Adam Swan’s move to New Yesterday, the city where you can choose any time singularity and make it happen, had been a successful one. He’s a partner in a firm that retroactively moulds the city into the towering skyscrapers and shopping malls so that they were built a week ago but have also been there for years.
Growing unrest from the Transparency for New Yesterday movement coupled with when Adam can’t get a name from his past out of his head, he starts digging into a past that no longer exists. In no time at all he finds himself torn between the reality he lives in and one that he has seemingly retrograded into leaving behind. Just who was “Lottie”, and why are the police suddenly searching the entire city for him?
New Yesterday is the follow up to Frasier Armitage’s Yestermorrow. Don’t worry, Yestermorrow is not essential reading to fully enjoy this novel but it does help give a feel for the context of the time-shifting cityscape that unfolds in the plot. You can see my review for that story here. I’d definitely recommend reading it.
It’s fitting that I’ve already familiarised myself with Armitage’s time splitting sci-fi world because there’s a whole lot of retrograding going on in these pages. New Yesterday is a city where the firm Anderson Whitman can make all of your dreams and goals come true. It answers the “what if?” questions by altering reality. Millionaires spring up overnight but, nefariously, some independent businesses have now been getting shafted in favour of new shopping malls and boutiques. Those who protest are at risk of going linear – a state where the hapless people grasp desperately at a timeline that simply no longer exists and are apprehended for retrograde therapy. That is about as pleasant as it sounds …
The concept is phenomenal. Can the actual story match up without need for retrograding? Yes. Yes, it damn well can.
Where Yestermorrow took us along the journey of how the time splitting tech was created, New Yesterday shows what happens when the technology is misused. Armitage’s writing is as gloriously frenetic as always as central character Adam goes from pondering over a name from his past to being plunged into the role of time-screwed action hero. It’s the literary equivalent of paddling in a dingy at the shallow end before being sucked into a riptide and finding yourself white water rafting … but with added time travel!
The pace never lets up. 50 pages will surge past as if Anderson Whitman are retrograding your reading of the book. The follow-the-breadcrumb mystery solving has intrigue enough not to be drowned out by the rapidity of the plot and the whodunnit reveal at the end is surprising yet guessable enough to work well.
I liked how Adam’s progress was continuously aided (and abetted) by the retrograde technology. The mystery at the centre of the story is carefully peeled away through a myriad of time tunnelling investigation that is incredibly satisfying to plough on through. There are some wonderful scenery-chewing characters along the way, my favourite being Santana the security guard (think Michael Peña’s performance in Ant Man and you’re on the right lines).
Everything contributes to a seriously unputdownable novel that is quite unlike anything I’ve read before.
Your Tomorrow, Today
This is an ambitious novel, make no mistake. Armitage didn’t make things easy for himself with the concept but all of the author’s risks paid off for me. It would have been easy for the plot to derail or the threads to unravel with all that’s taking place but that doesn’t happen. Instead we’re treated to Raymond Chandler-like hardboiled detective time-splitter Sci-fi. It feels like a fresh take on time travel and a strong indication that Armitage is an author who’s one to watch. Or maybe he’ll retrograde everything so that he’s always been an author at the top of our TBRs.
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