I'm still reeling from this book. I finished it with that sad, hollow feeling that makes it impossible to read anything else for a while because you're still living in the book's world and still caught up in the adventures of those characters. And I didn't expect to like this book anywhere near as much as I did. It's a science-fiction book with a romance that is central to the story and we all know how well those go. But it's well-written and compelling with a very interesting and seemingly original (to me) take on the concept and science behind time travel. It took me longer than usual to read this book; but sometimes it does take me more time to read books I really loved because I tend to savour them a bit more. I find myself pausing to read sentences again because I liked them so much, or because the emotions I feel are too much to process in one reading.
Some people might be tempted to call this book a dystopia, which is fair enough because it is about a future world gone horribly wrong, but I view books about time travel (especially ones as scientifically detailed as this) to be the more traditional brand of sci-fi. Though, for me, it still carries that key ingredient that I look for in a dystopia, that key ingredient that has had me spending many disappointed hours searching through the dystopian craze for a book that holds it. It's an element I've been addicted to for a very long time. When I was eleven I read [b:Nineteen Eighty-Four|5471|Nineteen Eighty-Four|George Orwell|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327892247s/5471.jpg|153313] and then when I was fourteen I read [b:The Handmaid's Tale|38447|The Handmaid's Tale|Margaret Atwood|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1294702760s/38447.jpg|1119185] - these two readings sparked a thus-far lifelong interest in a future world that, no matter how realistic or unrealistic, is so well-crafted and well-explained that it's impossible to not believe in it. A world that you can see happening because the author shows how we got from here to there. They base it in science and facts and politics to make it seem like a very real possibility and to make you absolutely terrified from start to finish.
This book scared me. Ms Terrill managed to convince me completely that time travel was not only real, but a very real threat to the life we know. Think about it. What could a government do with time travel? What alliances could they break apart before they ever happened? What foreign powers could they destroy before they ever rose up against them? And I know what people will think - there's a time paradox, right? You change the past and then you change the future. But Terrill also offers a very interesting and convincing explanation for that. I've always been a bit of a nerd, but not so much a science nerd until I read the scientific foundations of this story with wide-eyed awe. Maybe it couldn't really work like that. No, probably it couldn't really work like that. But isn't that the definition of good science fiction? To take the impossible or the improbable and convince the reader that it's real?
Let's move onto the characters. They are so multi-layered and complex that they jump off the page. One of the things I loved the most was seeing Em as she is now, Marina as she was then and seeing how one could grow into the other. The growth of her character felt realistic, you could easily see how her experiences had changed her and the book touches upon the question of how much people can really change. How much of our adult selves lurks beneath the surface when we are children? If we do bad things, when did we become a person capable of doing bad things? Was it always there? This is such a fascinating book on so many levels - the science-y world-building aspect, the political aspect and the characters' struggles. But, above all, I adored Finn. And maybe that's why I don't care that the romance played quite a big part in this book, because Finn is fantastic. And funny. And wonderful. And I want a Finn too!
The main questions this book asks are: if you could go back and kill a man who would do terrible things before he had the power to do so, would you? What if that person was one you loved? How easy would it be to look into the eyes of an innocent who couldn't believe they'd ever hurt anyone... and pull the trigger? Is that person even the same as the one they'll become? This book not only scared me, it broke my heart too.
And that ending, oh god, that ending. Perfect bittersweetness.