The Tourist by Robert Dickinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Masterpiece? No. But is it as bad as all the reviews seem to say? No.
So what is it? Is this time-travel mystery worth reading? Well, I'll let you in on a secret. The audiobook narrator, Peter Kenny, is absolutely fantastic. This is going to color my outlook very positively.
That being said, maybe no one can put all these pieces of humpty-dumpty back together again. I'm not saying it isn't worth the try, or that the complexity level and the implied ramifications aren't relatively huge, but certain things drag the reader's attention.
I've seen the use of second-person narration done fairly well, but generally it is limited only to short stints so as not to wear out its welcome. In this case, that's also true, at least to keep us grounded in the present, older, character, in a way done quite similar to The Fifth Season. How did this one fare? Hmmm, there's another problem I need to address.
Because this is time travel, with characters popping in and out of our MC's timeline with different ages, what I really wanted was really solid descriptive anchor points, whether of character, situation, or any kind of affectation. While some of it was there, it wasn't nearly enough to let me follow exactly where each iteration matched. A stronger plot than a closed-box mystery with dire tones might have saved the day. Heavier speculation on the part of the MC might have teased some mysteries out of the situations in a way that kept the reader on point.
Unfortunately, the MC was steadfastly un-curious and by the book, even though we open with a protracted far-future jail scene before we jump in to the hot seat of the tourist director of time-travelers. From that point forward, we jump from different time points, meeting up with other characters from mismatched timelines, from the same characters young and old, and discover many hints of another faction of time travelers that are so interested in history and wanting to put down roots there that I've got the impression that they're the biggest source of conflict in the novel, but instead of a real blowout or a shake-me-to-my-knees reveal, I'm still wondering what's going on.
And I just finished it.
I like needing to use my brain to enjoy books. Seriously, I do. But I also prefer hard mysteries like this to also be able to keep my focus some other way. Creeping around cities of tragedy without much wallowing in the tragedy, or knowing that there's secrets around every corner is all fine and dandy... as long as we get enough regular reveals to tide us over until we get the big one that is the main plot. I'm not saying that it always has to be this way, just that if the author is going to do something this ambitious, he needs to dangle a lot more candy to make it WORTH getting to the end.
I'm not sure that I feel quite satisfied, despite a rather interesting and complex tapestry of a personal time-mosaic.
Is it bad? Not at all.
Could it be a lot better? More vivid? Something to chew on, whether descriptively or even *gasp* emotionally? At least to pull us along to the next reveal? Or have more reveals? Yes, yes, yes.
It is a challenge, though. Make no mistake. I'm thinking perhaps that a large whiteboard with many colored erasable markers might be a good idea. :)
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