Time travel stories can come in so many forms! It has been a while since I’ve read a Benjamin Button–style story. A Second Chance for Yesterday has its protagonist, Nev, hurtling backwards in time. The title is everything: sibling authors writing under the name R.A. Sinn ask us if a person can reform simply by having the chance to do things over, albeit in reverse. Thanks to NetGalley and publisher Solaris for the eARC.
Nev Bourne is the lead programmer on a technology that lets people rewind time a few seconds. An accident at work causes her to relive, successively, each previous day of her life. Nev is going backwards in time, yet no one else is aware of this. It’s only through an unlikely team-up with a former college associate that Nev manages to wrest some semblance of control from this chaos and work to fix the glitch—before it can happen to the millions of people who will soon use this tech.
This novel works best when you don’t try to peek underneath the hood and question the mechanics behind the time travel. Sinn posits that Nev’s employer has a “quantum mainframe” that can somehow reset the universe a few seconds into the past whenever someone triggers an ocular implant. OK, sure. If you can handwave past that, the story itself is quite enjoyable. They take some time developing the mystery behind Nev’s reverse chronological experience. Once she understands her predicament and enlists Airin (or rather is enlisted by them, convinced by their memory of Nev’s … futurepast?), the story ramps up in intensity.
I think what makes this story so interesting is the way that it gradually morphs from “I have to escape this fate for myself” to “I have to protect others and prevent this from happening at all.” Sinn is clearly trying to make Nev out to be a flawed, somewhat selfish person who needs to learn a lesson as she travels backwards through her life. It’s a valuable idea, though I’m not sure it is executed very well.
The same can be said for the antagonist (if that is what you want to call him) and the eventual resolution of the glitch. In the eleventh hour, Nev confronts the antagonist. It’s a pretty tense moment, yet the result is anticlimactic. The same goes for the ending itself. Not quite a cliffhanger yet also not quite conclusion, the ending might be Sinn’s attempt to say, “It doesn’t matter what happens to Nev from here on out.” It might be an attempt to ask the reader to imagine Nev’s futurepast. I’m not sure—and that’s the problem.
This is a book with a very cool premise and a lot of glimmers of brilliance. But everything from characterization to plot to the final lines feels half-finished. Underwhelming. Far from crisp. A Second Chance for Yesterday has great ideas, but it never comes together to become a truly entertaining or enlightening read.