Written by Canadian author Thea Lim, An Ocean of Minutes tells the story of Polly, who takes a job which transports her to an unknown future, in order to access lifesaving medical treatment for her boyfriend, Frank, who has succumbed to the ravages of a worldwide pandemic. They make a plan to meet each other at a specified time and place in the future, but as plans have a habit of doing… this one goes awry.
At its heart, An Ocean of Minutes is a love story as much as it is a time travel narrative. It appears to be asking, ‘How much can we expect of love?’ The protagonist holds onto an idea of love that doesn’t allow for the vicissitudes of time and circumstance. She takes her love with her to an unknown future like precious baggage she cannot let go, no matter how cumbersome. Her emotional journey is as important as her journey through time.
Like the best speculative fiction, Thea Lim’s novel also has something to say about the world in which we live. Although a time travel narrative set during an alternative history of the 1980s to the year 2000, An Ocean of Minutes is also an exploration of what it’s like to be a refugee or immigrant in an unwelcoming world. The characters are displaced from their known worlds through no fault of their own and find themselves in strange territory, known yet alien, where they are treated as second class citizens.
Lim’s descriptions of the real 1980s and the imagined new world of the 1990s are textured and evocative. And if she sometimes lingers too long on the romantic scenes from yesteryear for my reading taste, she gives us plenty of action and lots of interesting characters in the post-pandemic world of the future.
A very enjoyable and thoughtful novel.