Alice Payne Arrives is a perfect time travel novella, matching courageous protagonists with a history-defining mission to fix the problems humanity has created in the future. Heartfield expertly balances the wonders of time travel with the dangers of re-writing the past, giving us a high-stakes operation where every action can make a big difference. It’s a story you won’t want to put down, especially when you discover there’s a sequel on the horizon.
The juxtaposition of two women from different eras makes for a very interesting story progression. We see a thirty-something woman in the late 1700s, taking revenge on men who prey on women. She’s a complete badass who transcends the restrictions of her time. Alternatively, we see a time-traveling woman in the late 2000s on the tail-end of a decade-long mission to prevent one of the greatest wars in human history. She’s bold and courageous and a master of this exciting and dangerous technology. Together, they make an interesting pair and proceed down a fast-paced path with no return.
Heartfield does an excellent job illustrating the true effects of time travel and how it could change the world. We see a future messed up by radicals who tried and failed to make the past a more perfect version of the world. There are multiple versions of history than the one we’re currently living in, versions where world wars weren’t a thing, where millions of people didn’t die during pointless genocides at the whims of those in power. With every change comes a ripple effect and that’s painfully clear in this version of the world. One death could mean a million more, or it could save the human race. That finicky nature creates a bit of anxiety during these time travel interactions, and rightfully so. This is time travel as a world-altering tool, not as a cool technology to be trifled with.
In the end, Alice Payne Arrives is a wonderful addition to the time travel genre, giving us protagonists we want to root for and a version of the world that’s badly in need of fixing. The upcoming sequel can’t come soon enough.
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