Book Reviews

Review: Someone in Time

An anthology of short stories that explore romance and time-travel – there are some fascinating ideas in here!

Book: Someone in Time edited by Jonathan Strahan

Publication date: 10th May 2022

Ownership: E-ARC sent free of charge by Rebellion Publishing. All opinions my own.

Content warnings: I would be here all day if I listed individual content warnings for each story – though the stories are optimistic, not all of them are fluffy, so a general warning across the anthology for violence and death, medical procedures, and homophobia. I’m happy to look up specifics if anyone needs.

Even time travel can’t unravel love…

Time-travel is a way for writers to play with history and imagine different futures – for better, or worse.

When romance is thrown into the mix, time-travel becomes a passionate tool, or heart-breaking weapon. A time agent in the 22nd century puts their whole mission at risk when they fall in love with the wrong person. No matter which part of history a man visits, he cannot not escape his ex. A woman is desperately in love with the time-space continuum, but it doesn’t love her back. As time passes and falls apart, a time-traveller must say goodbye to their soulmate.

With stories from best-selling and award-winning authors such as Seanan McGuire, Alix E. Harrow and Nina Allan, this anthology gives a taste for the rich treasure trove of stories we can imagine with love, loss and reunion across time and space. 

As always with anthologies, some stories worked better for me than others. If you’re at all interested in any of the authors, or in time travel romance in general, then I recommend picking this up, because it’s well put together, and the stories are all high quality – there was nothing I skipped because it was bad, just stories that did or didn’t work for me personally! There’s a real breadth of genre and style here, with stories that feel historical and futuristic sitting side-by-side, and romance from cute to dramatic, so there’s bound to be something you enjoy, and a wealth of different time-travel concepts to explore.

I will admit that I picked up this anthology for a single reason: the Alix E Harrow story. Her short fiction has been consistently wonderful, and her story here, “Roadside Attraction” is very lovely. It’s a little fluffier and less punchy than some of her work, but it’s genuinely very sweet, and makes a perfect opener to the collection. Other favourites were “A Letter to Merlin” by Theodora Goss, which was a very intriguing take on Arthurian myth – in places I would have liked a little more explanation, but the idea was certainly very cool – and “Timed Obsolescence” by Sameem Siddiqui, which is a wonderfully human story about memory and privacy. Carrie Vaughn’s “Dead Poets” was a smart story that plays with literature and legacy, and manages to be fun and heartwarming despite its slightly depressing subject matter; “I Remember Satellites” by Sarah Gailey felt like it could have been a whole novel in its worldbuilding intricacy, but was very satisfying as a short story; “Romance: Historical” by Rowan Coleman is an adorable story with a sting in its tail. There’s a surprisingly high rate of hits for me!

I also found myself gripped by “Time Gypsy” by Ellen Klages (though I hate the title), which is a powerful story about a young woman sent back in time to rescue a lost paper from the academic she grew up idolising. I loved how it played with the concept of fate and changing the past, but I also really liked how it used time travel to drive home a very mundane, but important message about how people’s ability to be visibly queer has fundamentally changed, even in just a few decades. Both this story and “Roadside Attraction” have a focus far more on the emotional side of time travel than on the mechanics of it, and both feature queer romances that are able to be more open because of human attitudes changing across time, and I think that makes them work wonderfully as bookends to the collection. Where Harrow’s story is sweet, Klages’s is gritty, but both offer a sense of hope and progress that is ultimately uplifting.

Stories that worked less well for me included Zen Cho’s “The Past Life Reconstruction Service”, where I just didn’t quite click with the main character; “The Golden Hour” by Jeffrey Ford, which was a little confusing and reminded me of something else in a niggling way; and “Unabashed, or: Jackson, Whose Cowardice Tore a Hole in the Universe” by Sam J Miller, which I just disliked the writing style of. I was unsurprised not to enjoy “The Difference Between Love and Time” by Catherynne M Valente, because I know I’m not a fan of her quirky style, but those who loved Space Opera will definitely enjoy this one! And, as I said at the beginning, no story was anything like objectively bad, so take my thoughts with a pinch of salt.

Whichever stories end up being your favourites, I think this is a really great, cohesive anthology, and I really enjoyed how very different all the takes ended up being! Four out of five cats.

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