As a newbie to the brain of Robert Charles Wilson — of his other novels, I’ve only read Darwinia — I was prepared for big questions with few answers. I was not disappointed. The story here is not one of overt heroics or melodramatic clashes but rather the quiet, bewildering moments of humanity as our collective “buckets of grief.” We grieve for the world as it was, the world as it could be, and eventually the world as it is: infrastructure crumbling, paranoia swelling, violence reigning.
Not that the story ends without hope, because it does. But I asked myself as I turned the final page if, even as we learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. The central idea of time travel is paired with the idea of belief, and how what we expect to be true or significant (or moral, or just … I could go on) informs the landscape of our future. In a way, we are all constantly time-traveling, remembering the parts of our past to paint us in our best light, only seeing the interesting and shiny parts of our present. We build the future; we build our monuments to the future.
Once again, Robert Charles Wilson asks important questions and leaves it to us to find our own answers.