So You Had to Build a Time Machine

Jason Offutt. CamCat, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-7443-0014-7

Offutt (Chasing American Monsters) sends genres and dimensions hurtling into one another in this tongue-in-cheek time travel tale, which doubles as an ode to all things nerdy. Kansas City security guard Skid longs for a quiet life after her tumultuous childhood in the circus, but when physicist Dave Collison picks her up at a bar only to vanish before her eyes, Skid’s life is thrown into chaos like never before. Dave reappears in the middle of a ghost tour led by con artist Cordrey Bellamy. Meanwhile, strange, small discrepancies crop up around KC—street names and cupcake flavors both change overnight—and only Skid, Cordrey, and a Dungeons-and-Dragons–obsessed baker named Brick seem to notice. The unlikely trio must save the world from a supercollider experiment gone wrong, embarking on a quest that pits them against the U.S. military, orcs, and Dave’s megalomaniacal boss. Though the endless pop culture references and cheesy monster battles grow tiresome, Offutt’s plotting delights as the consequences of the characters’ trips through time ripple forward to build a satisfying puzzle. Readers should be prepared for some whiplash as the tone shifts from horror to humor, high fantasy, and beyond, but this light, playful adventure will still be a treat for the nerd culture–savvy. (July)