A debut work of speculative metafiction offers a time traveler’s view of the rest of the 21st century.
This book, written by time-traveling history professor Alaric Thain, actually won’t be published until 2864, and is meant to give readers of that time period some insight on how people lived in the 21st century. Alaric himself was born at the end of the 21st century. Although the what and how of the major historical events of that century are well documented, the professor (who has a unique insight into the way people of that era thought and felt) endeavors to provide the why. Of course, for 21st-century readers, the what and the how are just as interesting. What, for example, were the long-term effects of the Trump administration? Did people ever figure out what to do about climate change? How did humans develop Artie, “the last great invention of humankind, for since then, all non-artistic inventions have been made by Artie hirself”? Alaric delivers information on people and events that have not yet happened, like the rise of Destiny Holt, one of the preeminent “heroes that come down to us from the 21st century.” Most importantly, Alaric reveals how the trends of history—even those apparent today—led inevitably to the future of tomorrow. The book exhibits more than a bit of self-awareness. (The foreword, written in 2864 by one Faustina Dax, assures readers that the volume is “a masterpiece.”) But for the most part, it is a work of analytical history—and a fairly dry one at that. Author Thain takes readers through a summary of human society up to the current moment before engaging most directly with some of the pressing social concerns of the present, like global warming, wealth inequality, populism, and technology. In speculating about how these issues play out over the coming decades, he deftly reinforces the idea of how seriously readers should take them in the present and delivers several captivating concepts. His future reveals his own political readings and preferences—Donald Trump’s successor is Kamala Harris and humans will get to enjoy a version of universal basic income. Essentially a futurist work wrapped in fictional trappings, the lengthy (over 400 pages), somewhat self-indulgent book never matches the level of fun that it initially seems to promise.
A thought-provoking but uneven tale with some intriguing ideas about the future.