Novel: The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz

Having already enjoyed Autonomous, I’m happy to report that Annalee Newitz’s follow-up, The Future of Another Timeline (2019), is another engaging read that inventively blends classic SF tropes with feminist punk attitude. The result is in an unpredictable, quirky, inspired book. In a universe where time travel is possible, Tess is a scientist from 2022 who travels back to key moments in history to perform “edits” to improve sociopolitical conditions in the future. Tess’s journey back to 1992, to a concert where a younger version of herself is in attendance, becomes an important turning point in her efforts: she quickly discerns that an organization of “men’s rights activists” has engaged in a time-travel campaign to restrict the rights of women in her future, and erase their contributions from history. As Tess and her friends organize to fight an “edit war” that will deliver them decades and even centuries into the past, the narrative also traces the formative experiences of her former self in the 1990s, and how those traumas motivated Tess’s future self.

Entertainingly ricocheting through time and space, The Future of Another Timeline is a bracing book full of head-spinning ideas, clever narrative legerdemain, and eclectic, fascinating history, which Newitz fashions into a uniquely different but painfully familiar world. Dual-protagonist books often run the risk of lopsided character investment, and in this case I found myself more engaged with young Beth’s formative years than Tess’s dizzying time-travel adventures, but Newitz entwines these threads expertly, showing an impressive command of plot, theme, and messaging throughout. Another innovative and enjoyable science fiction novel.

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