Review by Frank Plowright
Even Andrew Smith’s name screams anonymity, which is partly why he’s selected by visitor from the future Tristram Lang to be the method by which time travel is introduced to humanity. At 29 Andrew is a struggling masters student who works at a store, has failed the love of his life, and has the same reaction to the idea of time travel any of us would have if doorstepped by a complete stranger. The thing is, though, it works, and all it takes is a pill, which for reasons unrevealed is to be invented by Andrew.
Shaun Manning doesn’t bother to disguise Tristram as a sinister presence, and that sets the tone for Interesting Drug, which is treated more as a suspenseful thriller than SF investigating the possibilities of time travel. They’re used to set an interesting conundrum for Andrew that eventually sparks him to consider what might be happening.
The way Manning tells the story is almost as if adapting a novel. It’s heavy on conversations, which limits the options for artist Anna Wieszczyk, but even taking that into account a lack of variety limits the appeal still further. She uses nicely drawn stylised figures embedded in the most basic environments, very often blurred to the point of being indistinct, or superimposed on photographs, and is also responsible for the colouring. When not supplied in washes over an entire page, a very restricted selection is used, muted throughout, which also contributes to Interesting Drug not being as sparkling as it should.
It’s not until Andrew begins to question what’s been dropped into his lap that Interesting Drug begins to transcend formula. However, the revelations then come rushing out before a protracted action sequence leads to what’s a surprisingly good solution. That, though, and a powerfully scripted scene where Andrew gets over his previous relationship don’t balance the scales. Should time travel ever become a possibility, Manning and Wieszczyk should take the opportunity to reconfigure an interesting premise into an improved reading experience.