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I'm trying to recall the name of a novel that was set in a dystopian future with time travel.

A group sets out to disrupt Columbus and change Aztec culture to be more resistant to European invasion and change the course of history for the better.

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That would be Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card.

The book's focus is the life and activities of explorer, Christopher Columbus. Much of the action deals with a group of scientists from the future who travel back to the 15th century in order to change the pattern of European contact with the Americas. These alternate with chapters describing Columbus' career and his efforts to obtain backing to his project of traveling across the ocean - much of which can be considered as simple historical fiction.


In the future, looking back at history (via a technology that lets them see into the past) there is some question as to why Christopher Columbus acted the way he did. The people in the future eventually discover that time-travelers had influenced him to prevent a nasty future, but overplayed their hand, and created the future our heroes are looking back from, which itself has problems and is doomed. (Originally he had gotten the Europeans into a Crusade that weakened them too much, so that when they encountered the Central Americans, they lost to them. The new path is comparable to our world, but with the plundering of the natural resources (started by the European invasion that Columbus caused) eventually leading to an ecological crisis.)

They then decide to learn from the original path of history AND from their predecessors meddling and attempt to make a third, 'happy path' for history to follow. This involves multiple aspects, including forcing Columbus to remain in the Americas (by destroying his ships, and resulting in him eventually becoming a political leader and unifying them) as well as spreading genetically engineered viruses to give the natives immunity to the European diseases that would have eventually decimated them.

  • I love OSC but totally spaced that this was one of his books. – user24250 Dec 10 '17 at 1:57

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