Corrupting Dr. Nice
Tor Books, February
1997, 316 pp., $24.95, hardcover
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
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.
--Jonathan Lethem, author of Gun, With
"Brilliantly intelligent, light-handed, and
--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
"The most deft, most entertaining and politically
savvy time-travel novel of the '90s."
--Gregory Feeley, The Washington Post Book
"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
--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.