Review: The Tourist – Robert Dickinson

The Tourist Robert DickinsonMy version: Hardback
Genre: Science Fiction The future, the past
Orbit Books
First published: 2016
Bought, signed

From the cover:

She is missing. Isn’t this the kind of thing we report?

It’s expected to be an excursion like any other. There is nothing in the records to indicate that anything out of the ordinary will happen.

A bus will take them to the mall. They will have an hour or so to look around. Perhaps buy something, try their food.

A minor traffic incident on the way back to the resort will provide additional interest – but the tourrep has no reason to expect any trouble.

until he notices that one of his party is missing.

Most disturbingly, she is a woman who, according to the records, did not go missing.

Now she is a woman whose disappearance could change the world.

With breathtaking plot twists that ricochet through time, The Tourist is the most original conspiracy thriller you will read this year.

I have of course put together something of a Pinterest board for The Tourist, though finding interesting stuff about a novel set in the future, isn’t easy. Anyway, it will get you in the mood, or continue it, while you read the book. Links galore!

The Tourist signature
I’d love to get a professional opinion on that beauty. That’s one scared little boy signature if ever I saw one

I’m not sure I’m any the wiser now than when I began the book. I kept thinking – several times – “Ok, I’ve got it now,” then I lost it and it slipped away. Time travel and the understanding thereof, is indeed a very slippery concept.

It reminded me of something I saw in a David Bowie documentary hundreds of years ago, where Bowie was doing some experimenting with song lyrics. If I remember rightly, he would write the song out as normal, then cut it up, throw the bits in the air, and then stick it back together in a reasonably random order. Something like that. And that, in a way, is what The Tourist is like. Of course, if you’re going to write about time travel, you’ve got to be either very careful to avoid that feeling, or it’s something you aim for. I kept thinking if I was going to write this book – to end up with what the finished book is now – I’d write the story in a normal timeline, then remove all the bits that actually inform the reader as to what is going on, hone cut it up, scatter/shuffle the bits, tape it back together and there you have it; The Tourist.

But of course, we’re expecting, after all that effort, for there to be an A-ha! moment. Some sort of reward for getting all the way through. Maybe at the end, I don’t know. It would have been really good if there had been one at the end of this, I was waiting and waiting and…nothing. It just stops. That’s the feeling, and I’ve seen elsewhere I’m not alone in my meh-ness.

So it’s either very clever and mind-bogglingly mind-boggling, or it’s a load of old cattle’s business. Actually, there are maybe three camps. It’s brilliant, it’s terrible, it’s ok. I can’t imagine, unless I missed several somethings (it’s entirely possible, I’m ruling nothing out), anyone finishing it and thinking “ah yes, as I thought!”

It would maybe bear a second read sometime in the future (or in the past, like the book…) but not just now. Perhaps if I did re-read it, thinking I’d make sense of the whole thing, I wouldn’t, because sense can’t be made of it and I’d be right royally pissed off.

It feels like he’s teasing us with building blocks forming from the fog, something to make us feel like we might be reaching the solid ground of figuring out what is going on, then it’s gone. By the end, by the final pages, the final paragraph and I can’t figure out who was narrating, or when, or where and I feel cheated, more than anything. If he, the author had anything of an idea of what he wanted to communicate with this book, he doesn’t communicate it.

You can buy The Tourist from The Book Depository

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