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New Yesterday by Frasier Armitage - Science Fiction Book Review

New Yesterday science fiction novel cover time travel by Frasier Armitage


New Yesterday is the newest science fiction novel by Frasier Armitage, releasing April of 2023. Frasier has a history of writing science fiction stories at the intersection of time travel, memory, and currency. Just how commodified can the human experience get? How much freedom do we have to pursue our own alternate realities? Let's explore this further.

New Yesterday is not just another time-travel novel. A corporation offers people the ability to change their past to have the present they want, with different lifestyle packages available based on the extent of the changes, and the level of assurance provided that the changes will stick. The book doesn’t send the characters back into the past; that’s handled for them. Instead, it focuses on the ramifications in the present, which is a neat and less common take on the idea. Due to the gaps in memory it reads somewhat like the movie Jacob's Ladder as a surreal psychological thriller.

…Here, we don’t just trade in three dimensions, we trade in four…
Once we change a past, it’s gone.


Readers are thrown right into the action when the book starts, with Adam Swann being held at gunpoint by a man who claims he stole his life, though Adam is unaware of who he is or what he’s referencing. Soon, Adam's caught up in an investigation to discover the man's identity and regain those aspects of himself that he's lost.

Was this how life was supposed to feel? Like a jigsaw with only three corner pieces and no matter how nice the picture I built, there’d always be something missing?

This is complicated by a woman, Lottie, who he can't stop thinking about - though he can't recall why.

Just when I’d gotten that name out of my head. Its tendrils rooted deeper into my mind, slicing through me like the shards of a fractured mirror. A reflection that didn’t belong there.  

Memory and time are fluid in the book, making for a coundrum of a story. As other people’s "present" changes, the protagonist’s present changes as well, showing the integrated web of experience in which we live. Those who get attached to the life they have are said to be “going linear,” something that typically ends in madness and police intervention, and which causes Adam increasing stress.

You don’t remember any of the histories you lived before the one you’ve got now, do you? It’d be ridiculous, wouldn’t it? Carrying around all those versions of the past.

Metaphor and Imagery:

The book is written with just enough imagery and description to set the scene without boring the reader. There's a good balance between dialogue, narrative, character reflection, and descriptive elements. Occassional metaphors help convey the scene with efficiency, and the poetic appeal is quite welcoming as the excerpted lines (which occur separately throughout the novel) show:

Gears whirred, the soundtrack of my pounding head...
The street was a pressure cooker, boiling us in concrete...
Recognition flashed across her expression like a photographer’s bulb, before it dissipated into nothing.
His head shook faster and faster, like a broken metronome.  
My heart pumped, pneumatic pistons firing in my ribcage. A chill stubbled my skin. The clouds of some forgotten nightmare stormed inside my head. Dissipating.

Character and Dialogue:

The book focuses on Adam and is written in first person. He often comes across as determined enough to figure out what’s going on, but so disoriented that his plans revolve around very simple goals. This is necessary, because simple things can be more permanent in the universe than complex things; that is to say that the foundation of our lives is easier to grasp amidst chaos than the minute details of everyday life. His character’s disorientation can make him seem rather passive at times, though not necessarily in a negative way, and his confusion causes some emotional reactions to be understated since he can’t quite grasp the full implications of what’s happening at any given point, but he perserveres.

Dialogue works cleverly,

“...To what do we owe the pleasure?”
Gabrielle shrugged and swilled the champagne in her glass. “Pleasure is not to be owed, Madame. The only debtors to pleasure are those who deny it for themselves .”

time flying on a night city street

New Yesterday balances out an easy read, thanks to its straightforward prose, with a complex enough concept to keep readers intrigued as versions of reality weave in and out of one another. The use of metaphor and the quality of the writing, from the immediacy to the use of active voice, make it a solid read, and it's well edited. The book is a sensitive look at the anxiety that comes out of all of us dealing with futures which are ultimately unpredictable despite our efforts to control them. A lot of people are going to enjoy Armitage’s unique take on time!

Check it out this April at Amazon. To tide you over, I recommend reading the prequel, Yestermorrow, first.

Disclaimer - This review is based on an advanced reader copy. Small changes in final wording may be present.