by Robert Charles Wilson
Cover Artist: Shutterstock
Review by Mel Jacob
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765332639
Date: 06 December 2016 List Price $27.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Tourism into the past from the future encounters trouble and violence when things go awry in Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson. An entrepreneur from the future uses technology to carry people from the future into the past for tours and the purpose of making money. However, it is uncertain if it is their past or an alternate past. When modern weapons turn up, mayhem and murder ensues.
The novel begins with a native (to the time period) security guard stopping an attempted assassination on the life of President Grant with one of the stolen future weapons. It is the first indication that someone is smuggling weapons from the future into the past and making them available or selling them to various groups and individuals.
Determined to stop the spread of the weapons, the mogul in charge appoints a local security person to work with one from the future to recover the weapons and stop their spread. Eventually the hunt centers on a young man from the future with the dream of stopping terrible events from happening, but is arming criminals. It also involves the mogul's daughter.
Jesse Cullum has had a checkered past, but has proven to be an exemplary employee of Futurity City and prevented the assassination of Grant. When he is chosen for a demanding assignments he finds himself working with Elizabeth DePaul, a security officer from the future, to track the supply of guns to the sellers. They soon uncover the local people and stop the supply at the source.
Then they are assigned to locate the man from future distributing weapons and the mogul's daughter and bring them back to Futurity City. The couple they seek is in San Francisco. It is also where Jesse's sister and aunt live and his worst enemy as well. The man who killed Jesse's father, his friends, and disfigured his young sister survived Jesse's attempt to kill him before fleeing the city. The man had disappeared for a number of years, but was now in San Francisco.
Now, Jesse intends to kill his enemy. However, the tide has turned against the Futurity City people and the mogul is a wanted man. Jesse must get the future people and his family to safety. He considers his own survival unimportant.
The novel is told primarily though Jesse's eyes. His main motivation is to earn enough money to build a future. However, when he learns his father's killer is still living, he vows to kill the man and protect his sister above all else. He also falls in love with Elizabeth, but because she has a child in the future, she must return with the future people. The ending will please many readers, but not all. Sometimes good is offset by losses.
No one knows the source of the technology allowing time travel or dimensional shift. Some speculate it came from aliens, others that people from the future brought it for unclear motives.
Wilson adds to the time travel literature with a few interesting aspects in Last Year, Wilson’s thirteenth novel. He also has a number of short stories. There are a few plot holes, but overall the novel works as a thriller and poses some important questions about his characters’ actions and morality.