There is a perfect future. No disease, no hunger, no war. Zed is a time-traveler, come from this utopia. He is one of the few from his time who know the quagmire humans slogged through in order to arrive at their perfect present, and he has been sent to guarantee that our darkest night, worst of the worst—the genocides, disasters, assassinations, all of it—happens just the way history says it did. It’s the only way to ensure humanity is led to the perfect future born from the flames of the past.
Naturally, this isn’t as simple as watching ships sink and planes crash, since there is another faction determined to avert the horrors of the past, regardless of what this may do to the future.
Superficially, this is a time-travel book, and as such the attendant paradoxes and questions of parallel timelines and determinism are all in the back of one’s mind, but forget about that for a moment. What The Revisionists really offers, at its heart, is a chance to see our crazy, mixed-up world at arm’s length. The observation is often keen, even razor-sharp, and author Thomas Mullen—whose previous books have been historical novels—manages the deft trick of the insider writing as an outsider without sounding smug or disingenuous, or falling into any of the other traps that have snagged lesser observers of human nature.
The Revisionists meanders through the interconnected lives of Zed and those around him, each one in turn struggling with the Big Questions of morality and absolutes. Of course, the reality presented within its pages is one of nuances, and is ultimately far less simple than we like to pretend, but Mullen makes no bones about that. When all the layers are peeled back, this novel is about choice and consequences, and it just so happens to involve time travel. This is an excellent, thought-provoking read that checks boxes for sci-fi lovers as well as students of humanity.