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A River Called Time


A monumental speculative fiction story of love, loyalty, politics, and conscience, set in parallel Londons.

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$28.95 $21.71

What people are saying…

** Short-listed for the Arthur C. Clarke Award

“A dystopian multiverse imagined at thrilling scale . . . Extraordinary . . . The excitement lies largely in its ideas about power and personal responsibility.”
Times Literary Supplement

“Newland . . . imagines a world where colonialism never happened at all. Which isn’t to say it’s some airy-fairy paradise. It’s a traditional sort of dystopia: the have-nots eke by in an urban wasteland while the tech-addled haves are ensconced in a bubble they call the Ark. But rather than enslaving Africans, the Europeans of Newland’s alternate history traded with them, and the resulting world is full of the legacies of that choice, one of which is magic. The book’s protagonist, Markriss Denny, can astral project, which lands him a spot in the Ark and in a slipstream of alternate timelines, one of which is our own. It’s speculative fiction that genuinely made me speculate.”

“Newland has produced a text that piques and provokes, providing a guidebook to worlds both uncomfortably familiar and radically new.”
Strange Horizons

“Involving spirituality, colonization, and quantum realities, A River Called Time is an immersive speculative novel set in a dystopian city that’s facing an uprising.”
Foreword Reviews, Book of the Day

“What would London be like if the UK had not colonized half the world? That’s the question that drives Courttia Newland’s A River Called Time. When young Markriss has the opportunity to move into the Ark—a massive structure that promises a utopian existence for the invited—he takes it, only to find that the world of his dreams isn’t as idyllic as he was promised.”

“Part sci-fi, fantasy, and Afro-futurism but not squarely one or the other, A River Called Time transports the reader into a London undone by time, a London of possibility and, necessarily, of new villains.”
Public Books, a Public Picks 2021 Title

Included in Tor.com‘s April 2021 SFF Roundup

Included in The Root‘s PageTurners Roundup: Black Magic, in This World and Others

“A transportive and highly imaginative novel. Marrying a speculative timeline of human history with the very issues plaguing our world: climate injustice, violence, poverty and destructive capitalism; it is as haunting as it is moving. Five months on and I still think about this novel at least once a week. When a writer is able to hold onto your heart and mind like that . . . well it is truly an exceptional feat.”
The Skinny, A Book of 2021 selection

“A deftly crafted dystopian science fiction novel by an author with a genuine flair for originality and the kind of narrative driven storytelling that reaches out and grabs the reader’s totally engaged and compulsive page turning attention from cover to cover.”
Midwest Book Review

“This mystical coming-of-age tale . . . is sure to please fans of thought-provoking speculative fiction.”
Publishers Weekly

“This is an ambitiously imagined book that, by removing the European lens on African cultures, creates a new reality that allows us to question how we view our own. Complex and multilayered, this novel opens the door to the possibilities of noncolonial worlds.”
Kirkus Reviews

A River Called Time is ambitious, sprawling, unpredictable and fascinating . . . A relentlessly imaginative novel about a world where colonialism and slavery never occurred and yet brutal inequality persists.”
Shelf Awareness

A River Called Time perfectly showcases Newland’s firm grip on the mystical, the magical, and that tiny spark of wonderment that lies within all of us to see what else is out there: real or imagined.”
Exclusive Magazine

“Courttia Newland is a formidable writer . . . And his latest work, A River Called Time, is an extraordinary piece of speculative fiction . . . Newland offers a brilliant remix of history . . . This may be a work of speculative fiction but its critical lens is present and prescient.”
Financial Times, reviewed by Imani Perry

“No one can doubt the sheer energy and verve of Newland’s vision.”
The Guardian (UK), Book of the Day selection

“Class, race, different iterations of self, the power of the imagination, Afrofuturism, politics, spirituality, physics and philosophy—it’s all here in a high-concept novel blending sci-fi and speculative fiction with the self-critique of memoir.”
The Herald (UK)

“Newland subtly and smoothly incorporates elements of Egyptian mythology into his alternative landscape, building an altered history that is entirely believable . . . This kind of thing is not easy to portray well in fiction, but Courttia Newland does so with a confident hand, leading the reader through different worlds with aplomb.”
The Big Issue (UK)

“The seventh novel from Newland, who also co-wrote Steve McQueen’s recent Small Axe film series, is set in an alternative London where the privileged live in a giant Ark, and in a timeline in which slavery and colonialism never happened.”
BBC News

“A brilliantly realized story.”
i (UK), a Best Book of 2021

“Rooted in a decolonized narrative style where every turn of phrase brings forth the weight of its cultural implications, A River Called Time is a deeply thoughtful, surprising and rewarding read.”
The Arts Desk (UK)

“Mightily impressive . . . an extraordinary . . . exploration of history, identity and time.”
Daily Mail (UK)

“This is a splendid and complex book with many layers and is written superbly well . . . I have never read a book quite like this before.”
NB Magazine (UK)

“The award-winning playwright and screenwriter for Steve McQueen’s Small Axe has penned one of the most hotly anticipated reads of 2021—and for good reason. Newland has painted a richly imagined parallel London where colonialism and slavery never existed while exploring timely themes of social inequality, the resulting eruption of violence and media repression.”
Cosmopolitan (UK)

A River Called Time is a masterful reimagining of the African diaspora’s influence on England, and on the world. It’s a grand tale and still an intimate portrait of loss and love. What glory and influence would Africa enjoy if colonialism had never occurred? Courttia Newland reshapes our vision of the past, present and future by taking this one question seriously. The result is something truly special. No other way to put it, this book is true Black magic.”
—Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling

“Courttia Newland’s writing is rich with passion and humanity. He manages to convey great depth without ever losing his lightness of touch. A rare feat only reserved for the few.”
—Steve McQueen, Academy Award–winning film director

A River Called Time is a real gem of a book. There are so many brilliant parallels drawn between the world we live in as well as gentle prods toward the reality we could create. I had my hands on my face throughout the end of the book as shock after shock was delivered. A River Called Time is an excellent, beautiful read that will make you think while taking your breath away.”
—Dorothy Koomson, author of Tell Me Your Secret

“Gloriously enthralling. An immersive, ambitious reimagining of the city from a formidable British voice. Newland’s magnum opus.”
—Irenosen Okojie, author of Butterfly Fish

“A master storyteller returns with this piece of astonishing speculative fiction, interrogating social inequality, the complexities of truth and the very essence of what it is to be human, all in Newland’s precise and powerful prose.”
—Nikesh Shukla, editor of The Good Immigrant

A River Called Time is an incredible read. Perfectly plotted and layered with complex ideas, a heartbreaking love triangle and an astonishing ending. It’s not just a book of speculative fiction, but a starting point to learning about a kemetic spiritual system masterfully woven into the narrative. If you’re a fan of Philip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard, you’ll love stepping into the world Courttia has created.”
—Irfan Master, author of Out of Heart

“If only all alternative presents were this keenly imagined, plausibly constructed and well written.”
—Ben Aaronovitch, author of Rivers of London

“A speculative fiction that you will not want to put down.”
Book of Cinz

Included in Publishers Weekly’s Adult 2021 Announcements (SciFi, Fantasy, Horror)

A Most-Anticipated Caribbean Book of 2021 (Rebel Women Lit)

Critical praise for The Gospel According to Cane by Courttia Newland:

Nominated for the 2014 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Fiction!

Publishers Weekly has named The Gospel According to Cane a 2012-13 “Notable African-American Title”

“A mother’s love is unbreakable, as Frank O’Connor Award–nominee Newland demonstrates in his latest novel . . . The storytelling is as captivating as the story itself. Newland, a Jamaican-born British writer, seamlessly integrates the joy, fear, uncertainty, and sadness . . . Newland’s prose is beautiful. His novel—part homecoming narrative in the vein of Toni Morrison’s Beloved and part haunting tale of loss similar to Ernest Gaines’s In My Father’s House—will appeal to all lovers of literary fiction.”
Library Journal

“The emotional tension is sometimes almost unbearable as a mother and son attempt to build a relationship out of their shared pain. A unique and very moving novel.”

“The characters are finely drawn with realistic ambiguity and genuinely exhibit the durability of grief and pain.”
Publishers Weekly

“Newland delivers an intense portrait of mental conflict against a gritty inner-city background. The book we are reading is Beverley Cottrell’s journal . . . This ‘journal of my pain,’ becomes a spiral of cathartic violence during which Newland deftly keeps the reader guessing.”
Kirkus Reviews

“As Bev confesses in her journals to events that make her appear less than the fragile idealist she first appeared, Newland’s tale gathers pace and tension. Violence becomes a real possibility. Happy ending or sad? Newland delivers a bit of both in this complex, cathartic portrait of an intelligent, if not always sensible woman, who refuses any longer to be defined by loss.”
Toronto Star


The Ark was built to save the lives of the many, but rapidly became a refuge for the elite, the entrance closed without warning.

Years after the Ark was cut off from the world—a world much like our own, but in which slavery has never existed—a chance of survival within the Ark’s confines is granted to a select few who can prove their worth. Among their number is Markriss Denny, whose path to future excellence is marred only by a closely guarded secret: without warning, his spirit leaves his body, allowing him to see and experience a world far beyond his physical limitations.

Once inside the Ark, Denny learns of another with the same power, whose existence could spell catastrophe for humanity. He is forced into a desperate race to understand his abilities, and in doing so uncovers the truth about the Ark, himself, and the people he thought he once knew.

Read interviews with Courttia Newland at The Guardian (UK), the New Statesman (UK), i News (UK), City Lights, and SciFi Bulletin

Listen to interviews with Courttia Newland at BBC Front Row (UK) and Little Atoms.

Read an excerpt from A River Called Time at Tor.com.

Read an excerpt from and feature on A River Called Time at Shelf Unbound

Book Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Published: 4/6/21
  • IBSN: 9781617759260
  • e-IBSN: 9781617759369


COURTTIA NEWLAND is the author of seven books including A River Called Time, The Gospel According to Cane, and his much-lauded debut, The Scholar. In 2016 he was awarded the Roland Rees Bursary for playwriting. As a screenwriter, he has cowritten two episodes of the Steve McQueen BBC series Small Axe. Cosmogramma is his latest book.

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