Alice Payne Arrives, by Kate Heartfield, for Timeslip Tuesday

I just gave Alice Payne Arrives, by Kate Heartfield (Tor, November 2018), a four star rating over at Goodreads, despite the fact that this is the sort of time travel that makes my head hurt.

I can say with conviction that if you are looking for a book about a lesbian couple in the 18th century, one of whom is biracial (the Alice of the title) and the other is a mechanical genius inventor (Jane) who get caught up in a time travel war being waged centuries in the future, this is the book you want!  Alice is peacefully maintaining her father's home by moonlighting as a highwayman, carefully preying only on men who have assaulted/molested women and girls.  Jane, who came to live in Alice's home as a companion a while back, is a whiz at mechanics, and has made a handy automaton that serves as Alice's highway robbery assistant.  They make a good team, and love each other lots.

But then things get screwy when the coach Alice holds ups disappears into a strange glimmer-ness,.  Alice, feeling both curious and responsible, heads through the glimmer to see what's happened to it, and finds herself in a future where there's a war going on between two rival groups of time travelers. Each side has the same goal--saving humanity from the coming apocalypse.  Each has the same technique--tinker with past events until you get the desired outcome.  But they have very different ideas about what tinkering to do.  History is getting more and more messed up, disasters are metastasizing (Heartfield's metaphor), and little progress (if any) is being made toward achieving the ultimate goal.

Prudence, who works for one of these groups in the future, is fed up with it all.  She has a plan of her own to put a stop to it.  All she needs is a nice 18th century naïf to push a button....

Instead, she gets Alice when Alice arrives along with the highjacked coach and its passengers and crew.   Alice might be just the person Prudence needs, but with Alice comes Jane, a Jane who's pretty fed up at Alice not treating her as an equal partner and decision maker, who's zinging through glowy spaces into the future without talking it through etc., a Jane who just happens to be smart enough and mechanically gifted enough to maybe throw a spanner in the works...or maybe not.

I'm not entirely sure what exactly happened at the end, and would need to sit down with pencil and paper and make a list of what we know and can surmise etc.  I am glad this looks like it's going to be a series, which will spare me the work of doing that...on the other hand, I'm sad that I don't have to anyone to talk to about the book, because I'd love to go through it with another person to bounce ideas off of--what does Jane know and how and when does she know it, etc.  Fortunately history has so many alternate timelines that very few people in the book know what happened originally, so the sense of being confused isn't unique to me, the reader....

And once I accepted this, I just relaxed and enjoyed the ride!


  1. I will add this to my want-to-read list, in hopes that we'll be able to discuss it at some point.

  2. Wow. There is a whole lot going on in this one. Thanks for the review.


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