Imagine time travel being a marketable business and time machines being rented to the general public. That can be a scary thought for several ethical reasons, but thanks to the FC3000™, plausibility turns into actuality. It is important to know that when time traveling to the past, your actions will not have any effect on the present you just left. By traveling back in time, you are creating a new timeline, and a whole new realm of possibilities. Sounds amazing! And with different travel guides such as 1001 Wacky Places to Shoot Adolf Hitler, the fun will surely never end. Note: I am not from the future, and am not sponsored by the FC3000™. Now imagine your state-of-the-art time machine breaks down and you are stuck in the past. However unlikely that can be, what would you do? Could you improve humanity? Ryan North’s How To Invent Everything: A Guide to the Stranded Time Traveler aims to help you answer this question, and then some.
First, you need to determine exactly what time period you are stuck in. With the help of a handy flow-chart, you can figure out if you will die soon, really soon, or, less likely, thrive in your new home. After figuring out whether or not you are in a suitable environment to advance humanity, you need to invent some things. Each chapter of How To Invent Everything goes through a basic skill or knowledge that humanity needs in order to survive. The first five chapters feature the five fundamental technologies needed for civilization, which are: spoken language, written language, numbers, the scientific method, and calorie surplus. Other chapters include developing symbiotic relationships with useful animals, how to invent music, and the major schools of philosophy summed up, using high-fives as examples.
The Appendix includes some other general information including universal constants (speed of light, speed of sound, Pi, etc), the frequencies of musical notes, gears and other mechanisms, and a guide to useful human body parts and what they do. There is also a ruler you can use to determine a standard unit of measurement. Now the United States (assuming you want to call it that) can finally adopt the metric system, if you so choose. Illustrations are also provided to make concepts more feasible.
While reading this book, I kept thinking about Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. Ryan North’s sense of humor turns a terrifying scenario into an inspiring and mostly-harmless one. The information provided is valuable whether you’re stuck in the past or not. What amazed me was how well-researched this book was. Though it could be considered encyclopedic, information is condensed down and explained thoroughly, yet in a simple to understand way. How to Invent Everything was a wonderful journey and I feel a little more knowledgeable because of it. I am considering purchasing it so I can read sections at time, because it can be a lot to take in at once.
Ryan North has kept pretty busy throughout the years. He started as a computer programmer, graduating with a Master’s Degree from the University of Toronto. His first webcomic series, Dinosaur Comics, won fans over with its absurd humor. Within one of the Dinosaur Comics, a machine that tells people how they are going to die is mentioned. Fans of North started sending him stories set in this fictitious world, and eventually the anthology Machine of Death was created. The concept seems simple, put your finger in a device that takes a blood sample, then it spits out a piece of paper with a sometimes vague explanation of how you will die. An example: a person gets excited to see “old age” as the cause of death and they prepare to live a long, healthy life — only to get hit by a car driven by an elderly person. To Be Or Not To Be is a choose your own adventure set in the world of Hamlet. High School teachers all across America should add this hysterical adaptation to their curriculum, after going through the original. It could help teens connect with Shakespeare better. Ryan North has also written the comic book series Adventure Time, and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.