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The Time Machine Did It (Frank Burly #1)

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,160 Ratings  ·  131 Reviews
Humor/mystery novel by the writer of 59 episodes of The Simpsons.
Paperback, 138 pages
Published June 28th 2006 by Kennydale Books (first published 2004)
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The hero of The Time Machine Did It is a stupid overweight detective named Homer Simpson Frank Burly.

It’s easy to confuse Homer with Frank because author John Swartzwelder wrote over 50 episodes of The Simpsons. After he left the show, Swartzwelder, a notorious recluse, started writing absurd comic novels that he has self-published to avoid having to deal with demands of publishers. Apparently you can take the writer out of The Simpsons but you can’t take The Simpsons out of the writer because t
John Swartzwelder has written a zillion episodes of The Simpsons, and I'm guessing he's the guy who came up with the gag that Mr. Burns is always making ancient cultural references like "Idlewild Airport" and "Amalgamated Spats," because this entire book is in that vein: a bunch of little gags that are almost funny, but they probably aren't going to make you laugh.

Roughly every other sentence includes a pun or a zinger but I can't say I found any of them... funny. Sort of lightly amusing, maybe,
Jinny Chung
Mar 04, 2012 Jinny Chung rated it it was amazing
Shelves: love-love-love
Hilarious, unflaggingly hilarious from word one to the very last speck of ink! In no way is it a cerebral comedy, but it is a riot nevertheless. Swartzwelder is responsible for much of the off-beat humor featured in The Simpsons (he had a particular predilection for causing still, inanimate objects to inexplicably burst into flames), and any sentence from this book will make that obvious. He almost writes in the style of the godfathers of noir -- almost.

Ack. Excerpts should suffice.

"A sign out f
Matthew Novak
Nov 29, 2010 Matthew Novak rated it it was amazing
Shelves: humor
Great first book by the recluse John Swarzwelder. His voice is still in tact and as funny as ever. I don't think anyone will ever top the episodes of The Simpsons that he wrote.
Samuel Breed
May 13, 2008 Samuel Breed rated it it was amazing
Shelves: scifi
John Swartzwelder's truly unique sense of humor is the gem which shines through this somewhat rough novella. The jokes are all wholly original, as is the plot, which riffs on everyone's favorite hard-boiled detective fiction. Yet, a sense of vague familiarity precipitates the book. Perhaps its because Swartzwelder 55 Simpsons episodes, and was one of the most prominent figures in its writing room for the best seasons. Think of any off-kilter reference to late 19th century culture or strange mult ...more
Ian Mullet
Jan 22, 2009 Ian Mullet rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who don't suck
funniest book ever!
Grant P
Feb 10, 2012 Grant P rated it it was ok
In college when I was obsessively re-watching early-mid-90s era Simpsons episodes, I discovered that one of the show's best writers, John Swartzwelder, had committed to two novellas. The other was a Western spoof called Double Wonderful, which I purchased but never read. This seemed like more interested material, and I came to enthusiastically read about half of The Time Machine Did It in late 2005-early 2006 (I believe). When I was packing away books to ship to my new home in Wisconsin just mon ...more
Jun 29, 2012 Andy rated it it was amazing
SciFi readers are ruthless when it comes to critiquing an author's handling of the paradoxes of time travel. Swartzwelder decided to make every one a fodder for humor in this novella.
May 18, 2010 Michael rated it it was amazing
I think this was the first book that ever made me laugh out loud. I started laughing from the first sentence and I couldn't stop laughing or put it down. Great read.
Jun 26, 2010 Rina rated it it was amazing
Hilarious! Perfect combination of mystery, humor and a little science fiction. I literally laughed out loud, it was unbelievably funny.
Jan 24, 2012 Jake rated it it was amazing
An absolutely hilarious novel. I laughed out loud numerous times. A very quick, joyful read.
Kalin Schoephoerster
This is the funniest book I've read in a long time.
Gary Mcconnell
Jul 09, 2011 Gary Mcconnell rated it it was amazing
Exceptionally, unflinchingly hilarious.
Bryan Woerner
Aug 02, 2011 Bryan Woerner rated it it was amazing
Funny is an understatement.
Feb 28, 2012 Daniel rated it it was amazing
John Swartzwelder, notoriously reclusive Simpsons scribe, is known for penning some of that show's funniest and most culturally pointed episodes. He is capable of being absurd without succumbing to plot-driven idiocy and able to nestle high-brow-rising humor next to the goofiest of puns without skipping a beat. Few of the show's current writers can boast his kind of output, whether you're measuring it by episode or by how many gags he can fit into any given minute.

His books (four so far) don't t
Teijo Aflecht
Apr 11, 2016 Teijo Aflecht rated it it was ok
Pretty harmless, somewhat funny and very stupid. Funny in that 'Ha-ha you thought I was saying this, but then I said this crazy, other thing that doesn't make any sense' way, over and over and over again. The plot isn't supposed to make any sense and is as erratic as the characters are ridiculous. I can see how this kind of writing worked in The Simpsons (Swartzwelder wrote 59 episodes), but even as a novella it's just too repetitive and dense. Although I feel it's unfair to write an actual revi ...more
Marty Tomlinson
Feb 02, 2013 Marty Tomlinson rated it it was amazing
Aside from the Douglas Adams books, this is probably the funniest book I've ever read. Written by the guy who's written more episodes of "The Simpsons" than anyone else, it really has a mid-90's Simpsons feel to it. There was a laugh out loud moment every few pages.

I think I liked it even more because it dealt with time travel, and I'm generally a aficionado of time travel stories, and this is a clever riff on time travel stuff.

If I had a complaint, it would be that it's not long enough. It's
Sep 24, 2015 Mjhancock rated it really liked it
Call it a 3.5. Detective Frank Burly is given a case by a hobo--find out what happened that made his fortune literally disappear overnight, and track down a paper figurine. As his method of detecting demands, Burly pursues the case by asking criminals and cops a lot of questions, and getting beat up by both. Then he notices that the criminals in town are unusually successful as late--stealing Van Goghs, for example. Only the paint is still wet...

The Time Machine Did It is the equivalent of liter
Andrew Lee
Oct 05, 2014 Andrew Lee rated it liked it
If you're a big Simpsons fan, chances are you've heard of John Swartzwelder. And even if you haven't, there's a really high chance based on fan polls that one of your favorite episodes was penned by this really unique comic writer. I'm happy to report that I found myself chuckling quite loudly to an average of every two pages. It's hard to squarely fit his unique brand of humor into any particular cateogry but rest assured the same type of hilarity from many amazing Simpsons quotes find their wa ...more
Jun 13, 2014 Liam rated it liked it
Shelves: c21st, trippy, quick-reads
This is a sometimes exhausting book which is a joint parody of hard-boiled detective fiction and time-travel science fiction. The jokes are very thick and fast. Not all of them hit the mark, and many actively disturb any sense of flow in the story, but at times there are moments of comic timing that put you straight in mind of classic Simpsons episodes, for example in this early episode when the lead character, Detective Burley, drops by a homeless man's home in the local dump to ask about a sus ...more
Doug Roberts
Jun 19, 2011 Doug Roberts rated it did not like it
Written from the first-person perspective of a blundering idiot, this book quickly makes you wonder if the character is a fool, or if the author is. Based on the weak plot, the lame jokes, and the grade-school level of writing, I' m placing my bets on the latter. There were moments of interest, and even one or two that made me smile out loud, but not enough to recommend this or ever read anything by this author again.
Jan 11, 2013 Adam rated it did not like it
I read the reviews. I love the Simpsons. I had high hopes.

This is basically Police Chief Wiggum bumbling through a badly written time traveling story. The scifi is bad. The humor is heavy handed. The writing is in bad need of editing. I cannot say how disappointed I was.

If you want scifi, look elsewhere. If you want humor, look elsewhere. If you want Simpsons style writing, go watch some episodes.
Dec 31, 2014 Melanie rated it it was ok
Let me start with a quote:
"It has always amazed me how angry people can get at my stupidity. How do they think I fee? They only have to be around me a couple of hours at a time. I've got me all day."

I bet they feel the same way I felt after having to be around this character for an entire book.I was looking for humor and, as the author has written for many episodes of the Simpsons, I had high hopes of finding it. But this, if it is humor at all, is slapstick. It is the humor of stupidity. I thin
Jun 28, 2007 Christian rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: simpsons fans, marx brothers fans
This book is ridiculous.

There is nothing else really to say. It had me rolling with laughter.

Schwartzwelder is God.
Scott Kinkade
Mar 29, 2014 Scott Kinkade rated it really liked it
The Time Machine Did It is an absolutely hilarious novel. Swartzwelder proves he still has the comedic edge even without the visual component to back him up. Watching his protagonist blunder his way across time--wrecking history in the process--and getting the crap beat out of him repeatedly gives the reader many laughs. Swartzwelder is a master of the absurd and that comes across plain as day here, particularly in the last part of the story where Burly makes a complete mess of history (includin ...more
Matt Payne
Feb 25, 2014 Matt Payne rated it really liked it
One of the funniest books I've ever read. Every paragraph is hilarious and ridiculous.

I guess the time-travel stuff was kind of cliche, but it didn't matter. John Swartzwelder could write about breakfast and it would be hilarious. I gave it four stars because it's pretty much the most fun I've had reading a book.

It's funnier than Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

It was written by one of the original writers for The Simpsons, and it's clear that this guy is a major part of the reason they were mi
Sep 15, 2011 Bradley rated it really liked it
Aaahhh John Swartzwelder. Responsible for one sixth of the scripts written for the 'The Simpsons' by the time he left the show, which is an amazing amount of output. If you've read anything about Mr Swartzwelder, he's an odd reclusive but interesting character in his own right, which no doubt aided in his hilarious writing. 'The Time Machine Did It' follows along the same lines of the Simpsons with its absurdist well timed humour. Frank Burly is similar to Homer Simpson in many respects, except ...more
Luis Damian Robles
Sep 11, 2012 Luis Damian Robles rated it liked it
Swartzwelder's first book is a masterpiece of a con job. Using the searing iron of television, the writer of my favorite Simpsons episode (the Kafkaesque Homer's Enemy) successfully branded his comic visions, the imagery and timing, the very seal of his humor, onto the inchoate brains of the show's fans, which now span generations--generations that bear his deep-seated mark. As the creative talent ages, perchance the artist seeks less collaborative commerce with those that have appreciated her a ...more
Sep 02, 2013 Dan added it
The cover of the book states "By The Writer of 59 Episodes of The Simpsons." Lacking a television, I have not watched The Simpsons; however, I suspect this cover statement tells you most of what you need to know about the general tone of this book--it is a comedy/parody/farce.
Pro: A quick read, and at times pretty funny. Here is one example that is not a spoiler: "Somebody had been doing some major league tampering to my car. The brake lines were cut. The tires were on fire. There was carbon mon
Dec 17, 2009 Mandy rated it it was ok
I decided to read this book because the author is a writer for the Simpsons and the people behind the scenes often talk about Swartzwelder and his novels. Swartzwelder refuses to be on the commentaries. I found that I often really enjoyed the episodes he wrote. So I decided to give his novels a try. This is the first one I've read.

It is funny, but it could be funnier if things were shown more than told. I could see how the comedy would work better if it were a TV show. You don't really get to k
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American absurd satirical novelist and former writer of the animated comedy show "The Simpsons"

Swartzwelder won an Emmy Award as a writer of 59 episodes of the Simpsons.

In 2004 he released his first satirical science-fiction novel about a private investigator called Frank Burly.
More about John Swartzwelder...

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