Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Psychology of Time Travel

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
Crooked Lane Books: 2/12/19
eBook review copy; 336 pages
ISBN-13: 9781683319443

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas is recommended debut murder mystery with a plot device that involves time travel and some of its consequences.
The first time machine is built in 1967 by a group of four women scientists: Margaret, Lucille, Grace, and Barbara. When they are ready to reveal of their fantastic invention, one of the group, Barbara, suffers a breakdown and is forced to leave the group. She is subsequently ostracized after Margaret convincingly orders Lucille and Grace to never have contact with Barbara ever again. Margaret, the leader of the group, becomes the head of the Conclave, the organization that oversees all time travel, and she rules it with arduous control.
Fifty years, in 2018, later a young woman, Odette, opens the museum where she just started working and finds the murdered body of a woman in a locked room in the basement. The event traumatizes Odette and also compels her to find out who the person was since she had no id on her, and why/how her murder happened. She meets with a therapist, Ruby Rebelloto, help her with the trauma. Ruby is the granddaughter of Barbara, Granny Bee to her, the ostracized time travel pioneer. Their meeting seems connected and predestined because Ruby's Granny Bee had received a newspaper clipping from the future reporting the murder of an unidentified woman (in 2017), and Ruby is obsessed with finding out if it was Granny Bee.
The narrative is told from alternating perspectives and decades in short chapters. The short chapters mean that the point-of-view and time period changes frequently. There are a number of characters, and some of these characters are time travelers, so they appear from different time periods in different plot threads. It does concern itself with the psychology of time travel, but the essential core that holds the novel together is a murder mystery. It is easier and more compelling to follow the novel if you focus on the murder mystery and set the time travelers and their jargon aside as an interesting plot device. 
All of the characters would have benefited from better development and an increase in insight into their own personal psychology. Margaret is the antagonist. She is egotistical, cruel, and arrogant. She runs the Conclave with a model that stigmatizes anyone with any kind of mental illness and engages in cruel hazing techniques to desensitize and test the devotion of new recruits to the Conclave. Her choices in how the Conclave is run are having a negative impact on people and the institution.
While there are interesting tidbits of insight into the effects time travel has on those who are members of the Conclave, there is also the increasing sense that all the time travelers are observers and information collectors with little concern over how they impact the past or future. They often visit themselves in the past or future, which is interesting but the effects of which are never explored beyond the surface details. The marriage of two people from two different time periods will surely bring several questions to mind for the reader.

I actually finished The Psychology of Time Travel over a week ago and the characters and their situations fell quickly from my mind. For fans of sci-fi, this isn't really a great choice for a time travel novel. For interested readers, at end of my review copy, there was a questionnaire/test you could take to determine if you would be suitable to apply to the Conclave. (I wasn't interested in it enough to take it, which is telling.)
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Crooked Lane Books.

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