Scide Splitters: It’s Just the Chronosphere Unfolding as it Should by Ira Nayman

Elsewhen Press, $17.99, 288 pages, trade paper, Oct. 2016
Elsewhen Press, $17.99, 288 pages, trade paper, Oct. 2016

I recently had a conversation with an author who opined that humor was neither a genre nor subgenre of its own. Humor, as he saw it, was more like seasoning or a condiment added to the main course in order to spice things up. Ketchup, he said, could never constitute the main dish. Naturally, I disagreed (about humor, not ketchup). While I won’t go into the details of the debate here, it occurred to me that Ira Nayman’s It’s Just the Chronosphere Unfolding as it Should is a perfect example of a novel that is, first and foremost, humor. To be more specific, it is a science fictional humor novel. But if you must have your description as a condiment metaphor, then call Ira Nayman’s writing hot sauce. Very hot sauce. So hot that it will burn through your tongue, through your lower jaw, and if you aren’t careful, it will drop onto your shoe and burn through your foot as well.

To put things in literary terms, Mr. Nayman employs an almost manic style, delivering non-stop laughs through a full arsenal of humor techniques. His narrative voice is ever-present, smashing through the fourth wall and taking the reader on tangents, and tangents of tangents. It is a metafictional soup of word play and cultural references from popular to obscure. If this book were a movie, you’d have to watch it several times just to get all the jokes.

It’s Just the Chronosphere Unfolding as it Should is the fourth book in Nayman’s Transdimensional Authority series (Scide Splitters reviewed the second book in 2014). These books stand up well on their own, so feel free to jump into the series at any point. If you have read any of the previous books and enjoyed them, then I am certain that you will like the most recent installment, perhaps even more so.

Whereas the second book followed the adventures of several different Transdimensional Authority agents and read like a collection of linked stories, this novel feels more cohesive, largely because it revolves around a single Time Agency agent, Radames Trafshanian, as she investigates anomalies in the time stream. Although the three cases she investigates are largely unrelated, the chapters are interlaced and the extra time spent with Radames’ character make her more memorable. And she certainly is an interesting character. Equipped with an armored suit that can produce almost any weapon at will, she is socially awkward, impatient, on the receiving and sending ends of unrequited love, and has the voices of her younger and older selves in her head. And did I mention that she can almost kill a man 238 different ways with chopsticks?

Radames’ first case involves rescuing Elvis Presley from the end of the universe. In these chapters, Elvis and the reader get acclimated to the weird nature of the Time Agency. Lots of fun for Elvis fans and non-fans alike. Incidentally, the Time Agency is a completely separate entity from the Transdimensional Authority, though there is some overlap in their jurisdictions due to the nature of time and the multiverse.

Next, Radames must find out why people from the wrong time period are popping up in the small town of Dingle Dell. Some of the most hilarious moments in the book come from these chapters. I particularly enjoyed the teacher, who having been dead for twenty years, returns to his job and suspects that “hell is a teachers’ lounge.” These portions are born of Nayman’s personal experience as a teacher and make for sublime satire on the system.

In the third case, Radames investigates the cause of her frequent bouts of deja-vu. Nanobots have infested her brain, but how did they get there and how will she get rid of them? In addition to the novel proper, the appendices include, among other things, a novelette detailing the origin story of the Time Agency.

It’s Just the Chronosphere Unfolding as it Should will satisfy readers who enjoy their humor delivered at a breakneck pace with a heavy dose of gonzo. I can’t necessarily say the same for those that subscribe to the Condiment Theory of Literary Humor, but then it is hard to recommend something to people who don’t believe the thing exists to begin with. It’s Just the Chronosphere Unfolding as it Should and the other three books in the Transdimensional Authority series are available from independent publisher Elsewhen Press.

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