Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, by Kelly Robson is the kind book I pick up just because of the cover. After all, how can one resist a cover that has a woman with octopus tentacles on it? Throw in time travel and I’m sold. In this novella, Minh, an ecological restorer is offered a job she can’t refuse. Her usual gig is to monitor rivers and snowpack to help sustain water in the newly habitable surface communes on a ruined earth. But her nemesis of a corporation offers to pay her to travel back in time to 2024 BCE to map the total ecosystem of the Tigris and the Euphrates so that, perhaps, they might be recreated.
Minh is a delightfully prickly woman of the future. She is a part of the plague baby generation, a generation that was decimated by a variety of epidemics that ripped through the subterranean cities that humans retreated to in the face of ecological disasters. The plague babies (some of whom are genetically or physically modified to survive on the surface) struck out for the blighted surface to try and re-create surface life. They’ve survived in a few places, but most of these colonies are struggling because the banks that finance everything aren’t seeing a big enough return on their investment. It’s no wonder that Minh is bitter.
It’s a surprise to her friends that she’s even willing to work with one of the biggest of the corporations making a go of it on the surface. Years ago, they were the ones who pulled the plug on Minh’s big project to restore the Colorado River. Minh somehow sees her way to bidding for this company’s plan to use time travel to recreate the Tigris and Euphrates ecosystem. As things usually do in fiction, things start to go awry as soon as Minh and her landing party arrive in 2024 BCE. There are hints at the beginnings of each chapter about just how wrong things can get when the group disturbs the heavily armed people who are already living there.
This novella completely hooked me. I loved the characters and the advanced science that they employ. Seeing cultures from opposite ends of history in conflict is wonderfully original and entertaining. The best part, I think, is the ending. Something happens that has huge implications about what it means to be able to time travel. The ending completely changed how I saw the book. Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach is a great adventure story.