Goldstein takes a break from fantasy (The Uncertain Places, 2011, etc.) and returns to science fiction with this brief tale of a corporation seeking to diminish the role of women in society by altering the timeline.
Socially awkward 21st-century hacker Ann Decker is recruited by Transformations Incorporated, a company that uses time travel to improve what they say is a bleak 24th-century future. But while Ann’s new employers are happy to supply her with all the information she needs to fit into past society—including history, culture, language, and clothes—they’re extraordinarily reticent about just what her missions are meant to accomplish and why the mysterious organization Core would want to foil them. Goldstein’s style is, as usual, beautifully spare; what she doesn't say is as important as what she does. Mood is more important than establishing logic or picayune detail. Unfortunately, that style doesn't serve this plot very well. Current conventions for the time-travel story demand a richness of detail; it's simply not plausible that a few weeks of language and history study and a costume would allow a person to blend into the past—there are too many mores and habits that would make the traveler stand out. Writers like Kage Baker, Connie Willis, and Deborah Harkness have brandished their research to address this point. Plots about sinister time-traveling organizations are not new, and there's already a novel about worshipers of the goddess Kore battling time-traveling chauvinists (Sheri Tepper's The Family Tree, 1997). In addition, Goldstein’s ambiguous ending may be poetically true but still comes across as unfinished.
Lovely, disturbing, and intriguing in spots but ultimately, just not enough.