Courttia Newland’s new novel presents us with a dystopian multiverse imagined at thrilling scale. It begins with a slyly counterfactual timeline ... how thoroughly its extraordinary narrative has been imagined by Newland ... An afterword explains the novel’s prolonged gestation, and how it flummoxed some publishers ... despite all its action, A River Called Time isn’t a page-turning blast-a-thon; the excitement lies largely in its ideas about power and personal responsibility. As our hero finds himself pursuing contradictory goals with equal reluctance – a terrorist in one timeline, a state propagandist in another – the multi-dimensional pyrotechnics of the novel serve as a potent metaphor for the guilty dislocations of class-crossing in an unjust society.
Imaginative fiction rubs shoulders with a naturalistic impulse to create the world of the Ark, an alternate reality in which African cultural influences represent the status quo. Rooted in a decolonised narrative style where every turn of phrase brings forth the weight of its cultural implications, A River Called Time is a deeply thoughtful, surprising and rewarding read ... The curious combination of naturalistic and mystical styles, too, overcomes its initial peculiarity to evoke the quasi-dystopian society of the Ark. The strangeness of this imagined world, moreover, moves the reader to consider the strangeness of their own, a mark of high-quality speculative fiction ... it shows us the literary, cultural and historical import not only of the story but also the 'making of' that story.
... an expansive speculative novel ... The book’s methodical storytelling reveals the particularities, personality, and lore of its world ... Involving spirituality, colonization, and quantum realities, A River Called Time is an immersive speculative novel set in a dystopian city that’s facing an uprising.