The Tourist by Robert Dickinson

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The Tourist by Robert Dickinson

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: In an alternative present, people from the future have come to visit. Not to instil their wisdom, but to look around a bit. Join them in this time travel novel that staunchly follows the rules, sometimes to its own detriment.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 352 Date: October 2016
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 9780356508153

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Time travel in any format is a tricky business. In the real world it is pretty much impossible, or we would all be reading about how people from the future kept trying to assassinate Hitler, but he managed to avoid them. In film, time travel can be super cool and lead to some mind bending adventures, but spend a few moments unbending your mind and you discover more plot holes than an entire Terminator Tetralogy. In the written form this is even worse as you don't have the visual splendour to distract the eye. The key to time travel in science fiction is to keep it simple. Or you could just ignore this advice and write The Tourist.

The novel opens with a prisoner sometime in the future. We don't know where she has been or what she has done. We do know that the authorities want her to travel to a distant city to help them find some missing travellers. Parallel to this tale is that of Spens, a tourist guide who has been sent back from the future to early 20th Century Britain to show future tourists around a typical shopping centre. When one of his charges goes missing he finds himself no longer giving a guided tour of Britain, but having to chase a potential time criminal.

By their very nature many time travel books are circular; the beginning informs the end, which in term informs the beginning again. In fact, for the book to work everything must lead to a point that you already know. Robert Dickinson does have some fun with his idea by creating a group of inter-time terrorists who are trying to alter the future by messing with previous events. However, rather than being something that actually may work, they are seem as idiots who don't understand science. In fact, Dickinson goes as far as to play very close to the rules of time travel.

For a devotee of the genre, this plays well to the audience. We have two overlapping stories that must meet at some point and lead to the start again. This invariably creates complications and some of the actions taken by the characters are with the knowledge they are only doing it as to not affect the past. All a little confusing and when it comes down to it, not that much fun. A book as rigid as 'The Tourist' abandons the fun that can be had by messing up the rules and instead sticks to them. This leads to one of the blandest endings to a book I have read in a long time.

Despite my many misgivings with the structure of the book, science fiction fans will still gain some joy from the well-designed world building by Dickinson. An alternative present day that has visitors from the future is an intriguing one and I love the fact that they only come back to gape at the backward yokels. If Dickinson has kept to one character to follow, or simplified the story even further, there would have been enough in the world alone to make the book entertaining. As it is, the complexities and rules of time travel are followed and this leads to a book that does not follow the most interesting direction for the reader, but is compelled to conclude in the only way it can – dryly.

Complex mind bending science fiction can be entertaining too as Afterparty by Daryl Gregory attests, but Zero World by Jason M Hough shows that Dickinson is not the first author to lose their way.

Buy The Tourist by Robert Dickinson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Tourist by Robert Dickinson at

Buy The Tourist by Robert Dickinson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Tourist by Robert Dickinson at


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