I started this book first thing on New Year’s Day, made it about thirty pages in, and then didn’t pick it up again until Sunday morning on the 5th. I don’t know if it was feeling too heavy or what, but I needed to be in the right headspace for it. (It was probably the men’s right’s activists that did it, followed closely by a disturbing murder.) Then I basically binge-read the whole book yesterday morning.
To sum the book up badly (and I will do better further below), The Future of Another Timeline is about feminists using time travel to save the world from men’s rights activists. It’s very strange, but ultimately, good.
To get more complicated about it, this is definitely speculative fiction. I have not read Newitz’s other book, Autonomous, but I’ve heard the plot, and it seems they* have a thing for complex characters mixed in with complex worldbuilding. The time travel here is one of the most unique I’ve seen. Most of the time, time travel is something that is invented, and that comes from the present day or the future. Here, time travel is as much of a given as gravity or the existence of air. There are five machines that were discovered by humanity that are essentially geological formations, and no one knows where they come from. The result of this is a humanity that is comfortable with the idea of time travel, and that is pretty fascinating. (What really got me was that travelers go everywhere, so even humans from long, long, long ago are used to people from thousands of years in the future just popping up.) Also a result is a constantly shifting timeline, as people make “edits” to the timeline (even though they aren’t really supposed to) according to various agendas.
*I’m glad I checked on this. I originally picked this book for my month of reading books by or about badass ladies, but it seems after this book was published, Newitz has come out as nonbinary and is using they/them pronouns now.
Our two main characters are Tess, a traveler from 2022 who is also a member of a group called the Daughters of Harriet (Tubman, who in this reality was a Senator), and Beth, a teenager in the early 1990s caught up in the punk scene. Tess is the main actor in terms of the time travel plot, as she and her friends get mixed up in an edit war with a group of Comstockers (men from the future who want to promote Anthony Comstock’s censorship agenda, paving the way for a dystopian world where men have control of women’s bodies). Beth acts as sort of a litmus character, as we see through her story how the different edits actually affect people (there’s also a lot more to her story as well, but I don’t want to spoil it).
I would definitely recommend this one. It’s a great time travel story, if nothing else, but it’s also an empowering story for women and nonbinary people (there’s a nonbinary character in here called C.L. who is a part of the Daughters of Harriet).