If this unique setting where past and present collide isn’t enough, Robert Charles Wilson populates the story with wonderfully complex characters. Jesse Cullum initially feels like an unassuming, steadfast security officer with an unusual predilection for Oakley sunglasses, but gradually evolves into a fascinating, multi-dimensional character. Elizabeth’s background story is less shocking only because it’s unfortunately so recognizable for contemporary readers, but the way these two very different characters help each other come to terms with their past demons is simply a joy to read.
Last Year undersells itself as the tale of a star-crossed romance in which a man from the past will stop at nothing to be with his love in the future. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a fun time travel caper set in a meticulously crafted world populated with interesting characters ... but amidst all of the cool time travel hijinks is some serious rumination on our relationship to both our past and the future. Last Year is an enjoyable time travel story that hits all the right adventure beats so you can have a good time while still learning something about colonialism and romanticizing history.
Wilson is less interested in how the Mirror operates (which remains a mystery) than he is in the ways now and then interact. This is dramatized in the relationship between two security officers: one a nineteenth-century native with a checkered past and the other a hard-nosed twenty-first century single mom. Running beneath the action-filled plot there are some provocative questions raised about progress and continuity. If the present is the product of our history, with the advent of time travel the future is also able to infect the past in moral as well as material ways.