A freak accident gives a Southern California man a working time machine in his basement.
Likable, unambitious Everyman Robert Packard (“like Hewlett-Packard, but without the money”) is happy enough with his life at the beginning of Emory’s strange, uproarious novel. He’s a glorified secretary and all-around gofer for a law firm that overpays him, and although his wife, Caro, can be a bit critical, he’s content in his off-hours to pursue his two hobbies: wine and technical tinkering on gadgets in his basement. When a freak lightning storm supercharges those gadgets and transforms them into a portal to the past, Robert sees a chance to make a one-of-a-kind killing in the wine market—by buying an 1860 Chateau Lafite from 1860 Chateau Lafite. The Frenchman passing by his portal is only too happy to sell him a bottle—for 10 gold francs. Robert tells them to come back to the portal a little later and hurries to the local antique coin shop to buy a coin of the right provenance, and soon he’s in possession of a bottle of wine worth $20,000 to modern-day oenologists. He can scarcely believe his luck (“Things like this happen to characters made up by Stan Lee,” he thinks, “not to me”), and he quickly decides to up the ante and kill two birds with one stone: He’ll not only obtain more valuable bottles of wine from the past, but he’ll do it by meeting one of his all-time favorite historical personages: U.S. president—and well-known wine enthusiast—Thomas Jefferson. And at first it works: Jefferson’s far enough ahead of his time not to panic at the appearance of a window from the future, and he’s hard up enough for ready money to part with some of the treasures from his cellar (he asks a stiff price: $2 a bottle). At first the scheme seems to be working perfectly, but Emory soon complicates it in half a dozen ways that all flow naturally from the plot’s central gimmick, and each new complication is funnier than the last—and all of them add up to a pitch-perfect comic novel. Enthusiastically recommended.
A hilarious time-travel shaggy dog story.