By Annalee Newitz



350pp/$26.99/September 2019

The Future of Another Timeline
Cover by Cailyn McPherson

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Annalee Newitz has created a complex time travel story in The Future of Another Timeline, which focuses on events in 1893 and 1993 with significant side trips to 13BCE and 2022. Their world is one in which time travel is possible through the use of apparently naturally occurring phenomenon located in five locations across the continents. Newitz's time traveler, Tess, journeys from 2022 to the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 in an attempt to head off efforts by a group of shadowy men to support the efforts of Anthony Comstock to crack down on vice and in the process limit women's rights throughout the following centuries. In 1992, Beth is a high school student enamored with the punk rock scene who lives in a world similar to our own, but one in which women's rights are somewhat curtailed.

Although the Beth and Tess's stories initially appear to be separate, Newitz does reveal direct ties between them throughout the novel, although even those revelations are not always what they appear to be. Beth's coming of age story, as she rebels against strict parenting and the dissolution of her closest friendships provides Newitz with a clever and subtle way of tracking historical differences from our own timeline. While Beth seems to be tied to her one time period, Tess moves through time attempting to influence the course of history to be one more favorable to her and a group of women with whom she works.

Although there are clearly rules regarding time travel, since it has to be managed through the limited access points, Newitz it cagy about who operates the systems and it is clear that different groups of time travelers have their own ideas about the best way to use the technology and the abilities it affords. Tess and her compatriots find themselves in a time war with the men throughout history who want to see Comstock’s vision achieved. These edit wars are not theoretical and changes in history impact the characters directly. When one of Tess’s friends is deleted in the time war, Tess travels in time to find a version of the friend who hasn’t been deleted yet. Although the reader never fully understands all the rules of time travel in Newitz’s novel, details like this offer hints as well as a look at the repercussions that so many time travel novels ignore.

One of the tricky parts about writing a time travel novel, especially one that introduces various paradoxes, is that the very nature of the novel is going to introduced convolutions in logic. When Newitz focuses on these aspects of time travel, the logic occasionally fractures for the reader. On the other hand, when they focus on specific periods, such as Beth's 1980s or the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, Newitz is able to build up a cohesive and immersive world where the differences from our own world are especially jarring because otherwise their worlds feel so fully realized.

The Future of Another Timeline strives to be more than merely a time travel novel and it succeeds, offering its not-always-subtle message in vary palatable ways. Beth's rebellion against her parents and realization that she has less in common with her friends than she might wish is painful, not because it is poorly written, but rather because Newitz forces empathy on the reader. Tess's travels in time are complex and her activities don't always make sense when originally presented, but Newitz does show that Tess's actions are logical based on her goals and the way time travel works in the novel.

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