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Book Reviews

Review: The Future of Another Timeline

Tor, 2019

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Five stars for an excellent sophomore novel from Annalee Newitz that is truly “speculative fiction” that deals with some moral and philosophical ramifications of time travel technology while dealing with two satisfying character arcs. I picked up Newitz’s debut, Autonomous, on a whim, and I loved it. As I was excited to read more from them, this book did not disappoint!

I’m not sure it’s fair to say that this book was “about” one thing, as it dealt in many motifs and larger themes. For me, the book was ultimately a look at the way in which the universal and the individual (or perhaps the political and the particular) play with and against one another in the grand scheme of the timeline in which we live.

Tess and Beth, the novel’s two main characters, each consider the Great Man vs. corporate action theories of timeline edits. Great Man theories see key people and places as fundamental to the progress or regress of society and culture. Conversely, corporate action would argue that for instance, if one traveled back in time and killed the infant Adolf Hitler, it would alter the circumstance of the timeline, but not create lasting change. A true edit that erased the Holocaust would consist of influencing groups of people across time altering the waves of white nationalism in many small ways that add up.

In The Future of Another Timeline, the patriarchy of the future teams of with the patriarchy of the past in order to…you know…be the patriarchy. Tess and her feminist geoscientist cohorts discover that certain deplorables are attempting to not only edit the past to maintain the oppression of women, transgender, and non-binary people but also sabotage the ur-time machine in order to inhibit others from reverting their edits.

Though Newitz’s novel is an alternative history to our own, by being only shades different in some ways, it is able to point an accusing figure at elements of our own culture. At one point, Tess thinks about women in the West: “Our place in this nation was still fragile. It was far too easy to edit us out.”

Tess discovers how truly contingent social change is and that while history does not depend on the role of specific people and places, each individual is crucial to the change that collective action brings.

I am not at all qualified to speak to the quality of the science in this book, but the time travel and geoscience were very engaging and I didn’t question it. So…

Overall in this novel that I would truly call science fiction, Newitz brilliantly tackles social and political questions and how they might interact with the advent of new technology in our world.

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