cover image Last Year

Last Year

Robert Charles Wilson. Tor, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-7653-3263-9

The 21st-century time travelers who came to 1870s America didn’t just reveal themselves to be from the future; they also built the City of Futurity in the Midwest to give tourists—at least those willing to pay the extremely expensive ticket price—a vague look at the world to come. Jesse Cullum is a “native” City employee, born in the 19th century, who knows he’s got a good deal working security and means to keep it, especially while supporting his sister, Phoebe. Knowing the future people’s oddities well, he’s not surprised by the forthright and occasionally crude behavior (by 19th-century standards) of his new security partner, Elizabeth DePaul. But he is surprised when he falls in love with her, and shocked when someone arms the oppressed groups of the 19th century with future knowledge and weaponry. Wilson (The Affinities) flips the traditional time-travel genre on its head with an engaging protagonist who adapts the best of both worlds into rugged, brainy secret-busting resourcefulness, forging talents superior to 21st-century technology. Wilson’s turnabout effectively turns both past and present into “another country” and may just lure readers tired of temporal clichés back into the time-travel fold. Agent: Shawna McCarthy, McCarthy Agency. (Dec.)