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Posted on 22 Aug 2019 in Fiction, SFF |

KATE MASCARENHAS The Psychology of Time Travel. Reviewed by Amelia Dudley

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In this debut novel Kate Mascarenhas creates a world where time travel is not only possible, it could be linked to a murder …

In 1967, four female scientists invent time travel, but only three of them become household names for the right reason. The fourth, Ruby’s grandmother Bee, is ostracised by the other pioneers after a public mental breakdown that nearly prevented the project’s success.

Bee lives a quiet life. She never talks about her past until she and her granddaughter Ruby receive a cryptic message from the near future about the mysterious death of an elderly lady. Bee doesn’t think much of it, but Ruby fears for her grandmother’s life and tries to track down the sender.

The following year, Odette, a student volunteer at a museum, discovers an old woman’s body in the basement. She is haunted by this; especially when the inquest fails to uncover who the woman was or how she was murdered. The body has been found behind a door bolted from the inside:

She wasn’t the victim of this crime. Once she was at home, in her own bed, the world would surely start to make sense again. She wouldn’t be plagued with questions of how this death had occurred. She wouldn’t constantly be wondering why. It was the year of her final examination. Soon she’d forget that poor dead woman. In the stress of revision and looking for a job, Odette would hardly ever think about her at all. 

But no matter how sternly Odette repeated this, she knew it wasn’t true.

Time travel is kept exclusive by an independent international organisation led by the three pioneers, known as the Conclave. It is mainly used for espionage, with personal trips for staff thrown in as a perk of the job. Murders committed using time travel fall under their jurisdiction, and Odette suspects the Conclave has orchestrated a cover-up.

This is a soft science fiction novel with an intriguing locked-door murder mystery. The actual murder itself is solved sooner than one might expect but there is still a lot of intrigue about the motive and the consequences after this point. The focus is chiefly on the impact of time travel on the characters and on society more broadly, rather than the technology itself. There is, nevertheless, some detail about how the time travelling works in relation to causality, as well as some other fun science on the side. It’s certainly not a casual read – there are a lot of different characters and times to keep track of – but it’s well worth paying attention.

As the title suggests, this book contains some interesting thoughts about what time travelling could do to people’s personalities and mental health, particularly to their feelings about romantic relationships and death. For instance, if one could simply visit a dead loved one in the past, is that loved one really gone? What place is there, then, for grieving?

Being able to check their own death certificates in the future also makes many characters rather cavalier about death:

‘Me?’ Her eyes were wide. ‘I died of a brain haemorrhage this morning, remember? Nobody’s going to execute me.’

 It’s fantastically well thought-out. There’s a full glossary of time travellers’ slang and several psychometric tests for assessing time travellers’ mental health and attitudes to death at the back of the book. It’s clear how much care went into writing it, which is something that readers can really appreciate.

Kate Mascarenhas The Psychology of Time Travel Head of Zeus 2018 PB pp368 RRP $29.99

Amelia Dudley is currently taking a break from a Master’s degree focussing on plant biology. She is the proud aunt of many nieces and nephews. In her spare time she reads, gardens, draws, paints and doesn’t get to do enough writing.

You can buy The Psychology of Time Travel from Abbey’s at a 10% discount by quoting the promotion code NEWTOWNREVIEW here or you can buy it from Booktopia here.

To see if it is available from Newtown Library, click here.