Corrupting Dr. Nice


First edition:
Tor Books, February 1997, 316 pp., $24.95, hardcover
ISBN 0-312-86116-8

From the jacket copy...

August Faison and his gorgeous young daughter, Genvieve, are rogues of the first water--seasoned swindlers who rove across time in search of new victims to fleece. Now the most precious pigeon of them all has fallen into their laps, in Jerusalem at the time of Christ.

Dr. Owen Vannice is too innocent, and far too rich, for his own good. A fabulously wealthy young amateur paleontologist who has just spent the last year, and billions of his parents' dollars, doing research in the Cretaceous period, he finds himself stranded in the Holy City with a rapidly growing baby dinosaur in tow.

Simon is a disillusioned disciple whose master has been kidnapped uptime by colonists from the future. Now he works for the exploitive crosstime corporations, which have turned his timeline into a tourist trap, complete with luxury hotels and junkets to the Crucifixion.

When a desperate act of sabotage brings them all together, their lives are drastically transformed. For Genvieve is falling in love with "Dr. Nice" against her better judgement, and is willing to double-cross her father to win him. And Owen is losing his innocence, joining with Simon and his fellow zealots in their revolutionary plans to drive out the invaders from the future.

Skillfully interweaving romantic comedy, heart-stopping suspense, and brilliantly satiric social commentary, Corrupting Dr. Nice is sophisticated speculative fiction by an award-winning modern master.

Click here to preview the first chapter.

Quotes from reviews...

"Lucid, humane, and mercilessly funny, Corrupting Dr. Nice is a peach. If there could be great date books like there are great date movies, this would be one. Dr. Kessel's self-deceiving lovers strive against a painstakingly realized social backdrop--in this case, one that also happens to be the ultimate metaphor for postmodernism. Brilliant."

--Jonathan Lethem, author of Gun, With Occasional Music

"Brilliantly intelligent, light-handed, and warm-hearted--a dazzler."

--Ursula K. Le Guin, author of The Left Hand of Darkness

"Entertaining, funny, and, best of all, highly serious...John Kessel has combined the breathless chaos of a Preston Sturges screwball comedy with the assassination of Julius Caesar and the technicalities of time travel (not to mention con artists, a baby dinosaur, politics, and the Crucifixion) to create something completely different. Book your tickets to the past immediately! Anyone for the Pompeii tour?"

--Connie Willis, author of Doomsday Book

"The best time travel novel ever written. It combines the serious issues of cultural imperialism with the many hilarities of Compound Anachronism Syndrome in a Kessel-perfect portrait of our time. Go buy this book yesterday."

--Kim Stanley Robinson, author of Blue Mars

"The most deft, most entertaining and politically savvy time-travel novel of the '90s."

--Gregory Feeley, The Washington Post Book World

"Kessel knows enough about satire to keep his targets clearly in focus...enough about SF to make his premise consistent...and enough about the great American confidence man archetype to lend his writing considerable resonance. But mainly, he takes us for a terrific ride."

--Gary K. Wolfe, Locus

"It's been a while since the last time I had a chance to praise John Kessel's talent for `satire with fangs'...I am delighted to tell you of the fun you will have reading Corrupting Dr. Nice. It's a grand romp through the moment universes by two lovers who refuse to understand each other..."

--Tom Easton, Analog

"Time travel yarns have been a science fiction staple since the early days of the genre, but have worn a bit thin in recent years. Now John Kessel breathes new life into the sub-genre with his latest novel. Corrupting Dr. Nice follows a pair of hapless lovers from ancient Jerusalem to the 21st century in a deft homage to the 1941 Preston Sturges comedy, "The Lady Eve." Like Sturges, Kessel uses his deluded characters' antics as a vehicle for wicked observation on media saturation, consumer culture and postmodern looniness...Corrupting Dr. Nice is suffused with gentle good humor. Kessel treats his characters with warmth and compassion even when he's putting them through the wringer."

--Daniel Marcus, The San Francisco Chronicle

"With the publication of his second novel, Corrupting Dr. Nice, a biting satire of celebrity, media, and cultural imperialism, Kessel seems poised to reach a wider audience...Kessel's work falls into a narrow niche--literary science fiction--which seems too weird to appeal to "literary" types but too grounded for many sci-fi fans. With Corrupting Dr. Nice, he has written a book that should bridge these two audiences."

--Chris Estes, Raleigh News and Observer

"Inspired by the screwball comedies of Preston Sturges, [Kessel] manages to squeeze considerable humor out of the notion of a Zealot uprising armed with assault rifles and a media-saturated trial in which Abraham Lincoln and Jesus make opposing arguments."

--Gerald Jones, New York Times

"With a vivid and multi-layered background, a Gibson-like mastery of the everyday slang and diction that could easily exist in our future, and comedic takes on the looting of the past, John Kessel creates an original and humorous time travel novel in Corrupting Dr. Nice...Dotted throughout the finely textured and complex fabric of the story is the realization that nothing is or ever will be sacred to history...Kessel gives the reader a hilarious look at a time-travel influenced contemporary New York with clear images of marketing and commercialism gone crazy...Kessel's use of realistic dialogue and humorous mixes of the revered past with the commercial present provide the reader with an insightful look at the problems of today's disposable society--while allowing for some timely comedy and a little tortured love."

--Adam Bible, Spectator Magazine

Corrupting Dr. Nice is copyright © 1997 by John Kessel.