The Great Time Machine Hoax represents one of the reasons I love going to used book stores. It also represents the danger of going to used book stores.
It was an early work of famed SF author Keith Laumer (1963). It came from a shorter work and was expanded into a longer novel (I think I know where the expansion was – pretty much a strange Kung-fu training section in the entire second half of the book). But I’m ahead of myself.
So Chester W. Chester IV inherits a rundown mansion, the sole heir and sole responsible party for millions in back taxes. With him is his friend, who managers a hobby circus of his (also failing). In the basement of said mansion, they find a massive computer (the Generalized Nonlinear Extrapolator, better known as “Genie”). And Genie, it can make images based on mathematical and statistical inferences, images so real you can touch them. It even produces a surrogate, an impish young woman, totally naked, to interact with them (keep your comments down in the back).
With this, they hatch a scheme – they can create a hoax and tell people they actually have a working time machine. Experimenting with this, they go back to dinosaurs – oh, so real. They got so close. Then they go back and see cavemen. And that’s when they realize that the machine found it easier to create an actual time machine rather than go through the bother of prediction. And of course, it’s too late to get back.
It was an interesting book but the tack-on end section felt very “different” from the first part. In the negative, I found it very cobbled together. On the positive, I did like it (and the solution was interesting, in a Rick and Morty “Cronenberg” ending). So yes, fun to travel in my own time machine, to hold a book from the sixties and read what was cutting-edge then. Worth it if you can find it… cheap.