Independently Published (2022)
Reviewed by Tim Schueler for Reader Views (07/2022)
“Resurrection 2020” is a science fiction novel by Herb Guggenheim. Though officially part of a trilogy, it stands on its own as a reading experience; though I had not read the first two books in the “Skip Gershwin” series, this did not handicap my understanding of the storyline.
Skip Gershwin, an aging college professor, loses his teaching position and condo on the same day, throwing his life into turmoil, but these are the least of his problems. Through a mysterious reel-to-reel tape recorder, and accompanied by two college students, Marcel and Hester, and an old acquaintance, Grudun Fredge, the quartet is sent back in time to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. The book describes various misadventures when time-traveling back and forth between 1964 and the present of the character’s world (2019, just before the COVID pandemic).
The main character has a passion for 1964 World’s Fair trivia, and this helps provide realistic “behind the scenes” descriptions of many of the Fair attractions, such as the Ford and Westinghouse pavilions with various Cities of Tomorrow exhibits and a General Motors exhibition complete with a mockup underwater “Hotel Atlantis”; it was interesting to time travel back to 1964 and see how those in that time would predict the future (e.g., underwater hotels).
The plot is circuitous and sometimes a little hard to follow; suffice it to say that time travel allows the characters to experience some positive, but mostly negative, characteristics of American society in 1964, comparing them to the present of 2019, showing, at best, moderate improvement.
An important plot element involves a former US president (think Mar-a-Lago), who gets caught up in the time traveling episodes to hilarious if not a little painful effect.
The main thing this reviewer enjoyed about the book was the humor; the comedy was at times a bit biting but was still the novel’s best feature. The second thing I enjoyed was the portrayal of the time-travelling adventures of a recent, highly polarizing president who I will refer to as Mr. Mar-a-Lago. A reader’s opinion of Mr. Guggenheim’s portrayal of Mr. Mar-a-Lago will likely depend on his or her political stripes. If you support this former president, you will consider the author’s description of him as mean-spirited. On the other hand, if you are not a fan of Mr. Mar-a-Lago, then the author’s savaging of his character will likely leave you pleasurably cringing. Putting aside politics (which is impossible, but try), if Mr. Guggenheim meant to portray this past president as a buffoon without moral moorings of any kind, then he nailed it.
Though my politics are likely more similar to the author’s than not, I was disappointed that the back cover description didn’t reference the story’s treatment of this past president (he is not mentioned nor hinted at); I would have telegraphed the novel’s left-leaning politics—perhaps with a joke at Mr. Mara-a-Lago’s expense—so the reader will know what he or she will be in for.
The main goal of Marcel’s character (a young African American college student) is to bring racism into focus; this is done definitively, often with humor. However, I had trouble with the fact that all of the 1964 time traveling episodes reveal one thing: everyone, especially the police, were then, and are now, inherently racist. Racism was a real big problem then and remains a big one today, but I was turned off by the author’s painting of all secondary characters as one-dimensionally racist; this theme could have been dialed back while still effecting the author’s message. There is some messaging on sexual violence, however, which was presented without humor and was spot on; kudos to the author there.
Despite a bit of plot choppiness and the aforementioned racism tropes, I found the author’s humoristic portrayals of his character’s adventures interesting. In my opinion, a future edition of this novel, sans minor typos and with more a straightforward political marketing presentation, will attract more readers. Good luck to Mr. Guggenheim: keep sharing your sharp sense of humor with us.