The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
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Published on 09 August 2018
I received a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
What an incredible piece of literature this was! This book completely blew me away. I cannot believe this is Kate Mascarenhas’ first book! The research that must have gone into it and the mastery with which she handled this highly complex story is insane. I was quite frankly gobsmacked.
The Psychology of Time Travel is set in three different time periods. First is 1967, when four brilliant women scientists secluded themselves in the middle of nowhere working on a time machine… and succeeded, pioneering the world of time travelling. Then comes 2017, time travel is in full swing by that point since it became a huge organisation (called the Conclave) after the pioneers’ discovery. Barbara (one of said pioneers, now in her eighties) receives a mysterious message from one of her former colleagues and has to plunge once again into the world of time travel, a world she had left behind many years ago. Finally, there is 2018. After Odette discovers a body on the first day of her new job at the toy museum, she is both traumatised and intrigued. Flashbacks of the body will not leave her alone for months and she feels that the only way for her to get better is to solve the mystery of this murder, and for this, she will have to enter the Conclave’s world…
This book is nothing like I’ve ever read before. The one thing that makes it stand out compared to other books and films about time travel is that, in this, there is no changing the past. I feel like a lot of stories about time travel revolve around the idea of going back into the past in order to change the future’s course of events. But in this book, the future is fated and there is no altering it. You might think at the time that you are making a decision that will influence the course of your future, but really you’re acting in exactly the way you should be for your future to go on as planned.
In The Psychology of Time Travel, aspiring time travellers have to pass an amount of physical and psychological tests before they can work for the Conclave. Due to this rigorous testing, it has become an elite profession and only a handful of members of society are actually time travellers. But as exciting as the job may sound, it is a difficult one to say the least. As a time traveller, you can discover your whole future: who you will marry, whether you’ll have children, the exact time and cause of your death… and you just have to take it as it is. Relationships between time travellers and civilians become incredibly complex. A person who doesn’t time travel will stay in one time period, going about their life unaware of what’s to come; whereas time travellers will be constantly hopping from one century to the next, knowing everything about the future and sometimes becoming the bearer of bad news. Some time travellers can then feel superior to civilians due to their excessive knowledge of the future and can develop superiority complexes.
The insight that Kate has into time travelling is unbelievable. I’m sure we’ve all fantasised before about how we’d like to go back in time, either to change something or to relive a happy moment. But Kate’s book goes into the technicalities and exposes how detrimental time travel can be. Time travellers lose their sense of self, because they have several selves (their younger and older selves that they sometimes encounter in different time periods); and they also become desensitised to death because to them, death isn’t final. They always have the opportunity to go back in time and visit the person they have lost and so they fail to understand how civilians are affected by someone’s death. Some of them even like to play Angel of Death and give civilians a forewarning.
There are so many characters and timelines to keep track of in this book but somehow it all flows seamlessly and I never felt like I was losing the plot. The writing is so clever that it reminded me of JK Rowling, especially in the way the author leaves tiny clues throughout the book that all come together in the end. It is fair to say this is the best book I’ve read in a long while. I could go on for hours but I don’t want to give too much of the plot away. I will definitely read this book again, just so that I can notice all the subtle little details I may have missed on the first read.
And as if I couldn’t like this book any more, it also features characters from various races, ethnical backgrounds, genders and sexualities, which was a delightful surprise! Yay! Representation for all!
It is hard to define the genre of this book. I’ve seen it described as a mystery & thriller, and fantasy book. However, I reckon anyone could enjoy it. And if you’ve got a particular interest in time travel, do not hesitate!