Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Great Time Machine Hoax, Keith Laumer (1964)

Chester W. Chester IV owes a million dollars in back taxes, and to recoup the costs, he can use a circus that has seen better days, a run-down mansion, and a mammoth computer. Chester decides to recoup his costs by using the computer to fake a working time machine. All of this sounds like a pretty neat idea for a pulp-SF book, except that the premise is never delivered upon. Instead, Chester, Case (a friend of Chester’s), and Genie (a personality created by the computer) have separate adventures in different eras, all apparently created by this fake time machine, each of the characters learn a few things, and there’s a twist ending that is not really much of a twist at all.

There’s nothing that I can really single out as being worthy of attention in the book, and more than a few things that are quite poor. Science fiction clichés are present in force, the characters are barely sketched, there is nothing noteworthy about the adventures each has, and the writing varies between serviceable and deplorable. There are one or two small ideas there, but nothing that hasn't been done better elsewhere. It's not even much of a fun read, which I should at least be able to expect for one of my first unguided forays into pulp-SF. Avoid. 1.5/5.

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