There is always going to be a little apprehension when one dives into a book series from the middle or the end rather than kicking off from the beginning like most journeys are intended. Without the appropriate amount of backstory and character development that could become spoilery intrusive if the reader ever decides to go back and explore the author’s earlier work, plots have the tendency to feel watered down.
That is NOT the case in The Multiverse is a Nice Place to Visit, But I Wouldn’t Want to Live There by Ira Nayman. If this, the fifth Multiverse book in what has come to be known as the Transdimensional Authority series is any indication of the other installments, readers will be comfortable jumping in with any of the publications. For the record, the first novel in the series Welcome to the Multiverse – Sorry for the inconvenience was published in 2012 by Elsewhen Press, followed by You Can’t Kill the Multiverse – But You Can Mess With its Head in 2014, Random Dingoes in 2015, and It’s Just the Chronosphere Unfolding as it Should in 2016. I did not have the pleasure of starting at the beginning, but I fully intend to do so in the near future.
The Multiverse series is a collection of humorous examinations of the social interactions between a wide range of colorful characters who travel between alternate realities. What makes this latest edition to the series so compelling is the notion that a person could have their consciousness exchanged with somebody else in a different reality. As the Transdimensional Authority tries to solve the mystery of who is responsible and why, readers get to sit back and witness the absurdity known as the human condition and the role it may or may not have in this twisted future, or long line of futures, or maybe pasts – it’s hard to tell.
This idea of a multiverse is fascinating enough, with the endless possibilities at the author’s disposal. But adding Nayman’s penchant for literary wit to the mix, and the reader has a non-stop whimsical adventure that is both thought provoking and difficult to put down.
The most obvious and perhaps recurring comparison of Nayman’s writing style would be to that of late English writer Douglas Adams and his highly popular The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Both authors employ the same dry humor and ability to make the most irrational situation seem, well, commonplace. When that fine line between metaphor and literal becomes as blurred as the multiverse itself and the characters acknowledge the charade, whimsy is not far behind. This unique combination along with not take oneself too seriously is the rare glue that can bind science fiction with comedy, and it is perhaps the most difficult genre style to pull off – successfully.
One such exchange:
“What is this experiment in aid of?”
“In aid of the furtherance of our knowledge of the structure and workings of the multiverse in order that we may improve the human condition.”
“Well. Yes. Quite. I think that that is an excellent general definition of science. However, what I would really like to know is what knowledge of the structure and workings of the multiverse this particular experiment is meant to further.”
“Ah. Quite the incisive question, Doctor Richardson. Well done.”
“Thank you. And, if I may say so, that was a brilliantly unresponsive answer, Doctor Alhambra.”
“Oh. Well. Thank you, thank you – I do my best…”
Rest assured, Nayman does acknowledge Adams’ influence and you might even notice the mention of a towel, but where the two writers differ is in the audience interaction. Adams’ work seemed limited to cultural and social issues dropped in a fantastic setting, but Nayman takes these concerns in a different direction by drawing on the fandom of science fiction and relying on the strength of his target audience’s knowledge of the genre to understand the humor. The chapter titled The Horror…Movie! The Horror…Movie! fires on all cylinders of fandom trivia as countless film references are mentioned. This is the type of chapter that separates the casual fan from the loyal, nerd, and proudly geekish kinda fan.
Available now in e-book, The Multiverse is a Nice Place to Visit, But I Wouldn’t Want to Live There is a fun read and a fine introduction to author Ira Nayman if you’re not already familiar. It has certainly opened my own eyes and nudged me to add the earlier books to my “must read” list. But for those already drawn into the madcap silliness within the multiverse, it would be even sillier to leave this book out.