Time travelers battle for the future in this feminist sci-fi thriller.
We begin in 1992, where (or is it when?) “traveler” Tess has appeared at a punk concert in California. She’s on the lookout for “anti-travel activists” who want to shut down the mysterious “Machines,” structures of unknown origin that somehow facilitate time travel. Tess discovers that a group of misogynist crusaders, centered around the ideas of 19th-century conservative moralist Anthony Comstock, are trying to change events in the past so that women are stripped of all human rights. Tess and her friends, who are diverse in both race and gender, chase these “Comstockers” through time to stop them from fulfilling their evil plans. Meanwhile, teenager Beth, who is really living in 1992, escapes her oppressive home life to revel in the California punk scene with her best friend, Lizzy. But what is Beth supposed to do when she meets a traveler from the future who warns her to stay away from Lizzy? And why is that traveler, Tess, making detours in time to find Beth when she has a conspiracy to thwart? Newitz (Old Media, 2019, etc.) does well enough with the time-travel premise, but where this book really shines is in its page-turning plot and thoughtfully drawn characters. The Comstockers’ plan, with its rhetoric plucked straight from present-day “men’s rights” online forums, is truly terrifying. Between careful attention to Tess’ development, Beth’s chapters, and the near-constant jumps through time, the story charges along until Newitz suddenly ties it all together with breathtaking finesse. The humdinger of an ending is a perfect cherry on top.
An ambitious adventure that keeps the surprises coming.