Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The End of the Worlds

Practical Applications of Multiverse Theory, by Nick Scott and Noa Gavin, doesn't know exactly what kind of book it wants to be.

Scott Simmons is an awkward high school student who hangs out with a group of social outcasts--specifically several nerds plus an enormous guy named Ted who doesn't speak except to say "Hey, man" occasionally. For the most part Scott tries to just lay low and appear invisible to his classmates, hoping in this way to survive and eventually escape from his school.

Davey Burgess -- a name Scott thinks sounds like "something the movie Juno threw up"--is Scott's arch nemesis and near polar opposite. She's cute, the captain of the cheerleader squad and seeks out as much attention as the school will give her. She is also mean, relentlessly ambitious and has her sights set on becoming homecoming queen. She hates Scott as much as he hates her.

Yet, the two keep running into one another.

It all begins, as Scott describes, with a Dr. Pepper can that is somehow incorrectly filled with Hi-C. Scott manages to spill it on Davey's 80s spirit day t-shirt. This is the first and most innocuous of a number of strange occurrences that lead the two characters to an understanding that the universe as we know it is coming apart at the seams. Initially only Davey and Scott can see what's happening. For example, Scott's friends become lizards, try to eat him and then return to being human. And Davey's biology specimen frog comes to life and pleads with her to not cut it up.

After days of denial the two come to realize something is seriously wrong with the school as they slip in and out of realities populated by lizards, monsters, robots and sexy cannibalistic teenage girls who want nothing more than to mate with Scott before they consume him.

The book, written by two aspiring comedians and published through the crowd-driven Inkshares project, is a hilarious send up of high school life. As the point-of-view jumps between Scott and Davey, readers get powerful and funny doses of the desires and anxieties of kids across the adolescent social spectrum.

The book's sci-fi vision is a little incomplete. As alternative universes collapse in on Davey and Scott, nearly reality universe besides our own is excessively violent. Scott notices this and asks, "Why is everything trying to kill me?" It's a good question, but the answer is never given, or even investigated.

Still, this is a humorous book and you're not supposed to take the sci-fi too seriously. The writers exploit the violence for slapstick and other humor. As a humor piece, though, the story also wavers a bit. At one point when a few extraneous cheerleaders are killed off by multidimensional monsters, our heroes respond with dead-pan remarks. Later, readers are expected to feel for them as if they've suffered through genuine trauma.

The inconsistency in tone is off-putting but forgivable. The authors want as much out of their story as possible and maybe they end up reaching just a little too far. Better than not reaching far enough.

I've been provided with a time-limited eBook version of this text for review purposes.

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