The Tourist

By Robert Dickinson

Rating: 2 stars

Another review of this book suggests that to really understand it and get the most from it, it needs at least two reads. I didn’t do this, one was quite enough for me, so I’ve still come away awfully confused. Time travel is generally confusing (although the timeline chart at the front helped – it would have been more useful if the chapters had been numbered to match the chart!) and this book is no different. Trying to keep track of who everyone was, which version of them was present at any given time and also try and figure out the plot was a bit exhausting. And I still don’t think I figured that out properly.

So, in the future, there was a near-extinction event (NEE) after which civilisation had to rebuild itself. Sometime after this, they invented time travel and there’s now a fixed link to the early 21st century, where tourists from the future come to gawk at us “natives”. Oh, and those in the even more distant future reject attempts to reach their era, but sent back a set of records of people from the travellers’ era. The book follows three different people, in the first person for travel rep Shens, who manages to lose one of his tourists on an excursion from the resort; in the second person for Karia, who is from a repressive regime that avoids contact with the rest of the world; and Riemann, who we don’t follow directly, but see through the eyes of the other two. And then there’s a whole timey-wimey plot about free will, a very long-term (if that means anything in time travel) conspiracy and a lot of confusion.

I didn’t really feel that any of the characters were that well developed; I would especially have liked to have seen more delving into Spen’s fellow rep Li, who enjoys the 21st century much more than most of her fellow reps. The presence of the people from the future obviously causes a lot of nervousness and resentment amongst the people of the era, and in this post-Trump, post-Brexit world, it’s entirely conceivable to see how this was stirred by self-serving politicians into a hate movement.

So perhaps this book would make more sense on a reread, but neither the plot nor the characters are enticing me to do so not to mention the grindingly depressing ending.

Book details

ISBN: 9780356508184
Publisher: Orbit
Year of publication: 2016

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