PrintE-mail Written by Andrew Marshall

Time travel is possible, and in the 23rd century is largely used to take tourists back to the early 21st to experience the culture of the forgotten past. After a tourist goes missing and it is discovered there is no record of her ever being there, a tangled and convoluted mystery begins to unfold. 

The structure alternates between the first-person POV of the tour rep responsible for the missing tourist, and actions of the missing tourist herself told in the second person. To begin with, the story and the world that The Tourist presents is as intriguing as it is mysterious, with details of the future such as a Near Extinction Event that set back humanity considerably; the average person being about six inches taller and unable to metabolise 21st century food; nano-augmentations that enhance senses and physical capabilities; and cities being designated by nothing more than numbers and compass points.

Unfortunately, all of this meticulous setup doesn’t actually translate to a particularly engaging plot. It’s commented on several occasions that time travel is confusing, but the narrative shortcomings come not from twisting time loops and possible paradoxes, but the book’s failure to adequately convey precisely what’s supposed to be happening in the 21st century where a majority of the story takes place.

Conspiracy thrillers are at their best when driven by a desperate search for hidden answers, but are greatly helped along when it’s also made clear what the questions are. Too much of the reason behind events is kept hidden for too much of the story, and as it continues with little in the way of explanation over exactly what’s happening, patience and engagement with it begins to wane until all that remains is a desire for whatever big revelation awaits to finally unveil itself. When the intended payoff comes, it arrives too late and without enough significance to draw things to any kind of satisfactory conclusion. 

The Tourist sets up a unique take on time travel and a tantalisingly alluded to history of its future world that instils a genuine desire to find out more about it. It’s just a shame about the story.



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