Written by: Brett Battles
Narrated by: Vikas Adam
Length: 7 hrs and 48 mins
You can download it here
You will never read Denny Younger’s name in any history book, will never know what he’s done. But even if you did, you’d never believe it. The world as you know it wouldn’t be the same without him. Denny was born into one of the lowest rungs of society, but his bleak fortunes abruptly change when the mysterious Upjohn Institute recruits him to be a Rewinder, a verifier of personal histories. The job at first sounds like it involves researching old books and records, but Denny soon learns it’s far from it.
Rewinder is something of an oddity. It’s a solid story, well told. But it has very few original ideas within it – I’ll talk about the ones that are original soon – anyone who’s watched Terminator, Back To The Future or Doctor Who will have no difficulty seeing many of the twists, turns and reveals coming. And yet, it’s heartily recommended.
Battles’ story is a simple one; a young man, Denny Younger, in a world not too dissimilar to ours but also totally alien, is recruited into a very secret organisation that travels through time to survey and chronicle family histories for the wealthy. They live by one simple rule: above all else, do not alter anything.
And the butterfly effect is a big player here – harking back to Ray Bradbury’s classic tale A Sound of Thunder – the smallest difference can have the biggest changes in the future. Ripples in time, much like last year’s Days of Future Past, are at the heart of the tale.
And, no surprise, a small change alters everything and Denny finds himself in a world very different. Well, different to him, anyway. And very soon worlds literally hang in the balance as Denny struggles to deal with.
So far, so by the numbers. But what does set the tale apart is the research and work that Battles has put in here. The history of Denny’s world is very different; in a reality that altered after the Civil War, where Britain rules the world, Battles has thought out why things changed, the machinations behind the changes and the result the changes have had on the world.
It really makes the reader – or in my case, listener – question just how stable things really are.
But it’s also the little things; the little flights in the face of time travel etiquette that Battles takes, that sets it apart. For example, one of my favourites pieces in the book had several versions of a character in one place in time and space; when Denny asks the character what happens if they interact, the character waves at themselves and guess what? No time paradoxes, the universe didn’t collapse and no massive alien bats appeared to eat the world, but rather everything just went on as it was.
It’s things like this that make it different enough to stand out.
And, of course, a big part of it is Denny and his story. Battles rarely stops long enough to draw breath and, as a result, the reader (listener) rarely does either; and that’s a good thing. The history, the science and the characters all come at a rate of knots; it’s jump in or get left behind and sometimes that’s exactly what you need.
The Audible production is superb, with Vikas Adam’s narration easy to listen to, although, like the story itself, it does take a little while to settle in – and some of his female voices feel a little League of Gentlemen – but overall, this is well worth a read – or listen – and with the set-up feeling like a sequel is a possibility, I look forward to meeting Denny Younger (Denny Older? Har har) again.
3 out of 5 Nerds