Robert Charles Wilson’s latest novel, Last Year, is a strange one: a near future SF novel set in an Illinois of 1876. With the invention of quasi-time-travel and instigated through the use of a multi-storey high ‘mirror’, tourism to the late 19th century is open to 21st century inhabitants. An interesting idea, especially given that the past the mirror opens to is no longer the one of that world, instead an alternate history that diverges from the moment the mirror is opened. Set entirely in the 19th century, Last Year is an SF novel that shouldn’t work quite as well as it does.
I really like what Robert Charles Wilson has done here, giving a character focused SF story that works on many different levels. While the time-travel technology of the near future isn’t explained in any great detail, the world feels thoroughly fleshed out, and also surprisingly familiar. The finale of the novel won’t come as a particular shock, though how it all ties together to feel more intimate than events would suggest is a wonder. Highly recommended.