I'm looking for a story I read in the mid 2000's (though I believe the book itself was older than that) in which the protagonist encounters a society in which the inhabitants can speed up and slow down their subjective experience of time. Those that slow down their time-stream appeared to everyone else to move slowly while those that sped up their time-stream appeared to speed by or become blurs. In order to have intelligible interactions with each other people are able to sync up their time-streams as they wish.

These choices each have their own tradeoffs. Going slowly through time means that you could live longer relative to other people and therefore see further into the future, but the trade-off is that you will see everyone around you live their lives and die before you do. Going quickly through time means that you can do a lot in a given timeframe, but you would die quickly compared to everyone around you.

Some people took these choices to the extreme. If I remember correctly there was at least one person who moved so slowly that he appeared to not move at all. He was seen as a kind of guru because he had seen so many people live their lives and had lived through so much history. However in order to talk to him you had to slow your time to match his, which meant that every minute you spend talking to him cost you years compared to everyone else, so after a conversation with him you might return to your normal time-stream to find that everyone you knew had died.

I don't think that the whole book was about this concept, but it was the part that stuck with me the most. I've seen numerous other story identification questions about The River of Time, but from the descriptions of it I'm quite sure that that is not the story I'm remembering. In this story the time dilation is voluntary and changeable and was not viewed as a disease.

  • 1
    The trope of people living in different time streams immediately reminded me of Utriusque Cosmi by Robert Charles Wilson
    – Valorum
    Nov 24, 2021 at 18:10
  • Do you remember the tone of the book? Was it a serious, dramatic story or was it more humorous? Was it set in a fantasy/sci-fi realm or in 'our world'?
    – Matt
    Nov 24, 2021 at 18:57
  • @Matt Now that FuzzyBoots identified it as A Planet Called Treason we could find out for sure, but my memory is that it is a dramatic story, though not overly dark or anything
    – Kevin
    Nov 24, 2021 at 21:36
  • It does deal with mutilation, body horror, slavery, and the like, but it's not that dark in my opinion.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Nov 25, 2021 at 4:12

1 Answer 1


It could be Orson Scott Card's A Planet Called Treason.

He first passes through the land of the Ku Kuei while on his way to Nkumai, learning that they can control the flow of time in a bubble extending out from themselves.

One of the standout scenes has Lanik reconciling with his former lover at an extreme time dilation, leading to them being known as The Stone Lovers as they spread this moment over two to three hundred years.

  • Huh. I was thinking that it has similarities to the Worthing Chronicles, also by Card. I guess he felt the implications was worth exploring in more than one work. Nov 25, 2021 at 6:09

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