Review: “The Psychology of Time Travel” by Kate Mascarenhas

THIS PREVIEW MAY CONTAIN SOME SPOILERS. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.

 

In 1967, time travel ceases to be a theory and becomes reality, a triumphant success for a project spearheaded by four female scientists. Soon enough, the pioneers, Margaret, Barbara, Lucille, and Grace, hop between present and future as if they’ve never done anything else. Unfortunately, Barbara soon begins to show signs of mental instability, a side effect of time travel. To prevent any stigma to fall upon the project, the remaining pioneers decide to force Barbara into resigning.

Some fifty years later, a student finds a badly disfigured body in a locked room in the basement of the museum where she volunteers. Who is the dead woman, and why was she murdered? In order to find the answers she desperately needs to regain her equilibrium, Odette decides to join the Conclave, the organization regulating and facilitating time travel.

There is a lot to like about this novel: all the primary characters are women, which is a refreshing change of pace. The premise of the book is certainly intriguing, and the setting unique. These are the strong points of “The Psychology of Time Travel.”

The story is interesting enough to easily allow the reader to pick up what part of the plot takes place in which timeline, but all throughout, I never connected to any of the characters. While I wanted to follow their exploits until the conclusion, it was like looking into live-action panorama box from the outside, which made the experience somewhat less than satisfying.

A plot point that bothered me incessantly was the flippant way in which time travelers reveal the future to other characters and even meet their older and younger selves. Considering the rigorous selection and training process potential time travelers have to go through before joining the Conclave, it would be downright dangerous to simply spring someone’s future on them, not to mention that apparently in this story, too, you can’t really change anything about it, just as you cannot change past events.

Furthermore, the book could have benefited from vigorous editing. The writing style reads very much like the original intent was to submit a short story that kept getting longer and longer, and even as short story, this would have looked like a decent second draft at best.

Ms Mascarenhas clearly has a passion for story-telling and some refreshingly unusual ideas about alternate realities. I look forward to reading more tightly crafted novels by her in future.

“The Psychology of Time Travel” is published by Crooked Lane Books. I received an ARC via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

psychology time travel