The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
Genre: Science Fiction
Maturity Level: 4
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In 1967, four female scientists worked together to build the world’s first time machine. But just as they are about to debut their creation, one of them suffers a breakdown, putting the whole project—and future of time travel—in jeopardy. To protect their invention, one member is exiled from the team—erasing her contributions from history.
Fifty years later, time travel is a big business. Twenty-something Ruby Rebello knows her beloved grandmother, Granny Bee, was one of the pioneers, though no one will tell her more. But when Bee receives a mysterious newspaper clipping from the future reporting the murder of an unidentified woman, Ruby becomes obsessed: could it be Bee? Who would want her dead? And most importantly of all: can her murder be stopped?
Ohmygosh THIS BOOK. It is not in any way an exaggeration to say that this might be the best time travel book I’ve ever read. That’s right, ever.
Where to begin??? Okay, we can start with time travel. One of the things I loved about this book is it goes deep into the theory of time travel. Why can’t we travel to the past? How far can we go into the future? What about paradoxes? Can you change the past/future? How does time travel affect the culture and technology of people using it? What about the rest of the world? How does time travel affect the minds of the people doing the time travel. I mean, the book is called The *Psychology* of Time Travel, so it should come as no shock that the psychology of time travel is deeply explored, but geez it was just SO FASCINATING! I love a great technical Sci-Fi, and I am especially interested in the technical elements of time travel, so this book was right up my ally.
There were also a lot of great timey-wimey elements, which is just my favorite. They were well done and thought through, which made them completely believable and compelling.
But for the most part the timey-wimey stuff wasn’t the result of the main characters traveling through time. In fact, the three main characters do very little time traveling. Instead the book presents three different timelines for three different women. The three timelines move parallel to one another in such a way that just as you reach the climax of one, the other timeline is only just discovering what really happened. I’m not typically a fan of dual-timelines, but this was just done so well, and the stories overlapped in such surprising ways! I loved it.
The characters. The main three women are Bee (Beatrice), the inventor of time travel who was cut out due to poor mental health, Ruby, Bee’s grand-daughter who is a psychologist, and Odette, one of Ruby’s patients. Each woman was so unique, and I loved the different ways they were strong. Odette is so determined and resilient, Ruby is strong through her relationships and her ability to love, and Bee. Brilliant, wise, sensitive. I loved Bee the most, I think.
However, the other three founders of time travel as well as a few key time travelers also make regular appearances in this novel, sometimes even taking a brief turn as narrator. Often I don’t like when there are too many POVs, but this is written more from the perspective of an omniscient narrator, and no side characters got a POV chapter until you were very familiar and comfortable with them.
My favorite thing. Nobody told me this was a murder mystery. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) While it was extremely character-driven, and the Sci-Fi elements were the primary focus of the book, the bare bones of the store IS a murder mystery. Odette witnesses a murder at the beginning of the book, one which Bee and Ruby (in the past) know is coming, and all three characters are determined to find out who the victim is. It’s interesting to frame a murder mystery as a search for the victim rather than the murderer, but perhaps a little more interesting, in my opinion.
The mystery unfolds at just the right pace. While this book moves a little on the slow side due to the character-driven nature, I felt it was paced perfectly to give me a little bit of everything I wanted. Anticipation balanced with connection to the characters, gotta-know balanced with deep understanding of why.
I suppose I should take a moment to talk about representation. Women of color? CHECK. Immigration themes? CHECK. Lesbians? CHECK. Inter-racial couples? CHECK. All of these people presented as perfect? NOPE! Everyone is flawed, many characters are still coming to terms with their minority status and learning to adjust.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you love time travel, psychology, or both this is a must-read for you! If you are not so much a fan of the nitty-gritty details about how time travel works, you might prefer to stay away from this one, but it might be worth the effort anyway because the characters are just so stinking amazing.