Author: Aaron Frale
Publication date: March 20, 2017
Genre: Science Fiction
Summary: All Pete wants is to make the perfect burrito. He runs a burrito food truck near a university in Albuquerque, but they aren’t very good. Yet. One night, he is crossing a parking lot near the physics building when a badly injured man runs out. Once he loses consciousness, Pete goes to investigate and finds an unconscious woman and a portal. They and much of the lab get sucked in and spat back out in Neanderthal times, where the woman, Clara, is carried off by a Neanderthal man. What starts as an attempt to get back home turns into Pete’s quest for making the perfect burrito while romping through time with graduate student Clara and Neanderthal Unk and, later, a futuristic robot named Misako.
Time Burrito was a relatively light read, mostly lacking in seriousness. I get that it’s supposed to be humorous, but maybe Frale went a little to far. For one thing, the plot revolving around the perfect burrito is pretty silly when you happen to be traveling through time, changing history while trying to get back to the present that you know. The main conflict isn’t even introduced until about halfway through, when they run up against the physics professor Clara was working with, the man who fell unconscious in the parking lot. This involved the professor also traveling through time as he, for some reason, also decided to make the perfect burrito and get rich off of it, all so he could carry off Clara and marry the reluctant woman, who also happens to be a lesbian. I just didn’t understand why a professor who could come up with a working time travel portal would want to get rich making burritos instead of doing something a little more science related, or maybe play the stock market. Overall, it was rather silly and I didn’t appreciate it much.
This is a time travel story. But the time travel mechanisms are hardly touched on. And if time travel is so common and easy in the future, how does that affect history and the future itself? What about the Butterfly Effect? What about leaving the pulley in Neanderthal times and ending up with a wildly different future full of robots? This was nothing more than a fun, lighthearted romp through time where only a pulley can have dramatic effects and everything else only somewhat has an effect despite it being very common in the future.
The story bothered me and I am torn about the characters. On the one hand, they are unique, mostly interesting, and consistent with equally consistent dialogue. On the other hand, they are one-dimensional and the Neanderthals felt inauthentic. The main character, Pete, also grated on my nerves, but was incredibly consistent in everything he did.
Let’s talk about the cat. There is a cat on the cover. There is no cat in the story until almost the end. While the cat does turn out to have an important role in making burritos, I wish it had been more prominent since it is featured so largely on the cover. And I like cats.
The overall writing lacked complexity. This was a simple story, easy to read, and was definitely more tell than show. There were missing words that sometimes made me re-read sentences just to try to figure out what it was supposed to say. There were also commas in the wrong places that made reading it aloud a little confusing.
The Bottom Line: If you enjoy light time travel stories, this is decent, but don’t expect anything amazing. It is a lighthearted read, quick and easy if you don’t want to think too much. Not terrible, but could definitely use some complexity in story, writing, and characters.
How many cups of tea will you need?
2 cups will be just fine