestry has similar themes:

The Fionavar Tapestry is a trilogy of fantasy novels by Guy Gavriel Kay, first published between 1984 and 1986. The novels are partly set in our own contemporary world, but mostly in the fictional world of Fionavar. It is the story of five University of Toronto senior law and medical students, who are drawn into the 'first world of the Tapestry' by the mage Loren Silvercloak. Once there, each discovers his or her own role and destiny in the framework of an epic conflict.

  • 1
    Can you describe some of the themes in your answer? Having the information hidden behind a link isn't as useful.
    – Edlothiad
    Dec 13, 2017 at 14:39
  • No scientists, no device, no malfunction, don't try to get back. Are eventually returned. Dec 13, 2017 at 17:30
  • I also don't quite see any relation with the hints I posted. The novel I read plays in the real world. It is science fiction and not fantasy, like this one seems to be.
    – julodnik
    Dec 14, 2017 at 9:00

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