By: Robert Dickinson
Release Date: October 16, 2016
I’d seen The Tourist by Robert Dickinson at the library several times before I picked it up. I was intrigued. The cover looked generic, the synopsis sounded like a typical thriller novel, and the spine was marked as science fiction. Something didn’t add up to me, and I was very reluctant to say that it was tagged wrongly by the library staff, a lovely group of people who have consistently remained there since I was about nine years old. I stumbled across this on Goodreads more recently and on my last trip to the library I finally picked it up.
In this novel, time travel is not only possible, its rather commonplace. It’s main use? Tourism, almost with historical and scientific research. On one particular excursion to a local mall, one time traveling tourist goes missing. Spens, the main characters, must find her. After all, there are no records from the future stating that she stays missing. The missing tourist, however, seems to be doing everything she can to stay missing as society around them begins to fall apart.
I’ve heard about this book before, mostly along the lines of ‘it’s very confusing’, something which is also reflected in the reviews left on Goodreads. However, I really didn’t find this at all.
If anything, the book suffers from miss-marketing. I do not think the blurb does the novel justice, portraying the novel as more of a thriller/mystery. To be honest, I’m not sure I would have realized this was a science fiction novel at all if the library hadn’t stuck the sci-fi tag on the spine of the book. While there is a definite mystery aspect to the novel, this is not the only or most important aspect of the book. Time travel is a very, very important part of the novel. The book doesn’t stop for any long discussions on time travel, how it works, or popular theories or paradoxes. It expects the reader to already be familiar with time travel and time travel related theories.
The Tourist is a bit ‘timey-wimey’. If you don’t read or watch a lot of time travel science fiction, this book may be a bit hard to follow. If you’re a fan of a show like Doctor Who, I don’t expect any confusion while reading.
There are a lot of things that I really do like about this novel. I did enjoy the time travel aspect. I’ve always liked the discussion on how exactly time travel works. How do relationships with family and friends change when time travel is involved? Do things like death matter in a future with time travel in the same way they do now when family can merely go back in time and visit the deceases? If you have the possibility of looking at your own future, would you? Can past, or future, events be changed, even if they’re already recorded?
This novel tackles all of those questions, providing commentary throughout the novel via the character’s actions. Some seem to have hard answers. Others, maybe not so much. It’s a fascinating study of the genre.
In addition to this, I found the futuristic society portrayed quite fascinating. Dickinson did quite a bit I loved and don’t often see. The future doesn’t have only one language. The way different cities, or societies view one another is completely fascinating. One sees another as evil, an almost dystopic place. The future world seems to be teetering. Those from one city view another as despotic, an almost dystopian society.
The majority of the novel takes place in our world around current times. The people of the 21st century are well aware of the 25th century sightseers that live and work in their midst. Both modern and future humans think of the other as strange, odd. Both sides view the other as all having a strange sameness, neither side really being able to tell one person from another in the same way those of the same century do. Neither side really understands the other. Those of the future are understandably careful with information released about themselves and the future Earth. Those of the past are an enigma due to a severe lack of information existing from the surrounding time period due to a time period of widespread extinction and global disaster. I feel that these things aren’t portrayed in quite the same way in any other book. I liked seeing these people of different times interact. The flaws and misconceptions each had for the other were very human and understandable, even if I didn’t agree with or like the character’s opinions.
As for the characters themselves… Well, I had some issues with them.
None of the characters are ‘bad’ per say. The pasts, likes, and dislikes of both main characters and side characters were all woven into the narratives. All of the characters were very three dimensional, and I found myself drawn to several characters. However, all of those I was drawn to were side characters. And this is due to a very important reason.
The Tourist follows two separate characters. One of these characters narratives is told in first person point of view. The other is told in second person point of view. Let’s talk about the first person point of view first. Usually, I find stories told in first person full of life and personality. Unfortunately, the main character of this narrative, Spens, was utterly bland. There was no personality in his voice at all. It felt more like a third person limited point of view that just happened to have ‘I’ pronouns instead of ‘him’.
As for our other main character, I don’t think using second person point of view necessarily hurt story. However, it certainly didn’t add anything special to the narrative. I didn’t find this style hard to get into, but it is very rarely used and I can see this style being an issue for some other readers.
Despite some gripes, I really did like The Tourist by Robert Dickinson. I found the subject matter interesting and the story being told had be gripped from beginning to end. If you like time travel narratives or books with alternating point of view, pick this one up. If you aren’t well versed in time travel stories or you don’t like second person point of view, this might be a book to skip.
You are a fan of time travel stories; You like thriller stories; You enjoy alternating points of view
Don't Read If:
You don't like second person point of view; You don't like alternating points of view; You aren't already well versed in time travel fiction