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A Mexican Vietnam vet searches for redemption through magic after he discovers an ancient time machine.

Defense attorney and novelist Véa (Gods Go Begging, 1999, etc.) dives into magical realism headfirst in this hallucinatory fantasy that reads like a blend of John Steinbeck and Robert A. Heinlein. The book opens on a California vineyard circa 1961 as an orphaned boy named Simon Vegas arrives seeking work. A few days later, a female skydiver plummets to the earth, dying right in front of the boy. Then the novel opens on the present day as Simon’s pregnant wife, Elena, wonders what dark secrets her husband is keeping from her with his project in their garage. Finally, the book spins out the long history of a talisman called “the Antikythera mechanism,” a powerful machine built by the Greek physicist Archimedes that grants the user the ability to travel through time. The device was being used by the U.S. Army in Vietnam when a lowly draftee purloined it—a man who turns out to be Simon. Eventually he enlists his oddball amigo Hephaestus Segundo to help repair the strange machine. From here, Véa contrasts Simon’s pedestrian life—volunteering to teach poetry at a prison, debating with his friend Ezekial Stein, and preparing for fatherhood—with his superheroic adventures using the time machine to intervene in situations where people have been wronged. He saves a boy in Texas from a lynching, rescues Joan of Arc from her pyre, and plots to send the doomed prisoners of Bergen-Belsen to a magical residency in what Simon calls “a section of my Mexican heaven called Boca Raton.” “I think they just live out their lives—the lives they would have had if people had left them alone,” Simon explains. It’s a dizzying novel that combines Véa’s solid prose style with a vivid imagination and an authentic cultural brio.

A lush fantasy in which a man must unwind time itself to right the world’s wrongs.

Pub Date: June 15th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-8061-8703-7
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Univ. of Oklahoma
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2016


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