Genre: SciFi – Time Travel
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Tor (December 6, 2016)
Length: 351 pages
My Rating: 3 stars
Time Travel. Alternate timelines. Dystopian themes. Action and adventure. Love story. All these themes and more integrated by Robert Charles Wilson into an intriguing story, appropriately called Last Year.
Time travel is now real! People from the 21st century having developed a way to open stable time portals to the past. Quickly, these scientific endeavors becoming monetized, as the “past” is turned into resort destinations, where — for a kingly price — people can have the ultimate vacation experience!
There is only one draw back to all this: the “past” is transformed into an alternate world. A timeline which diverges from the future and goes its own way. But, thankfully, this doesn’t cause any negative consequences for the 21st century, rather the new, modified past peacefully co-exists side-by-side with infinite alternate times.
One such vacation destination is Jesse Cullum’s late 19th century Ohio. A time where a luxurious resort of sorts has sprung up around the time portal from the future. The local residents becoming part of the vacation experience, as well as holding all sorts of jobs at this time resort. And this includes Jesse, who is part of the security force.
Together with his partner Elizabeth (who is from the future), Jesse spends his days tracking down illegal contraband being smuggled in from the 21st century, things like electronic devices, unpublished novels, drugs, and many other things — both large and small. The job suiting Jesse, especially since he and Elizabeth are lovers.
But then something horrible happens. An event Jesse knew might happen, but one he tried not to think about. Because time portals can only be kept open for certain time frames, and now it is time for Jesse’s portal to close, causing Elizabeth to return to the future. And Jesse must either let her go or expose a huge secret in order to stay with the woman he loves.
Overall, Last Year is a rousing time travel tale, which introduces some cool ideas, and takes the plots to interesting conclusions. There is very little focus on the actually time travel aspect, except in its effects on individuals in the past, but when Wilson focus on this element the narrative succeeds wonderfully.
As for the love story between Jesse and Elizabeth, it was well crafted, fairly realistic under the circumstances portrayed, and quite entertaining for the most part. At times I did have to suspend my disbelief at some of the lengths Jesse goes to for love, but since I’m a fully recovered romantic my struggles with this theme isn’t really surprising or noteworthy.
Where the narrative faltered for me was the action and adventure plot line. It started off strong, then fell into fairly traditional, unsurprising paths. Nothing inherently wrong with a standard thriller story line. I know many people will love it. I was just hoping for something a bit different and unexpected, I suppose.
Definitely, Last Year is a fine time travel story, one many people will find immensely entertaining. While I didn’t love it as much as I hoped I would, I still found Robert Charles Wilson’s ideas and writing style to my liking and look forward to reading more of his works in the future.
I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.