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Remembrance Of Things I Forgot

Designed by Mark Solan Design

Bob Smith
Terrace Books
272 pages
Price varies by retailer & format
ISBN-13: 978-0299283407

Review by Joe Palmer

This book came to my attention one day thanks to a Insight Books club newsletter about a sale and I decided to look around out of idle curiosity. I wasn’t in the mood for a new book until I came across the site’s description of it as a “screw ball sci-fi comedy where comic book dealer John Sherkston uses the time machine his physicist boyfriend, Taylor, has created for the U.S. government to go back in time to try to save their relationship” to be an intriguing premise. I’d been reading non fiction stuff like Karen Armstrong’s The Great Transformation and Jonathan Kirsch’s The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual for so long that  a book combining gay men, comics, and time travel with wacky hijinx sounded exactly like the antidote I needed. That the novel’s time travelling hero had such a hate on for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney made the story more appealing. Plus I fell under the hypnotic spell of those eyes on the cover. All that was left to do was click, pay, and wait for the package to arrive.

The day it arrived I eagerly ripped open the box and started to read. On a snowy day in 2006 John Sherkston, owner of Sherkston’s Comics in New York City, contemplates telling his boyfriend Taylor Esgard that he wants to end their 15 year relationship. That Taylor is consumed by his work for the Department of Defense as head of the Chronos Project to develop time travel is only salt in the gaping wound of Taylor’s egregiousness. John believes Taylor has become a gay Republican and is willfully working in conjunction with his boss, none other than Vice President Dick Cheney, who John can’t help but think has a secret agenda. I sure as hell thought the same during those eight years. And Smith does reveal he had an agenda for Cheney all along, one that Kang the Conqueror would smile on with approval. What the motive is remains unknown till later in the book. John has to deal with the fact that he’s been purposely sent back in time to the Reagan era, specifically June 12th, 1986 by the veep. John finds plenty to do in the past while keeping up hope that Taylor will rescue him. One moment he’s working up the nerve to attempt a pre-emptive plan to prevent Bush and Cheney from holding the two highest offices in the nation, and in the next he’s trying to figure out how to save his sister from commiting suicide. Of course he ends up trying to do both, and yes, hijinx both wacky and dire ensue when John enlists the much younger versions of yourself, referred to as Junior to avoid confusion, and your (not yet) boyfriend Taylor on a cross country drive. Now you’re wondering about sexual escapades between the little threesome, aren’t you? Junior does attempt to seduce John soon after their initial meeting and before John has worked up the courage to reveal his identity and time traveling trouble. After this awkward attempt, Smith leaves Junior and Taylor to flirt,leaving John to wistfully remember the Taylor he loves, and hook up off page while touching on issues of ageism in the gay community. And just never you mind that time travel quandary of keeping different versions of the same person from meeting to avoid some catastrophic occurrence. The book’s premise rests on the pair’s relationship enabling John to make self-discoveries by experiences that recall forgotten feelings and Smith accomplishes the feat in a manner keeping in tone with John’s character. That John and his small band are tracked and chased around the country by not one, but two Dick Cheney’s, one more dastardly than the other, and an encounter with a younger George W (Bible class, dinner, drinks, and sex, anyone?) is just icing on the cake for any American who lived through the Dubya and Dick years.

Comic book readers will appreciate that Smith is either a fan himself or did some homework. Several characters and specific issues are referenced by John, who also worked on creating Dark Cloud, his own superhero who’d come out of the closest, if either DC or Marvel had pursued John’s submission. Smith keeps the four color allusions in check so as not to overwhelm the story for non comics readers. Despite the incidental spandex attributes I couldn’t help but picture the story in graphic novel format blending adventure, comedy, and slice of life. I liked the novel enough though not as much as I’d wanted. Wit and subtlety are mostly put aside in exchange for a sledge hammer when expressing John’s thoughts and reactions to Bush and Cheney and what seemed to me numerous reminders of John’s feelings began to annoy in the same way Chris Claremont’s “I am Rogue! Here’s my history in a thought bubble!” expository style does. Your mileage may vary.

You’ll probably enjoy this novel if you liked Perry Moore’s Hero or Austin Grossman’s Soon I Will Be Invincible.

March 7, 2015
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