The LA Times called The Revisionists “literary sci-fi” and I think that term fits. Although the book contains aspects of the sci-fi and dystopian genres, the themes, character development, and story take precedence and make the genre-bending work. The book explores ideas about politics and culture in telling the story of an agent from the “Perfect Present” who travels back in time to our present day Washington, DC to make sure a catastrophe happens.
Yes, rather than trying to prevent bad things (as was the premise of 11-22-63) in The Revisionists, the Department of Historical Integrity agent’s job is to make sure that historical agitators (“hags”) don’t stop terrible events of history, like the Holocaust, 9/11, and so forth, so that the leaders of the Perfect Present can maintain their hold on the citizenry. In the course of his mission, the agent is forced to confront his ideas of what a free society really looks like, the meaning of history, and the amount of free will humans have to affect change.
The story is well-paced and gripping, the characters are memorable, and the writing is well done, but I think the two real strengths of the book are the setting and the themes.
As someone who has lived and worked in DC, I can say that the author nailed his portrayal of the city and the sorts of people who work there. I think Mullen did an excellent job of not going overboard with details, but making the details he did use rich and unusual.
I also enjoyed how the story was really driven by ideas, not just plot. I have nothing against a good plot (and this book has a great one) but I liked how Mullen infused different perspectives on politics, conflict, democracy, activism, and culture into the action. Best of all, I didn’t feel like he was heavy-handed with his views, so I think readers from all different backgrounds could enjoy this story.
I enjoyed The Revisionists and would highly recommend it.
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