Time Travel & the Fear of Death

Title: The Psychology of Time Travel
Author: Kate Mascarenhas
Genre: Time Travel Sci-Fi
Pages: 336
Rating: 3.5 of 5
Future Release Date: February 12, 2019 (Thank you to the author and publisher for a free eARC via NetGalley. This in no way affects the content of the review.)

I have always been fascinated by time travel stories in which time travel cannot create reality-altering paradoxes (e.g. To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis). As this book’s title suggests, it explores what kind of psychological effect this sort of time travel might have on people. The author does so with a degree of thoughtfulness and complexity that I don’t think I have seen before in time travel sci-fi. Topics explored include crime & punishment, romance, mental illness, bullying, fate/fatalism, and especially the fear of death.

What makes the plot great isn’t the solution of the mystery (the “whodunnit to whom?” is obvious well before the end). Rather, the fun is in watching the characters figure it out and seeing how the three different story arcs (starting in 1967, 2017, and 2018) fit together. The actual narration of the story was a bit flat (e.g. sometimes something momentous would happen and it would be stated so blandly that I would have to go back and reread to make sure I read correctly), but the plotting and worldbuilding more than made up for it.

To me, the characters seemed a bit contrived to check as many “strong, diverse female character” boxes as possible (e.g. black, immigrant, lesbian, mentally ill, aristocratic…). All the primary and secondary characters are women with a handful of men putting in very brief whiny, overprotective, or leering appearances. Though it felt a bit overplayed, if you are looking for sci-fi with strong female characters, this is it.

Overall, the plotting, worldbuilding, and psychology mostly made up for any bits that felt flat or contrived.

A Complex Issue

Title: Understanding Gender Dysphoria:
Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture
Author: Mark A. Yarhouse
Genre: Psychiatry
Pages: 191
Rating: 3.5 of 5

As a Christian who trusts the Bible to be God’s inerrant self-revelation and “everything we need for a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3), my views on sexual morality are much narrower than society in general. However, I am frequently troubled by the disgust and animosity which many of my fellow Christians show toward those whose lifestyle falls “outside the boundaries” of what they believe to be morally right. The Bible talks about treating others as I want to be treated which includes showing compassion, gentleness, and respect toward those with whom I disagree. Part of doing that is trying to understand another person’s point of view even if I do not fully agree with them. Reading this book was an attempt to do that as a friend of my recently came out as transgender.

The author of this book is a psychiatrist who works primarily with people who are dealing with gender dysphoria (feeling that your gender does not match your physical sex). His approach is fairly objective, presenting gender dysphoria as viewed through three “frameworks” which he labels:

  • The integrity framework – a Christian worldview that sees gender dysphoria as compromising the integrity of the male/female distinction created by God
  • The disability framework – a clinical view that sees gender dysphoria as being a disorder with a physical / psychological cause
  • The diversity framework – a view that sees cross-gender identification as something that should be accepted and celebrated
    • Strong version – seeking the complete deconstruction of traditional gender and sexuality
    • Weak version – seeking to resolve the individual’s dysphoria by transitioning away from their birth/physical sex to their psychological/preferred gender

The author explores various theories of the causes of gender dysphoria (emphasizing that there is not currently enough data to know for sure), discusses different treatment approaches in children, teens, and adults (up to and including sex reassignment), and suggests how churches and Christians should navigate transgender issues and help transgender individuals. While I didn’t agree with all of his theological conclusions (and found his frequent repetition a bit irksome), this book was very helpful in understanding the complexity of the issue.