The Future of Another Timeline
By Annalee Newitz
The Future of Another Timeline is, as you may have guessed, a time travel novel. It manages to give the feel of almost being hard science fiction (not easy when you are dealing with time travel), while keeping the characters and the narrative front and center.
The story follows a group of friends as they secretly, and often illegally, work to shift history into a more socially liberal groove. Some of these travelers come from timelines where the woman's suffrage movement was squashed early on, where abortion has always been illegal, where African Americans remained second class citizens, and etc. Movement towards greater equality is slowly drifting forward, until the group starts encountering members of a radical men's rights group. This organization broadly mirrors the modern red pill movement, and they are working to move the timeline in a severely misogynistic direction -- and then destroy humanity's ability to time travel, thus locking their version of history in place.
The story is twisty and complex, and is very much what one hopes for in a good time travel novel -- consistent enough in its theory of time that you can buy into the story, well researched to the point that it can pass as historical fiction at times, and with enough new elements that it does not feel derivative. However, Newitz is also working to produce a social/political novel very much of-our-time, taking the spirit of the Me Too movement and porting it into an accessible and engaging story. It imparts a strong sense of the slow but steady progress of social movements, the hope for a better future, and how a society can come together to improve the world. It is impressive that this is achieved while also being a great piece of science fiction.
TFoAT is a fairly fresh take on time travel, developing a world in which the methods of time-travel are common knowledge, and propagate through the timeline to make time travel just another part of everyday life. There are some rather arbitrary limits in place to support a sane narrative; time travel takes a significant time investment, you can only travel wearing the clothes on your back, you can't travel further into the future than your initial starting point, etc. But even with these constraints in place it takes some serious worldbuilding to describe the resulting world in a satisfying manner.
This is one of the better science fiction books of 2019; and for my money, it is a better time travel novel than This Is How You Lose the Time War, or, for that matter, most other time travel books I've read. It is somewhat reminiscent of Becky Chambers' novels, but with a slightly darker edge. It is also, unsurprisingly, not too very unlike Newitz' previous book, Autonomous, although I found this to be a better read. I would recommend this to pretty much anyone who enjoys science fiction, but most particularly fans of time travel stories.