Reviewed by Geoff Nelder
Alternate Reality News Service, Luna for the Lunies
by Ira Nayman
2012, 274 pages, ISBN: 978-1470053734 for paperback
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/126271 for ebook of various formats.
In the spirit of alternate reality I am starting near the end. Bear in mind that this isn’t just a humorous book, it is absolutely hilarious in its own bizarro fashion. Each chapter is an alternate something. You might expect eco textbooks to have chapter headings as in this book such as Alternate Technology and Alternate Politics, but not an Alternate Glossary. How many other books have a glossary boasting that the words are NOT those you’d find in the book! Hilarious. One item to tickle your alternate eye might be – Parallelogramme (noun): a telegram from a parallel universe.
Between the ten chapters is a longer story – The Reality Threshold – which teases readers with insights into the manic workings of the Alternate Reality News Service office and its staff. I like this because one of the few problems with short story / article collections is the lack of a main character with whom the reader can connect. With this interwoven story we get to know Brenda Brundtland-Govanni, her six feet six height and pink sundress, and engage with her desires.
As fans of the earlier ARNS books would expect there are zany inventions and what-ifs that strangely are just an extension to the logic and practice of what happens already. So many times, I read something Nayman invents and think – so obvious, why hasn’t it already been done? Why haven’t I thought of it first? A few examples: a computer program that enacted via search engines trawls the world to erase everything about the target individual. Innocuous? Not in the hands of Ira Nayman – the holes in the internet grow… Then there are the alternate gadgets: the Teen Annoyance Reduction; Aural Confusinator; fridges that send messages not only to the authorities re: the unhealthy contents, but to fridges in other cities, for a natter.
As a climate aficionado and lover of stochastic phenomena, I am particularly fond of the international havoc caused by the discovery and attempts to capture in China (and sell) the individual butterfly whose effect will create a hurricane in the US.
There are many more incidents and phenomena in this book that challenge conventions, crease that smile and raise an eyebrow, but there is an academic piece that intrigued me. Theories on humour have interested me for years, as it has for philosophers, psychologists and comedians. Are all jokes based on someone’s misfortune as Bob Monkhouse claimed? So, my eyes pricked up when I read a reference to Aristotle, as I knew he had written on Comedy in his Poetics tomes. Did Ira Nayman elaborate on incongruity theory of comedy, superiority, or relief theories? Nearly. An intelligent argument explores why jokes lose their humour with time. He comes up with a formula: the half-life of a joke is proportionate to its relationship to popular culture. His exemplar is to quote a 2,300-year-old joke he found in one of Aristotle’s lost books on comedy. It isn’t funny anymore. Why? His ruminations take us into the latest science. No less than the Large Hadron Collider, which on smashing sub-atomic particles reveals an emission discovered to be humour. It degrades via black holes to another dimension. Hence some old jokes are no longer funny because their humour is rib-tickling people in another dimension, or a parallel universe. Makes sense to me. Or as Nayman has it, the universe has the last laugh. Just maybe not this universe.
There’s far more than I can mention in this review, such as when apostrophes go’’’’’’ berserk; and fly-through fast food outlets for witches leave pedestrians running for cover from litter falling at terminal velocity.
As always, Ira Nayman, crosses my reality threshold at 90 mph and leaves me laughing, thoughtful, inspired and enriched even if no wiser. I strongly recommend his Alternate Reality News Service to readers in all dimensions and universes.
About the reviewer: Geoff Nelder lives in rural England within easy cycle rides of the Welsh mountains. One humorous thriller novel, Escaping Reality has been published, and his recent novel is a science fiction mystery, Exit, Pursued by Bee, published by Double Dragon Publishing. Other SF/F novels are hungry to be published following a minor deluge of humour, crime and horror short stories. Geoff is an editor for Adventure Books of Seattle.