Strange Horizons, August 17, 2015
Reviewed by Nicky Magas
In a way, healthcare has gotten a lot easier since hospitals developed the means to go back in time and fix the errors that shouldn’t have happened. However, in Arie Coleman’s “20/20,” these interventions have made other things a whole lot more complicated. Nurses and doctors who go back through the Seam often return with their realities overlapping. The various rifts in the multiple timelines they’ve split cause them to see things that are there and aren’t there at the same time. Life becomes a dangerous guessing game of what’s real and what’s not. Loren has used up almost all of her allotted interventions. Her grip on her permanent reality is slipping, but when a new case from one of the hospitals she worked at in the past comes up on the computer, Loren will do anything to be assigned the case and right a wrong that everyone else has written off as unsalvageable.
“20/20” is a story that forges a strong connection with its readers from the beginning. Who wouldn’t, if given the chance, go back in time to fix a mistake that had disastrous consequences? The decision to place the setting in a hospital, as opposed to another high stakes occupation is especially relevant these days when a recent study estimates around 400,0001 people die annually from preventable errors. The inclusion of multiple temporal realities overlapping each other and causing confusion in the traveler is a novel take on the time-travel paradoxes science fiction must reconcile when dealing with the subject. While the story looks more and more familiar the further it goes, “20/20” is nonetheless gripping, and keeps the reader enthralled until the end.