Books : reviews

John Kessel.
Corrupting Dr Nice.
Millennium. 1997

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 5 May 2013

Dr Owen Vannice is a billionaire paleontologist, returning form the Cretaceous with an illegal baby apatosaurus, Wilma. Genevieve Faison and her father August are con artists, preying on the rich and naive. A time transporter malfunction strands them all in Jerusalem 40AD. But it’s not our historical Jersulam, it’s an altered one, colonised by time travellers, displacing and patronising the disgruntled “historicals”. (The cover illustration, of Pilate in a sports car, zooming past Roman Legionnaires armed with assault rifles, occurs early on in the book.) Hijinks and terrorism ensue.

This is an interesting premiss: each alteration of the past spins off a new universe, and so the “same” past (separated by a second or two) can be visited, and interfered with, multiple times, in multiple ways. Also, famous historicals have been brought forward to the present (late 21st Century) day, sometimes, several different versions of them.

However, the whole tone of the book doesn’t work for me. It is written to be a typical “screwball comedy” (one chapter is even titled Bringing Up Baby), with a terrorist/freedom fighter subplot. That might work (I quite like screwball comedies). But unfortunately, I didn’t find it funny.