Time travel can be a tricky thing but I like to read about time travel. I was happy when Mulholland Books sent me a review copy of The Revisionists by Thomas Mullen because the blurb promised a different approach to time travel as described in the books I read so far.
The book will be published on September 28th. That means only a few days left. The right time to deliver my review.
I wanted to enjoy the book and I wanted to present you a fair review. But I ended up in writing something which looks more like a reading impression than a review. I know we can't love all books. I hope I found proper words to explain to you why The Revisionists did not work for me.
by Thomas Mullen
"Zed is an agent from the future. A place where all of the world's problems have been solved. No hunger. No war. No despair.
His mission is to keep that way. Even if it means ensuring every cataclysm throughout history runs its course, especially one just on the horizon.
Zed's mission will ensnare the lives of a disgraced former spy named Leo; a young lawyer, Tasha, grieving over the loss of her brother; Sari, the oppressed employee of a foreign diplomat; and countless others. But will he finish his final mission before the present takes precedence over a perfect future? One that may have more cracks than he realizes?
The Revisionists is a literary tale of action and intrigue that puts a fresh spin on today's global crises, asking questions about the nature of history and the future, and our own roles in shaping them." [Back of the book]
I expected a mix of Fringe, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Time Tunnel and a bit of Blade Runner.
What I got
To say it straight away, The Revisionists did not hit my expectations.
Without any doubt Thomas Mullen is a talented writer. The chapter where he describes the former life of Sang Hee, the wife of an South Korean diplomat is one of the most impressive ones I read in the past months. And there have been some more excellent passages. But a book consists of more chapters. And that is the point to explain all the things I missed in The Revisionists.
I could not really connect with the characters. There was a kind of emotional divider between us.
It has something to do with the story itself which oscillated between social drama, thriller, tale with sf components, time travel book, dystopian novel or something else. Most of the time it read like mix of thriller and social drama.
Is it thought provoking when you get a glimpse of a Nineteen Eighty-Four like future? I found the information about the future society insufficient.
Is it thought provoking when millions of people have to die for a better future, as happened (will happen) with the disastrous event called the Great Conflagration? To be honest that sounds like the biblical flood. I wanted to know more about the event and the days before it happened -
Watchmen (new edition 2008) [ISBN-13: 978-1401222666] by Alan Moore delivers an excellent example for that.
I did not expect a detailed mathematical and physical explanation of the time travel itself. But a few more details like in The Time Machine and in Time Tunnel would have given a more time travel like touch.
A great part of the book I felt confused. The stories of the different characters got intermingled and I could not see a real progress for the main story line.
Despite that, I read the whole book always hoping for the light at the end of the tunnel but in vain.
I read several time travel novels within in 2011 - Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, TimeRiders series by Alex Scarrow - and all of them entertained me more than The Revisionists.
I think the label TIME TRAVEL raises wrong expectations which The Revisionists can't deliver.
If you are looking for a real time travel novel then you should read for example Doomsday Book (1992) [ISBN-13: 978-0553562736] by Connie Willis.