183 pages, Kindle Edition
Review by Paul Fenton
Welcome to the future! It's a great place to be a woman, but a man ... not so much. Yes, it's finally happened: women have subjugated the male of the species to the role of servant and sex-slave. And who's complaining? Well, those who are more servant than sex-slave, I'd imagine. We don't really get much time to explore this hellish/awesome future (select whichever adjective you feel is appropriate), as the story begins with one man's time-travelling mission to change history for the ... mannier?
This femme-domme society is ruled/governed/overseen by the Prophetess (as I said, light on the detail as we don't spend much time here); her word is law and the law says that sexual gratification is for women only (and possibly gay men); that women are superior to men in all ways and must be respected accordingly; that men can't smoke cigarettes or watch action films from history. Thus the resistance is formed, as is their plan to reclaim society for mankind: travel back in time, kill the mother of the Prophetess before the Prophetess can be born ... hey presto, the historical patterns of male dominance can continue uninterrupted. F-10 is the man chosen for the mission, and he goes back Terminator-style (i.e. stark naked) knowing that he will need to carry out his mission in multiple parallel existences to ensure their current oppressive reality doesn't come to pass.
You get that? Go on, re-read the last few lines if you have to. Got it? Good.
It's a good thing Nash doesn't spend too much time on the how of time travel, because it's at the moment when F-10 arrives in what we can assume to be the present day that the story really begins. And begins. And begins. F-10 arrives in a council estate in London and begins his search for the mother of the Prophetess, Hayley. The way the story is handled from this point on is what makes it so brilliant. We don't follow one F-10 but several of them as they make incremental progress towards their target, some of them reaching it, some of them falling short, some of them finding they have to go just that bit further. The order of the different F-10's stories is evolutionary; initially single-minded in purpose, they gradually begin to think more about their situation, to make different decisions and act in ways which begins to slowly spin Hayley's fate in a slightly different direction. Hayley too, future mother of the Prophetess and present estate-dweller, also seems to alter her responses and reactions as the multiple scenarios play out, as though there is some consciousness linking the different realities. When we meet a new F-10, and a new Hayley, the tension in the story isn't so much about what happens next as what has changed. Each chapter brings us closer to the characters, and F-10 becomes progressively less comical, Hayley more clued-in. It is character development across multiple parallel realities, and it works. In this case, I think I can say that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.
Another significant character is DJ SlipMatt. SlipMatt lives in the "penthouse" of the estate, where he runs a local pirate radio station and surveys the grounds through a network of CCTV cameras. He provides the soundtrack to the estate and to the book, and helps tie the threads of the parallel universes closer together through his observations and his uncannily apt song choices. It's as though his position gives him a privileged view of proceedings limited to not just space but also time. When I first encountered SlipMatt I did worry. I flashed back to Jonathan Ross hosting the Brit awards in 2010, where he was given a street makeover by Dizzee Rascal. Never have I felt so embarrassed for another human being -- I wanted to console him and punch him in the mouth at the same time. I was unnecessarily concerned regarding Nash and SlipMatt -- he conveys more than enough street-cred and technical muso nous to convince me, and I've seen 8 Mile.
It's now over a fortnight since I finished reading Time After Time, and I barely had to refer back to the book when writing this review. Nash's writing has a way of getting in your head and staying there, which is a rare experience for one as easily-distracted as me. Uncommonly excellent.