Tuesday 13 April 2021

Review by Mahveen Syed of "A River Called Time" by Courttia Newland

Courttia Newland, well known for his scriptwriting of the BBC show Small Axe, takes a leap into the popular territory of speculative fiction with his latest and long-awaited novel. His previous works, including his debut novel, The Scholar, depict real-life situations and experiences of the West Indian community in both the UK and US. Despite this previous focus on realism, A River Called Time does not disappoint. This alternate reality where colonialism and slavery do not take place, allowing African traditions and religious practices to flourish throughout the globe, is captivating, complex and wholly original. 

The layers of Newland’s novel ensure it does not become predictable, the pace built through the selective glimpses we receive of his alternate London, renamed Dinium, and The Ark. Dinium is not wholly other to our world; the richest borough remains in the West End and Barnsley and Charlton Football Club continue to be rivals. 

The journey of Markriss’ character introduces us to this world, even as he is introduced to it himself. His journey into the Ark, from Outer City to Inner City, only scratches the surface, astral energy wielded to create parallels that are unforeseeable. Newland’s cautious protagonist highlights the fluidity and instability of this world, where control is unavoidable and poverty inescapable. 

Enjoyable and filled with vitality, this novel draws you in steadily and inexplicably, paving the way for Newland’s upcoming speculative fiction short story collection, Cosmogramma. A River Called Time ensures we have an investment in this alternate world where we see what could have been.

About the reviewer
Mahveen Syed is a second year English student at the University of Leicester. Her passions include reading, writing and travelling. Having lived in the UAE, she has been exposed to different cultures and lifestyles, using these unique experiences to inspire her creative writing. 

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