McManus’s epic does have a plot, a time-hopping pulp lulu that finds a World War I pilot crashing in the Alps in 1918 with a cargo that grows more precious as centuries past, though it’s the fun speculative elements—and Frank’s warmly crabby relationship with his daughter Savannah—that give the novel its quirky kick. Still, the mysteries involving out-of-time gold and people, plus a possible murder with dark implications for the family business, keep the pages turning and add welcome gravity to the high-flying antics. The humor’s often times cheerfully foul-mouthed, especially when Frank is complaining, though McManus’s choice to included a winged character named “Larry the Fairy” who’s fond of “cruse’n” to his “favorite glory hole” will test—or entirely eliminate—the good will of many readers.
The speculative elements are more comic than predictive; in this future, characters still order pizzas and remember 1980s movies, though perhaps this mirrors the ways we still read Dickens today. While filled with silly incidents, surprising plot twists, and much slightly annoyed chatter between father and daughter, the novel is demandingly long, especially for a comedy where it’s not always clear how seriously readers should take the stakes. But the central relationship is compelling, and readers on McManus’s wavelength should expect some belly laughs.
Takeaway: A mad science-fiction spree into an Alexa and Musk-ruled 22nd century.
Great for fans of: James Alan Gardner, Barry J. Hutchison’s Space Team.
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: A