2016’s The Girl From Everywhere is the first volume in Heidi Heilig’s YA time-travel series, The Girl From Everywhere.
Sixteen-year-old Nix Song has seen more of the world than most people. She has spent most of her life on her father’s ship, the Temptation , sailing the seven seas … and the timestream. Her father, Slate, is a Navigator. His special powers mean that all of recorded history is within reach.
There is of course a catch.
Slate needs to see maps of the locations to which he intends to travel. No map, no access to the destination. Each map is good for a single use and not every map serves to trigger Slate’s knack. If he wants to travel, he must spend time and money acquiring maps.
If Slate weren’t Slate, he might be a fantastically rich man. But he’s a drug addict for whom long-term planning does not come easy. He is satisfied to have his needs and wants of the moment fulfilled. He does manage to care for Nix and his crew, but otherwise he squanders the abilities fate has given him.
He does have one long-term goal: he wants to bring back his beloved wife. He met her in a Honolulu opium den, back in the 19th century. He fell in love, even managed to give up drugs. But while he was away sailing on the Temptation , Nix’s mother fell ill and died. When he returned to Honolulu in 1868, only infant Nix was waiting for him.
Slate wants a map that will let him double back to 1868 in time to save Nix’s mother. This raises some unanswerable questions. If he does make in back to 1868, if he does manage to save his wife’s life … what about Nix? Will there still be a Nix? Or will she blink out of existence when history is changed?
If she had her father’s knack, Nix could save herself by sailing away on her own ship, into her own timestream. Perhaps that would save her from the Winds of Change. But Slate refuses to teach Nix how to Navigate, so for the moment she is stuck with him.
His latest acquisition, a 19th century map of Honolulu, seems to be the map he needs. Alas, he arrives in 1884, sixteen years too late. But it is not too late for someone from 1868 to remember Slate and the Temptation . That person offers Slate a map that is sure to lead to 1868. All that person wants is the contents of Hawaii’s royal treasury. It’s a small price to pay for the chance to alter history.
With her very existence at stake, Nix must act.
For those of you unfamiliar with Hawaiian history; someone really did sack the Hawaiian treasury in 1884. The robbery (and the inability of the government to resist the raid) did the Kingdom of Hawaii no favours.
On that note:
It would be easy for someone who travels though history to become alienated from the human condition, to simply dismiss all the various injustices typical of humans as inescapable and therefore not worth concerning oneself with. The main characters in this novel resist this temptation. The march of history may or may not be inexorable, but Nix and her companions still note and disapprove when human nature falls short. They may not have the resources to do squat about imperialism and other abuses, but they don’t accept them.
Time travel is either dangerous (if history is mutable, a misstep could alter history, even erase the traveller) or philosophically catastrophic (if it is immutable, then there can be no free will). Which is it? Nix’s personal questions (what about me) are answered by the end of the book but the answers only raise more questions.
It’s to Nix’s credit that she never considered the obvious solution, which is to wait until the Temptation arrives in a benign era in which she will be able to make a quick fortune (stock markets, etc.), hit her father over the head with a sock full of lead shot and dump his body in the ocean. As they say, no time traveller, no problem.
This review owes its very existence to (not time travel) this twitter thread. I recommend perusing it; there is a lot of engaging material there.
Name a speculative fiction book by a POC who is not Octavia Butler and explain why it should be better known.
— Silvia Moreno-Garcia (@silviamg) November" class="redactor-linkify-object">https://twitter.com/silviamg/s... 25, 2017
If it hadn’t been for this thread, I would likely have overlooked Heidi Heilig’s novel. That would have been a great pity, because I enjoyed this coming of age novel and plan to track down the sequel. This is an artfully written piece about a young person finding their place in the world, with occasional moments of thrilling derring-do as a bonus. Without, I should add, any help from a heedless parent.