Our Future is in the Air by Tim Corballis.
Wellington: VUP (2017).
RRP: $30. Pb, 272pp.
Reviewed by Patricia Prime.
Tim Corballis is the author of several novels, as well as a substantial body of short fiction, essays and art writing. In 2015, he was Writer in Residence at Victoria University of Wellington.
Our Future is in The Air is a New Zealand time-travel story which reshapes 1975 to avoid the catastrophe of 9/11. The reimagined 1975 seems idyllic after the invention of time-travel photography brought back images of 9/11, and the global aviation industry collapsed. Years later, technology has faded, but in the more isolated New Zealand, there is intellectual foment, and an underground movement has formed that is trying to change the future.
The plot of Our Future is in The Air includes a cast of and society of activists and former activists, who live in Wellington in a communal society and who believe in gender politics. Beneath this lies a subculture of illicit and risky time travellers. When one of their number disappears, apparently drawn into a world of political radicals and intelligence operatives wrestling over the future and its uses, it is time for the team to act.
Period elements are kept to a minimum and reinforce the sense of shifting time. Meta-text is employed at intervals throughout the novel, giving an insight into the technical and political phases that underpin the story.
Corballis handles all these strands with aplomb. He has a natural aptitude with description and his characters’ conversations. The displacement of time is handled with ease and the glimpses into a future world are both thrilling and scary.
Patricia Prime, besides being a regular contributor to takahē, is co-editor of Kokako and assistant editor of Haibun Today. Patricia’s primary interest is Japanese short form poetry: haiku, tanka, haibun and tanka prose and she has published a book of collaborative tanka sequences called Shizuka (2015).