- The Tourist.
- Robert Dickinson.
- 352 pages.
- Science Fiction / Thriller / Time Travel / Mystery.
- My rating: 2.5 stars out of 5.
THE FUTURE HAS ALREADY HAPPENED.
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 tour rep 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.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The tourist is a funny book to try to classify as it’s an amalgamation of two different genres, it’s part conspiracy thriller and part science fiction novel with time travel being one of the major elements throughout the book.
The basic premise of the book is that, in the 24th century time travel is now possible and people from that century travel back through time to various different eras and centuries in the past. The 21st century is one of the favourite destinations for these travellers or as the book’s title suggests tourists, which for lack of a better term they are. There is a fixed point between the 24th century and the 21st making travel easy compared to other centuries where there are no fixed travel points.
The 24th treat the 21st as a holiday destination with the tourists travelling with various different travel companies, Tri-Millennium is the company that the tourist of the title uses, the cheapest of the three companies. There’s another reason that the 21st is so popular and that is that sometime later, according to the book around 60 years after the time that the 21st century parts of The Tourist are set a NEE (Near Extinction Event) takes place, destroying most the electronic archives and nearly ending the world. Unfortunately we are never told what the actual NEE is, whether or not the author is saving the cause for future books I don’t know but it would have been nice to have found out what happened to set off the NEE and the resulting consequences.
The other reason that the 21st century is so popular ties into the NEE and is, because it’s the ideal time to stockpile resources and bury them for use in the future 24th century, the stock piles are procured and then left in a designated location. Now, the main reason for tourism in the 21st is as a holiday destination, the travel companies have built self-contained resorts for the tourists to stay and offer excursions and visits out into the real world of the 21st century, shopping malls, nature walks, general holiday activities so that the tourists from the future can see the natives (the term used for people living in the 21st) in their natural environments and interact with them.
Some tourists from the 24th also decide to stay in the 21st and are called extemps but most just stay for a short break and then return to the 24th. The resorts are set up in different locations throughout the world and as the tourists have been coming back to the 21st for some time now the governments have agreements with them in place and the natives are getting used to their presence.
All that sounds very much like science fiction and you could well be asking where the conspiracy thriller part I mentioned at the start comes into the book. Well, during a visit to the shopping mall, Spens (one of the main characters) a travel representative loses one of the tourists who went on the excursion. However when Spens reports her missing he finds out that she didn’t actually go missing as according to the records she never even existed – conspiracy!
The book itself follows two main time-lines and story arcs. Firstly, Spens a holiday rep from Tri-Millennium tracking down the missing client in the 21st century and secondly that of a prisoner being let out and accompanied by another character to track down and find some people in the 24th century.
That’s the explaining about The Tourist done, now onto actually reviewing the book. But first, I shall ask you, are you confused yet dear readers?
Now, did you answer Yes! Well then, if you did then you feel the same way that I felt while reading this book!
The Tourist is a very confusing book and is also at times hard to read and you have trouble trying to understand what is in-fact going on. There’s no distinction at the start of the chapters which of the two main story arc’s you are reading and while it only takes a few sentences for you to figure out which arc it is, it would have been better if the arc’s were clearly labelled at the start of each chapter to avoid any confusion, sadly you are also confused at times during Spens 21st story arc as to who you are reading about as the author jumps between Spens and the tourist at will.
There’s a lot going on in the book and the author doesn’t always explain what has or is happening, as I mentioned earlier in my review with the NEE Dickinson could be holding back information for any subsequent sequels. And, unfortunately he hasn’t quite gotten the balance right between giving you the reader enough to become invested in the characters and their stories and holding back more information for the sequels.
There are thriller aspects to the book to go with it being labelled as a science fiction thriller but to me, it is more of a science fiction book. The thriller aspects are the missing tourist and the fact she isn’t supposed to exist, some conspiracy theories taking place in the 21st and hints at a war in the 24th century. Whereas the Sci-Fi elements while similar in number far outweigh the thriller elements in the book. Time travel, signatures that are personal to each individual tourist, augmentation – both physical and mental and then we have the 24th century humans. Now, 24th century humans have evolved, different metabolisms, paler skin and they are taller to, usually around 2 metres plus in height, as I said, very Sci-Fi orientated.
On the surface both story arcs at first glance seem to be rather simplistic but that’s not the case. Plot wise, at the very start of The Tourist we are thrown into meeting the prisoner from the 24th century and it takes a long time in the book before we are finally told who they actually are. The prisoner story arc after the prisoner has been released focuses mainly on the journey undertaken from the prison complex to the area where the people they need to find are supposed to be, until they reach the destination and the search begins. During the journey not much happens apart from the prisoner and the accompanying character occasionally talking and the prisoner remembering things from their past. Out of the two, it’s the more simple of the two story arcs. In the 21st century, we follow Spens the travel rep trying to find the missing client though as the storyline progresses goings on in the 21st start to get very convoluted involving extemps, tonin (a 24th century drug) native groups, escalating violence against the tourists, a murder and more.
As the story builds to its conclusion, we get the inevitable merging of the two time-lines for the ending which to me felt rushed and left a lot to be desired. When I read the final page the book just finished and I admit that I sort of thought, oh, is that it, no satisfying conclusion in this book peeps, where was the payoff to the events that took place during the book?
The writing itself apart from the confusing nature of the book isn’t bad and you can tell in places that Dickinson is a talented writer, with a good style and flow. He manages to create an interesting set of different well-developed characters each with their own unique personalities though sadly he doesn’t go as deep as he could with some of their back stories. The dynamics and relationships involved between the main characters, smaller secondary characters, 24th century tourists and the 21st century natives are well detailed to.
Dickinson has put a lot of effort into his story to, it’s very complex with a great concept and is an original idea however his flawed execution is what ultimately lets him and his book down.
I really wanted to like The Tourist, the idea of it really intrigued me and I was looking forward to reading it. At times it really did draw me in and I thought I was going to be in for an engrossing read but at others it left me confused and wondering what was going on.
It has to be wrote that I’m a fantasy fan and as such I’m used to complex plots with various threads and myriad characters so I’m not easily lost when reading.
I didn’t love or hate this book, it actually left me feeling rather ambivalent towards it. I wouldn’t read it again but at the same time I don’t feel like I wasted my time reading it either. However, I do feel that for most this is going to be a love it or hate it book and will divide readers.
I read somewhere that The Tourist is described as being I Am Pilgrim meets Station Eleven. I haven’t read I Am Pilgrim so can’t comment on any similarities to that book but, I have read Station Eleven and I really couldn’t see even any vague similarities between the two books.
Sadly for me, after finishing The Tourist I can’t personally recommend it. However, that’s my opinion and I would say that it’s a book you really need to read for yourself to see what your view on it is.
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