A River Called Time is ‘speculative fiction’. It is set in an alternative world that is similar but different to our own in subtle ways. The world here is one where slavery or colonialism has never existed so African rather than European culture is dominant in this version of London. In this world there is a place called The Ark which is an enormous covered city cut off from the rest of the world. The Ark was originally built to save all of humanity but has now become a place for only the elite in society to live.
Makriss Denny, the main character in the novel, is intelligent and does well at school, he studies hard and to the relief of his mother he is able to go on the train to journey to The Ark to live and work permanently and leave his old life and family behind him for ever.
The world that Makriss leaves is mostly poor, violent and very polluted hence the reason for The Ark being a covered city. Many of the populace suffers from respiratory diseases and worse.
Makriss arrives at The Ark and before long settles in to his appointed living space, city area and job. The job is basically lying and creating positive propaganda and news stories concerning life in The Ark.
Makriss discovers that life is not so different in The Ark and in some ways it feels to the reader less free than the outside world he has left.
This is a splendid and complex book with many layers and is written superbly well. Courttia Newland is able to write a flowing and interesting story that intrigues and grips the reader so much that you have to keep reading just to see what will happen next. I have never read a book quite like this before; I loved the twists to the story and genuinely could not guess the ending or what the truth is that Makriss discovers about The Ark.
Review by Sara Boorman
Cannongate uncorrected proof / Paperback
Published 7th January 2021
ISBN: 978 1 78689 706 0