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Corrupting Dr. Nice Hardcover – February, 1997

4.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In John Kessel's world, time travel has given humanity a great gift: the ability to exploit an almost infinite number of alternate pasts. And exploit it they have. Sightseeing tours to the crucifixion and front row seats at Caesar's assassination are just the beginning. But nice-guy Dr. Owen Vannice just wants to bring a dinosaur named Wilma forward for study. Then he meets August and Genevieve, a father-and-daughter con artist team, and together they land in the middle of a past revolt. "Entertaining, funny, and, best of all, highly serious," according to author Connie Willis.

From Publishers Weekly

In the mid-21st century, time travel is as common as air travel is today, and so is the wholesale looting of the past for people and artifacts. The eponymous Owen Vannice, a billionaire paleontologist trying to smuggle a dinosaur from the Cretaceous period, becomes the target of Genevieve Faison, a professional confidence woman. He also becomes the focus, A.D. 40, of a Zealot uprising in Jerusalem, which has been virtually colonized by the time-travel corporations. Surviving kidnapping by terrorists and betrayal by Genevieve, Owen proceeds to marry the woman when she reappears under the name of Emma Zume. It all works out happily in the end, even for one Simon the Zealot, driven to terrorism after time-travelers steal away one Yeshu, whom he followed. The character of Simon and the portrait of a Jerusalem under time-traveling occupation are superlatively well done. Most everything else here, however, suffers from an earnestness that clashes with the urge to romp. Kessel (Good News from Outer Space) dedicates the novel to a slew of film directors (Capra, Wilder, Sturges, etc.) who mixed comedy and drama in their work. The mix here isn't nearly as magical as theirs, but the story remains intelligent and entertaining throughout.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (February 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312861168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312861162
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,594,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on June 11, 1997
Format: Hardcover
John Kessel knows how to tell a story. Countless
science fiction books make it into the bookstores
only because of some cool idea, or because they tie in to a popular TV series or movie, or because the author's name guarantees sales, or because some big dinosaur is ripping across the cover.

Not so with _Corrupting Doctor Nice_. The best
fiction--and this novel is surely some of the best
fiction--tells a _story_, one which engages the reader's interest; delights with plot complications, humor, and tension; and satisfies with a resolution that fulfills all the promises made by the developing plot.

Kessel's book does just that, and does it with dinosaurs and time travel, too. The "coolness factor" which makes good science fiction good science fiction is intimately blended with the brilliant storytelling which makes good fiction good fiction.

Buy the book, read it, and remember why you came to love fiction in the first place.
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If travel through different ages and parallel dimensions were a possibility would we hesitate to exploit them? John Kessel's imaginative and plain old funny "Corrupting Dr. Nice" depicts a world (well, several) in which cars are driven with gas pumped from other dimensions, messiahs are plucked from 1st century Jerusalem to appear on talk shows, tourists from the 21st Century swarm around ancient Rome, and dinosaurs are cloned to provide the ultimate steak dinner. With Doctor Nice, the earnest but naive palentologist, his security software which keeps making him preform acts of heroism, and any number of rouges and con-artists, this book is engaging and thought-provoking. In a Sci-Fi tradition which includes Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut.
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I think by this point its safe to say that I am a sucker for any book featuring a dinosaur, no matter how prominently, on the cover. I'm pretty sure I first spotted this in a bookstore about ten years ago and the whole package is intriguing, to say the least. An interesting title, with a plot synopsis that promises time traveling misadventures and several bits of praise from noted SF writers (Ursula Le Guin, for one, and an extremely long quote from Connie Willis), while the book itself makes it seem like Kessel is one the most frequently honored authors in SF ever (which was especially intriguing, since I'd never heard of him). That's half true, as it turns out, since he's been nominated for various awards quite a few times, generally for short stories, but his novel work is very scant. This was his second solo novel (one of his three was a collaboration) and he's written nothing else of novel length since this was published in 1997.

Still, with all that completely necessary background, does the book live up to the fact that there's a great big dinosaur looking all "Lost World"esque on the cover? Actually . . . it comes pretty close. Kessel's bright idea was to apparently combine the wacky SF madness that's inherent in time travel with the screwball comedy genre (specifically "The Lady Eve", which I've never seen . . .
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
The story surrounds the scientific realization of time travel in the 21st century. Humans can travel to the past in any number of "unburned" parallel universes during historical periods where the "historicals" have not yet been exposed to the "futurians." Alternatively, travelers can go back to a well-established moment universe where the historicals have gotten used to the futurians coming and going. A revolt occurs during a well-established universe, 40 C.E. A good story follows and mostly takes place back in the future.
The main plot is a common thread with a new twist. A grifter and her father travel to various times and scam clueless tourists from the futre. Soon, she falls for one of the men she intends to scam, a naive, almost perfect paleontologist who has taken a young dinosaur from the past for study. This part of the story is somewhat obvious. It reminds me of a movie. I can see this going to the big screen easily. The bigger story in the background surrounds the ethics of time-travel.
There is a parallel between the unethical behavior of the scam-artists, the paleontologist's removing the dinosaur from the past, and the corporation who owns the time-travel machines.
I kept wondering how this story would end. Any book that makes me guess what's going to happen in the last few pages gets 4 stars from me.
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Format: Paperback
John Kessel has done it again. He has raised science fiction to literary prominence -- in a humorous, satiric comedy that effortlessly flows back and forth through time. This novel is politically intriguing, highly serious and wildly comical -- but it also is very warm-hearted and filled with well rounded charcters that keep the story moving and interesting. Highly recommended.
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