December 10, 2011

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The Time Traveler's Guide

Written by K. Sekelsky (With M. Bennardo, Jeff Huber, and Sanjay Kulkarni)
Illustrated by K. Sekelsky
Self-Published

You've got your time machine, but do you know the ins and outs of moving from era to era?  Never fear, because this book can help. Of course, if you have a time travel machine, you're probably far more advanced than this blog (or this book), so I'm not sure how much help it can be, actually, so perhaps nevermind.

On the other hand, if you are one of the many, many (some might say everybody) who does not currently own a time machine, Sekelsky and company offer quite a few teasing hints of the many adventures awaiting you.  Publishers should take note of the need to carefully design books so that they are not pirates across the centuries.  Parents can thrill at the suggestions of which eras to visit based on the type of child they have.  (Hint:  Dinosaurs are a pretty big hit.)  Anyone new to time travel needs to ensure they follow the rules, especially the one about Hitler.  Plus, find out what to do for your short and long-term traveling needs.

The book itself is more of an illustrated novel than a comic, with Sekelsky placing well-timed and very funny drawings at appropriate moments.  The bulk of the book is based on riffing on time travel tropes, such as meeting yourself in the past, going back to stop crimes, and avoiding getting caught up in disasters (unless you are the type of traveler who visits them like collecting postcards).  There are skewering looks at what not to do to blend in and how to avoid changing history.  Along the way, a few side stories are told, with each digression being laugh out loud funny.

There's definitely a concern in a book like this that the jokes are played out.  After all, with so much time travel in popular culture by now, from Star Trek going to the 1930s to Back to the Future, it's easy to feel like we've seen this all before.  The truth is, to some extent we have.  However, I really like the spin that Sekelsky and Bennato in particular bring to the table.  Yes, some of these jokes are nearly as old as the Mesozoic Era, but there's no harm in seeing a fresh take on an old chestnut.

But when a book includes two local references for Western Pennsylvania alums, a section on how best to make out with a celebrity before they're famous, and the creation of All Meme's Day, you're going to find yourself laughing and quickly forgetting if a few of the ideas are a bit overused by now.  Sekelsky and company create enough new material for this to work as a book.

Written in the style of books like those of John Hodgman, The Time Traveler's Guide is a great mock-up of non-fiction works that try to take themselves too seriously.  It would make a great companion for those who are fans of high satire, especially at this time of year.  And if you do own that time machine, you can even go back and give it to someone for the holiday, regardless of when you read this!