A high-concept story of time-traveling scientists trying to fix the future by returning to the past.
Minh’s generation has been working for years to try to repair the ecological damage done to the Earth, but the invention of time travel has drained funding away from these complicated remediation projects. Now Minh and her colleagues have the chance to tackle a time-travel project of their own—going back to study Mesopotamia in a pristine state as preparation for restoring its ecosystem. Minh wants this job, but getting it won’t be easy. Not only will she need to win over the funders; she’ll have to find a way to work with her “ridiculously frenetic” young colleague Kiki, who wants this job for her own reasons. Robson (A Human Stain, 2017, etc.) has created a richly detailed world in which the environmental disaster that forced humanity to retreat below the surface of the Earth is so far in the past it’s not even worth mentioning. Dazzling technology and an endearingly cranky main character make this an engaging read, but the plot gets off to a slow start, bogged down in the process of Minh and her colleagues’ preparing a proposal and interviewing for the time-travel consulting job. The adventure that ensues when they do make it to ancient Mesopotamia is exciting, but the book suffers from packing all the suspense into its second half.
The strong worldbuilding will appeal to sci-fi fans, but a slow-burn plot that spends too much time on the logistics of time travel weakens an otherwise appealing story.