“Bid Time Return” by Richard Matheson – A Timeless Romance Transcending Temporal Boundaries


“Bid Time Return” by Richard Matheson is a timeless novel that seamlessly blends romance, science fiction, and the intricacies of time travel. Originally published in 1975, the novel introduces readers to the captivating journey of Richard Collier, a man whose pursuit of love transcends the conventional boundaries of time. Richard Matheson, celebrated for his contributions to science fiction and horror, weaves a narrative that is both poignant and thought-provoking. In this extensive review, we will explore the thematic depth, narrative craftsmanship, and enduring allure of “Bid Time Return.”

Background and Context

1. Author’s Legacy:

  • Richard Matheson, a prolific American author, gained renown for his contributions to the science fiction and horror genres. His works, including “I Am Legend” and “The Shrinking Man,” established him as a master storyteller known for his ability to blend speculative elements with deeply human experiences.

2. Cultural Landscape of the 1970s:

  • “Bid Time Return” emerged during a period when speculative fiction was undergoing a renaissance. The 1970s saw a resurgence of interest in time travel narratives and explorations of human emotion within the framework of fantastical elements. Matheson’s novel became a significant contribution to this literary movement.

Key Themes Explored in “Bid Time Return”

1. Love Transcending Time:

  • At the heart of the novel is the theme of love transcending the constraints of time. Richard Collier’s journey, fueled by a mysterious connection with a woman from the past, becomes a powerful exploration of the enduring nature of love that defies temporal boundaries.

2. Temporal Paradoxes and Consequences:

  • “Bid Time Return” delves into the complexities of time travel, exploring the potential paradoxes and consequences that arise when an individual attempts to alter the course of history for the sake of love. Matheson navigates the ethical and metaphysical implications of tampering with the fabric of time.

3. The Allure of Nostalgia:

  • The novel taps into the allure of nostalgia, as Richard Collier finds himself irresistibly drawn to a bygone era. The exploration of the late 19th century becomes a lens through which the novel examines the timeless appeal of a romanticized past.

4. Individual Agency and Fate:

  • “Bid Time Return” raises questions about individual agency and the role of fate in shaping our destinies. As Richard Collier grapples with the choices he makes in the past, the narrative prompts readers to consider the interplay between free will and predestination.

5. Sacrifice and Devotion:

  • Themes of sacrifice and devotion are woven into the fabric of the story. Richard Collier’s willingness to risk everything for the sake of love underscores the novel’s exploration of the profound and sometimes unforeseen consequences of profound emotion.

Narrative Craftsmanship and Character Depth

1. Richard Collier as Protagonist:

  • Richard Collier emerges as a multifaceted and relatable protagonist. His emotional journey, from a successful but unfulfilled playwright to a man driven by an inexplicable connection to the past, provides a compelling anchor for the narrative. Collier’s internal conflicts and evolving perspectives contribute to the novel’s emotional resonance.

2. Elegance in Language and Descriptions:

  • Matheson’s prose is marked by elegance and precision. His ability to convey the atmospheric details of the late 19th century, as well as the nuances of Collier’s emotional state, creates a vivid and immersive reading experience. The novel’s descriptive richness enhances the temporal and emotional dimensions of the story.

3. Pacing and Atmospheric Tension:

  • The pacing of the novel is carefully calibrated to maintain a delicate balance between atmospheric tension and emotional depth. Matheson’s narrative unfolds with a sense of inevitability, drawing readers into a world where the past and present converge in a seamless dance.

4. The Mystery of Elise McKenna:

  • The character of Elise McKenna, the enigmatic woman from the past, adds a layer of mystery and allure to the narrative. Her role as both a catalyst for Richard Collier’s journey and a symbol of unattainable love contributes to the novel’s thematic complexity.

Legacy and Influence

1. Film Adaptation – “Somewhere in Time”:

  • “Bid Time Return” was adapted into the film “Somewhere in Time” in 1980, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. The film, like the novel, garnered a dedicated fan base and further solidified the enduring appeal of the story.

2. Cultural Impact on Time Travel Romance:

  • The novel’s exploration of time travel within a romantic context has had a lasting impact on the genre. “Bid Time Return” is often cited as an influential work that shaped subsequent narratives involving love and temporal manipulation.

3. Ongoing Popularity and Reprints:

  • “Bid Time Return” continues to enjoy popularity and has undergone multiple reprints, attesting to its enduring appeal. The novel’s availability in various editions ensures that new generations of readers can discover and appreciate its timeless themes.

Criticisms and Controversies

1. Pacing Preferences:

  • Some readers may find the novel’s pacing to be more contemplative and measured, especially in comparison to fast-paced narratives. However, this deliberate pacing aligns with the introspective nature of the story.

2. Conceptual Challenges:

  • The concept of time travel and its consequences may pose conceptual challenges for some readers. The novel’s exploration of temporal paradoxes requires a willingness to engage with speculative elements and suspend disbelief.


“Bid Time Return” by Richard Matheson stands as a masterful exploration of love, time, and the enduring power of human emotion. Through its captivating narrative, rich thematic tapestry, and memorable characters, the novel transcends the boundaries of genre, inviting readers to contemplate the timeless nature of love that defies the constraints of temporal reality. Matheson’s narrative craftsmanship, coupled with the emotional depth of Richard Collier’s journey, ensures that “Bid Time Return” remains a cherished work that resonates across generations. The novel’s legacy is not only evident in its cultural impact but in the hearts of readers who continue to be enchanted by its spellbinding tale of love that spans the ages.

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