In this debut novel, three teenagers in the parched, dying world of 2079 use Albert Einstein’s time-travel secrets to go back a century and warn humanity via a surprised music superstar.
Stea’s book joins the field of “cli-fi” climate-change tales, with time travel and real-life eminences involved. A prologue indicates that Einstein discovered time travel and thus beheld the New York World’s Fair in 1964, years after his official death. Now it’s 2079, 40 years after the eco-collapse, mass extinction, and calamitous fires that accompanied global warming. In dusty, mostly deserted New Jersey, adolescent Abbey Lane subsists with her holdout family and friends while most everyone else has migrated to the Great Lakes for scarce fresh water. Exploring the ruins of Princeton University with her friend Max Sutter, Abbey finds Einstein’s secret journal hidden in an antique desk. Her asthmatic, invalid brother, Paul, possesses an awesome intellect, and he deciphers “Uncle Albert’s” time-travel methods from the journal’s pages—how to use naturally occurring, invisible wormholes in time/space to voyage back and forth chronologically. When Paul locates a scheduled wormhole within travel distance, the three kids sneak away from home on a mission to go back in time and warn the world about the future fate that will ensue from industrial emissions and apathy. They do indeed teleport to 1971, and the trio winds up in a New York City filled with hippie idealists and Vietnam War protesters, who sense something special about the three teens who act like they’ve never seen green grass or rain before. Stea somehow avoids a campy tone amid the Greenwich Village and Bleecker Street counterculture (not an easy feat). When the kids enter the orbit of legendary rock musician John Lennon, the handling of Lennon as a fictional character is realistic and persuasive where a more star-struck SF narrative might have gone off the rails. Indeed, readers will suddenly notice Beatles references insinuated throughout. Though modulated for a YA readership, all ages can jam to the leisurely narrative, and older ones who still remember the period may appreciate the what-if treatment that’s brought off well. While the author credits numerous writers, thinkers, and rockers as influences, AWOL is Jack Finney, whose nostalgic time-travel tales echo this one.
Intelligent cli-fi fantasy with Fab Four wish-fulfillment tossed into the Magical Mystery Tour.(acknowledgments, author bio)