I don’t read a lot of science fiction, but I got a deal on an SF book by Brett Battles, whose mysteries I’ve enjoyed. So I gave it a shot. Rewinder wasn’t bad at all.
Rewinder is a time-travel story. It starts in an alternate universe where the United States never won its independence. Instead, our hero, Denny Younger, lives in a British empire in which society is intensely stratified. Born a lowly “Eight,” Denny has little to look forward to in life beyond a manual factory job. However (to his father’s alarm) he tests high in history. And the day after finishing high school, he finds himself taking the entry test for the Upjohn Institute. That enterprise ostensibly does historical research to verify the genealogy of upper-class individuals hoping for prestigious appointments.
But that, Denny learns, is only the public face of the thing. In fact, Upjohn employees are time travelers. They go back in time to observe people’s ancestors and learn their dirty secrets. They can then use those secrets to blackmail their clients, bringing in government grants and preferential treatment for the corporation.
But one of Denny’s trainers, Marie, senses something uncommon in him. She gives him hints that she and (perhaps) some others are sometimes going beyond their instructions – “doing right” rather than just “doing well.”
When Denny makes a bumbling mistake and erases his own timeline entirely, replacing it with one that will be familiar to you and me, he will be faced with a shattering decision – “fix” his mistake or choose a better world.
Rewinder was a fun book. I’ve done some time travel writing myself, and it makes my head hurt, so I can only imagine the kind of labor it must have taken to plot out the many paradoxes here. Science fiction fans, especially, will enjoy Rewinder.