Much like the stories written by its protagonist, David Fiore’s first novel reflects the phrenic awareness and style of the sci-fi pulps of the 1920s and ‘30s. Douglass Infantino, a fringe 21st century savant of classical Hollywood cinema, is transported back to a time before the Great Depression. He’s on a mission to help save a doomed movie studio and foster a cultural revolution that would spare the world from an impending Republican apocalypse. The only catch: the ideal future would command his erasure from existence — unless, of course, he can find an alternate solution.
At times Hypocritic Days is pure whimsy. Infantino, with his knowledge of the future, infiltrates the lives of the past in a game-like fashion. As the natural hero of his own pulp story, he has women (including his rivals) practically jumping into his arms. The book’s tongue-in-cheek self-awareness is at its best in these moments: “The inescapable conclusion was that time travel just didn’t work the way they’d always claimed it did in science fiction magazines.”
Fiore gleefully plays with the tropes of the genre, but also occasionally loses track of the story when getting into its politics. Those breaks often feel more dry and retrospective than insightful, as though the characters are reciting their history rather than living in it: “Either way, it’s not exactly the Irish Potato Famine, but I guess we could get there if this goes on long enough,” one character muses.
In the book’s acknowledgments, Fiore hints that Douglass Infantino’s story isn’t over. It would be a shame if it were. With its heady exploration of Hollywood history and the cause and effect of time travel, Hypocritic Days is a fun read, and definitely deserving of a follow-up. (Paul Rocca)