the Little Red Reviewer

The Tourist, by Robert Dickinson

Posted on: August 12, 2017

The Tourist, by Robert Dickinson

published June 2017

where I got it: received review copy from the published (Thanks Hachette!)







Welcome to the 24th century, where the most exotic vacation a person can take is to a 21st century mall.  Experience germs and cell phones, risk mild food poisoning and interactions with sullen gothy teenagers, and then spend the night safely ensconced in a resort hotel.   There are tons of travel companies that offer these types of tours.  The companies and their employees choose to ignore all the smuggling that often takes place right under their noses. Time travel has become so easy and common, it’s not even called “time travel” anymore, it’s just called “travel”,  and you get to your destination via a high energy technology called translation.


“It’s the logic of travel: the past is just another country, and, if you can afford the translation, you can always go back. Nothing is lost, nobody really dies. You die, of course: but, if they have the right resources, other people can always come back and see you. You remain alive.”

                                The Tourist, page 310


The opening chapters of The Tourist fall somewhere between Kage Baker’s Company novels and the movie Twelve Monkeys, complete with a shadowy future century no one is allowed to see, rumors of a genocide in recent history, a near extinction event, and the challenges of how to tell someone you are from the past or the future.  There is a “map” of sorts in the front of the book, that on first glance looks like a map of a shopping mall, but then you realize it’s a chart of a time line. The time line is U shaped, with the character’s lives jumping back and forth all over the place. Ahh, the tricks you can play in a time travel book!


Spens is a rep with one of the travel agencies, his job is to shepherd his charges to the mall, show them how paper money works, and warn them against 21st-ers who know how to trick naive idiots.  For shock value, he buys a muffin at a coffee stand and eats it.  This is just a job for Spens, he lives at the resort and gets together for drinks with the other reps at night to share stories of their idiot clients.   He’ll work at the resort forever if it means he never has to work the tunnels again.


And then one day he loses a client.


Like a good rep, Spens report the incident to his boss, and soon finds himself involved in a search and rescue mission for a 24th century woman who has managed to get very lost in 21st century London. The chapters from Spens’ point of view are given in chronological order (at least from chronological from his point of view!). The thing with Spens is that he’s convinced he’s the main character of this book, so much so that he even has his own classical music soundtrack. We’re all the stars of the movie that is playing in our own heads, and he’s no different.  Anyone with an appreciation for classical music will get a kick out of Spens, you’ll also be a little jealous of the recordings he has access to and the live concerts he could conceivably attend.


Elsewhere (elsewhen?) a political prisoner, Karia,  is offered a way out of prison. The man who visits her is looking for two missing people, and he’s pretty sure they fled to Karia’s home town. The town was obliterated off the map, and she may be the only person alive who remembers the layout of the town.  Also? All of the chapters told from Karia’s point of view are told in second person.  I don’t remember the last time I read a book that was told in 2nd person, do you? Well, every time you read a Karia chapter, it’ll be happening to you!  Her chapters aren’t told in chronological order, there are flashbacks and other jumps around in her life, and it made it hard to keep track of what was happening when. Again, the chart comes in handy.


The Tourist is a whirlwind of a time travel story, with characters hopping back and forth and in and out of other people’s timelines, requiring the author to perform some plotting gymnastics, and the good news is that Dickinson manages to avoid many of the common pitfalls of writing a time travel book.  That said, the book is not without flaws. Just past the halfway point, the plot gets muddied up and never quite recovers, with secondary characters leading Spens and his friends on, a lost brother who might not be lost after all, and other secondary characters who most certainly know more than they let on.  There are references to  a Near Extinction Event, and mentions of a genocidal war that destroyed Karia’s hometown. More context on these events would have been appreciated.


I recently read Pilot X by Tom Merritt, and a while back I read Wesley Chu’s Time Salvager. I enjoyed The Tourist more than those two books.  Even with its execution flaws, The Tourist was full of surprises and great characters.  Marketed as a mainstream novel, the book has garnered plenty of “so-so” reviews on Amazon, much of which are readers who expected a conspiracy thriller and seem frustrated that they ended up with a time travel book with an unexpected ending. For any of you who are still wondering, YES, this is a time travel book!


2 Responses to "The Tourist, by Robert Dickinson"

Apart from the old choose your own adventure books (and the computer version – text based adventure games) the only second person books I can remember are by Charles Stross – Halting State and Rule 34. I found that second person in those books gave a feeling of immediacy and being pushed along.

Liked by 1 person

I have Rule 34, I need to read it one of these days. Last night I bought the new N.K. Jemisin, her trilogy that starts with The Fifth Season has some chapters that are told in 2nd person. and yes, it sure does give a sense of immediacy!!


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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