Revise the World by Brenda Clough

(8.0/10)

Revise the World by Brenda Clough is a work of science fiction with elements of historical fiction. The first section of this book appeared as the novella May Be Some Time, a finalist for both the Nebula and the Hugo awards.

In Revise the World Clough aims to show the reader how a gentleman from the early Twentieth century would cope in the modern world of a non-too-distant future. Exploring first contact and time travel as themes the book will appeal to those who like science fiction with a large vein of romance running throughout. Written using a third person narrative the author’s writing is descriptive, un-rushed and clear, leaning more towards characterisation than exposition.

On March 16, 1912, British polar explorer Titus Oates commits suicide by walking out of his tent into an Antarctic blizzard, to save Robert Falcon Scott and the other members of the English exploration team. His body was never found - because he was snatched away into the year 2045 by scientists experimenting with a new faster-than-light drive. Arriving in the future, Oates stubbornly sticks to his old explorer job and sets off on an intergalactic adventure that leads to both knowledge and self-knowledge.

I found Revise the World to be an interesting and thought-provoking look into displacement, the fear of the unknown and the conflicts that arise from the potential of time-travel. The characters are of course in the main fictitious apart from the legendary Captain Oates himself and it is here that the author very obviously has great deal of fun. Clough paints Oates as an almost Flashman type persona (minus the cowardly streak of course) and has him bludgeoning his way into the twenty-first century uttering such delightful long-lost phrases as “totty-headed thick”, “stuff-and-nonsense” and “shilly-shallying” while displaying a cringe-inducing lack of insight on equality and class-division.

Revise the World is a fine book that provides a rewarding reading experience and there is a little bit of something there for everybody, be they sci-fi fans, romantics or adventure-seekers. Its strengths lie in the realistic way in which the author shows Titus’s acclimatisation to his new life and times and the book’s ending. The ending is a real triumph, the meeting with the alien entity being as innovative as it was memorable.

Comparisons can be drawn with Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife as it explores a wide gamut of ideas, including time-travel and displacement, but is at heart a romance.

Brenda W. Clough earned a degree in English/Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University in 1977. The novella May Be Some Time was published in the 2001 issue of Analog.

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