Four female scientists construct the world’s first time machine in 1967. However, one of them suffers a breakdown on the day they showcase their invention to the world. To protect the project’s future, she is ostracized from that group, and her contributions are erased from history.
Five decades later, time travel is a profitable business and an elite profession. A young woman, Ruby, knows that her grandmother, Barbara, was the time-travel pioneer who went mad, but nobody in her family talks about it. One fine morning, Barbara receives a cryptic message from the future conveying about the murder of a woman. Who is she? Can she be saved?
Time travel is a tricky subject. Many things can turn out badly. However, The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas deals with time travel in a simple manner and involves zero mind-fuckery. Your grey matter won’t blast out of your skull trying to keep track of paradoxes.
In her debut novel, Kate Mascarenhas limits the scope of this bewildering subject to visit past and future selves. There are just three timelines here- 1967, 2017 and 2018. Mascarenhas is smart enough to not dirty her hands (and risk alienating her readers) by delving too deep into this subject. Instead, this book deals (as the title suggests) with the psychological ramifications of time travel.
Besides raising thought-provoking questions, The Psychology of Time Travel also takes you on a ride through a world divided between the elite time-travelers and those who can’t time travel. It’s Mascarenhas’ version of haves and have-nots. However, becoming an elite demands terrible sacrifices. Read the book to discover what.
Despite a fantastic premise and an excellent beginning, The Psychology of Time Travel failed to impress me for the very reason it may appeal to countless others—simplicity. While the uncomplicated approach to time travel let me fly through the novel, the lack of depth hindered my immersion in Mascarenhas’ world. The world building is not adequate. In a length of around 300 pages, she has stuffed in everything – currency, time machines, a small paradox, multiple and diverse characters, and so much more.
Speaking of characters, I honestly couldn’t connect with any, except Grace (one of the pioneers). I couldn’t feel an iota of empathy for Barbara. Neither was I repulsed by the vicious Margaret. The characters were reduced to mere caricatures. The evil characters were strictly evil; the morally upright were, well, strictly morally upright. There is no backstory given for most of the characters. What made the villain so vile? Why didn’t the rest of the pioneers try to contact Barbara (at least covertly)? More importantly, how could a single woman become so powerful? The answers provided did not satisfy me.
To conclude, I could not feel any zing in the plot of The Psychology of Time Travel. Too many characters, inadequate world-building, and a squeaky-clean treatment of time travel made this a forgettable experience for me. Nevertheless, it is a unique book. People interested in speculative fiction can check it out.
Thanks to NetGalley for providing me a free eARC of this novel. I opted to provide an honest review.
eARC, 336 pages, To be released on February 22nd, 2019, by Crooked Lane Books
Image source- Amazon.in