A lesbian couple accidentally creates an extremely unique app in Davy’s (A Very Civil Wedding, 2014, etc.) darkly satirical sci-fi novel.
While attempting to effectively create their own Internet in order to privately upload and share their research with each other via a satellite they dub “Big Sister,” Dr. Brogan Miller, a biophysicist, and her wife, Dr. Honor Smith, a women’s history lecturer, stumble upon a strange phenomenon. Somehow, their computer cameras are allowing them to see into the past based on any date they input. Furthermore, only deceased women show up on the video feeds, often seeming to respond to men who can’t be seen or heard. If someone were to try to watch a moment involving a still-living woman, she wouldn’t show up. Eventually, they strike upon the idea to turn it into an app that Honor names “The Hystery App,” which they believe will forever change how history is understood now that the patriarchal filter is gone. Their best-laid plans go awry, however, when men start to use it for pornography, voyeuristically watching often long-dead women in sexual situations. Davy’s imaginative, incisive story is a prime example of how sci-fi as a genre can be used to explore complex societal issues. The focus isn’t on how this app ever managed to work—besides some briefly explored wormhole theory— because the effects are more important. The novel wisely begins by delving into the endless positive potential for its time-travel device and then shows the numerous ways it could be perverted, human (and specifically male) nature being what it is. Davy also imbues the main characters with full, three-dimensional life, making it a novel about these specific women, not just ideas. Unfortunately, the novel spends too much time mired in family drama that, while realistically crafted, feels too mundane for a concept with such intriguing possibilities. While many works of sci-fi focus on their concepts to the detriment of their humanity, this novel does nearly the opposite.
Could use more wonder but otherwise an impressively conceived story with true weight.