“Invaders” by John Kessel begins in November 1532 and the Incas are about to face the force of a superior European army lead by Pizarro. Then it’s 2001 and we are in the modern world, albeit one in which aliens have landed, bringing their superior technology. The story then continues in alternating sections, following the two eras, the two invaders – the first bunch stealing Inca gold, the second offering wonders. Such as time travel.

The first thread continues to July 1533 and the execution of Atahualpa. The second story covers a longer period, to 2011, and poses the question (partly in the author interludes), can we change the past for the better? Finally we return to the Inca world of the 16th century…

Several of the stories (at least of the ones so far read) in John Kessel’s collection The Pure Product have a time travel-related theme, used to explore who we are, where we come from, what we may do. His novel Corrupting Dr Nice is a brilliant example of this and I urge you to read it.

“Invaders” is superbly written, a style that flows effortlessly, engaging both intellect and emotion. The story first appeared in Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1990; thus the elements set in the 2000s were futuristic fiction at the time. We’ve past 2011 and, unless they are well hidden, the aliens haven’t yet arrived.

— Peter Coleborn