Arcadia by Iain Pears is a work of time travel, but not in the traditional sense. It creates alternate times and parallel places that are accessed by an incredible machine built by a mathematician named Angela Meerson. Secretive and elusive Angela holds the secrets and buries them in various places of the past and future, and then she goes about disappearing herself.
Unwittingly others are a part of her story, as Henry Lytten in the 60’s lives his world of teaching and espionage, while Rosie Wilson feeds his cat. She is entranced by the stories he writes, but she is also a curious girl who stumbles into a place she doesn’t know.
Then there is Jay, he lives in a very quiet and peaceful setting unrelated to the others. However, through the mode of this machine and the necessity of keeping it secret these characters find themselves intertwined with each other as Angela’s old company and enemies think they have found her in her new life.
Looking for clues in both the past and future, they have stumbled on what they think is the answer. Can more than one world exist in parallel time?
Pears has given us a sci-fi fantasy that keeps you looking for answers. It carries mystery, danger, suspense, and an overall array of genres to keep even the most diehard reader engaged. His characters are charismatic and the ideas feel radical with a bit of realism. He makes the elusive Angela a strong and abrasive character. She knows she is hunted, and is haunted by her findings. She tries to align her characteristics with the different places she moves through in order to move with impunity. She knows there are those who would see her dead and use her discovery for evil, yet she must continue on her quest.
She must find a way to perfect what she has discovered before it is too late. By moving throughout the past and present as her enemies draw near she is able to stay clear of their manipulation. Henry, Rosie and Jay are all a very important group as they are catalysts to various moves and as the hunt reaches threatening proportions the characters find themselves in an array of dangerous happenings.
If you enjoy literary fiction, Sci-fi and fantasy, mystery, suspense and danger you have found the right material to keep you interested. Creating a set of worlds and creating such an interesting array of lives Pears takes us into the unknown and shows us magic and danger in a way that makes it fun.
This would be a great book for a reading or discussion group.