One Day All This Will Be Yours by Adrian Tchaikovsky
What’s a grumpy, misanthropic time traveling warrior to do? Governments and factions have misused time travel machines, each using their time machines to remake the past in the way they want it to be, over and over again. Time travel machines really are the ultimate weapon: if you go back far enough you can change history enough that your enemy never has a chance. Except that your enemy’s time traveling agents are cut off from those changes, so they’re still around to try to change history in a different way that favors them. And then there are Causality Bombs, “[f]or when regular time travel just can’t mess up continuity enough.” Now the past is irretrievably broken into shards and splinters.
So our surly main character, the last survivor of the time soldiers, has set himself up as a gatekeeper in a distant future to make sure it never happens again past his point in time. His tech allows him to pull all time travelers heading to the far future to stop in his particular place and time, where he can make sure they never go any further. And when that involves murdering said time travelers — he keeps guns, poisons and a feathery Allosaurus named Miffly just for this purpose (“she is ridiculously adorable when she’s not actually eating people”) — well, that’s just the way it goes. Until one day, when he gets an unpleasant surprise … from his future. Maybe, though, with the help of Miffly, he can solve this latest problem too.
One Day All This Will Be Yours (2021), a new SF novella by Adrian Tchaikovsky, is wildly intelligent and imaginative, narrated by the main character with lots of irreverent and extremely black humor. You have to be able to enjoy a protagonist who, with no discernable regret, offs any number of innocent people in pursuit of what he views as the greater cause. One of the highlights is when he and a time-traveling enemy engage in a battle in which each of them has pulled together an army of the worst villains they can find throughout human history: Stalin, multiple versions of Jack the Ripper, Elizabeth Báthory, Vlad the Impaler, Ching Shih, and many, many more.
In the end there is only one of them left, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s Hitler. Basically because he’s been hiding in a bunker all this time. He pokes his head up, and I set Miffly on him. … It’s very therapeutic. And the thing about allosaurs is they can run really quite fast, and the thing about Hitlers is that they can’t, not really, or not for very long.
Tchaikovsky’s concept of time and causality being broken is uniquely executed here in One Day All This Will Be Yours. Our main character makes the most of his access to the past, both for pleasure and to enforce his idea of keeping the far future pristine. Of course, time travel fiction is replete with paradoxes, and everything here isn’t entirely logical — at least, my brain couldn’t quite wrap itself fully around this novella’s concept of time — but Tchaikovsky commits to it completely and pulls you along with him, immersing you in this fascinating and slightly loopy world until you really don’t care any more if it doesn’t altogether make sense.
My only qualm with One Day All This Will Be Yours is that its ending is remarkably abrupt, with reams of hanging threads and no real attempt at a wrap-up. I don’t think I fully get what Tchaikovsky was going for with that ending, other than that it certainly gives a “well, here we go again” type of message, but even after a couple of rereads I’m still not a big fan of it. As a whole, though, this novella is so very funny, creative and intelligent that I have to give it my strongest recommendation … at least if you’re a fan of dark, flippant humor.