Review: The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas - 8/10*
Time travel is a fantastic concept and it’s almost limitless in its possibilities. An author could take their book anywhere and to anyone: it could be so many things. I’d love to see more of them out there in the market, though this book does help to fill the gap tremendously.
The Psychology of Time Travel explores many ideas and it plays with reality through the process. Mascarenhas has chosen to focus on the cognitive effects of such an epic exploration.
What happens to our minds when they are stretched too far, does our sanity start to crumble as it's subjected to such a mind-boggling experience?
It’s an interesting question, almost real world in its scope. And that’s what I liked about the book: it all felt very realistic. If science ever became advanced enough to create time travel, then I feel like psychologists would be exploring these concepts.
The story begins with four women inventing time travel in the 1960s. After they use their machine, one of the women, Barbara, loses her mind and cannot form coherent sentences. This is discovered on live television, which promptly causes the other three women to disown her in order to maintain some degree of credibility for their research. They conclude that such an episode was due to Barbara’s susceptibility to depression and mental illness. From this they construct rigorous psychological screenings to prevent any weak minded individual from using their technology.
The novel is told through a multitude of perspectives across different time zones, and it’s driven forward by a mysterious dead body found in 2017. How do you catch a killer that could be from anywhere or anytime? Not easily, that’s for sure, especially when you don’t even know who the victim is. There’s nothing to identify her with. No papers. And her body is so badly damaged that she’s unrecognisable. You could be the killer and you wouldn’t even know. A future self could have transported themselves through time and done the deed. Everybody’s a suspect, and it really kept me reading.
I find it immensely interesting that the novel was written by a woman who has a PhD in literary studies and psychology. Her academic background clearly adds something to the book and it’s one full of great ideas and imagination, though the plot and structure felt a little jumbled at points. I suppose that could only ever be the end result of multiple characters moving in and out of time. Dates are provided at the start of each chapter, which did help, but it still got a little confusing with such a large cast of characters. Novels like this can easily turn into a tangled mess of interweaving story threads. However, towards the end it all became clear as everything slotted neatly into place and I realised how clever the book was being. It’s certainly something that has been well thought out and planned down to the very last detail.
Overall, it’s a very promising first novel and I would like to see these ideas taken further in the future.