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Washington's Providence

Washington's Providence - Chris LaFata image
Washington's Providence, is really something special.  In this case, you really can judge a book from its cover. The author says that one of his students drew the cover for him. Doesn't it look like an authentic painting of George Washington that you've somehow managed to never see before?

I recently found a science fiction magazine that was soliciting more humorous science fiction submissions.  And, thinking back, I have to say that I’ve not really read a whole lot of humorous science fiction beyond the rare Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. But this book definitely fits that category in its own way... without going too far over the top. t has its serious moments and is well-researched.  However, it’s the humor that wins you over.  The first time you encounter this humor is in the opening line:
"One thing about the past:  I'll never get used to the smell."


Thus begins a wonderful rollicking time travel adventure in which we find our hero, John Curry, attending an opera in Prague conducted by Mozart.  While in Prague, he sees the Orloj in non-working order.  I'd never heard of this magnificent clock. Legend has it, the city blinded the clockmaker so that he could not make a clock equal to or greater than this one for another city. In retribution, the clockmaker damaged the clock such that it no longer worked. The Orloj contains 3 main components: a time-telling component with "The Walk of the Apostles" as an hourly show and the figure of death striking the time, an astronomical dial, and calendar.

While in Prague, John encounters not only Mozart but the historically renowned lover, Casanova.  Before reading this book, I had no idea that Casanova had written a futuristic novel called Icosameron which predicts television, poison gas, and self-powered cars among other inventions far beyond his time.  How fitting that LaFata decides to give Casanova his very own time traveling groupies who could perhaps plant these images of the future in his mind.

At the heart of this novel, however, is John's and his college friend Mark's quest to ensure that George Washington lives long enough to one day become the first president of the United States of America.  John and Mark are a fun and nerdy duo whose shooting skills were learned while playing Duck Hunt and who invoke the spirit of television mobsters to drum up a little artificial courage.  John says that being together in the past is
"just like old times, the two of us, riding our horses -- only this time they're real and not part of some roleplaying game."

The takeaway here seems to be that video game skills are useful for something after all, especially when you find yourself in the middle of the French Indian War.

I hope I've not given away too much of the fun this book has to offer.  But it was one of the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarterfinalists in the General Fiction Category, and it's well-deserving.  If you're not convinced yet to read it, at least take the time to watch the book trailer which was created and narrated by the author:


If you're anything like me, you'll find yourself reading John Curry's voice in the voice of the author from the book trailer.  I almost felt as if I had an audiobook going in my head.

I look forward to the next book in the series and seeing what other historical characters come alive on LaFata's pages.  You'd be surprised how many time travel novels fail to actually include much history or bring their characters to life as well as LaFata has.  Having read scores of novels in the genre, I'm finding actual history in a time travel novel to be more of an anomaly than the norm.. I truly hope this novel gets the publicity it needs. I'd like to hope that its humor, history, and the fact that it's well-written will take it far.