Over the past year and a half, I’ve had the good fortune to get to know author/comedian Jake Aurelian and his alter-ego, Ripper the Clown. Through my talks with him I learned that a common theme in his life is coincidence. In one of my first correspondences with him he told me, “Coincidence kind of surrounds my life, actually!” This was in response to my discovery that the two articles I had been assigned to write—one assigned by each of the two different magazines I was writing for at the time—were both, as it turned out, about him. And now, unsurprisingly, I find myself in the face of another happy coincidence. The first article I ever wrote for Smile Politely was a review of Aurelian and Ripper the Clown’s book, The Life & Mimes (& Zombie Apocalypse) of Ripper the Clown, the first in a series of three; today, I write my final piece for Smile Politely, a review of Aurelian and Ripper the Clown’s final book in the Ripper series, The Life & Mimes (& Alien Invasion) of Ripper the Clown: The Autobiography of an Unconventional UFO Abductee.
In his latest adventure, Ripper finds himself abducted by a colony of aliens while on his way to a book reading. He unintentionally foils the aliens’ plans and he, along with his captors, come crashing back to Earth sooner than expected. The captors soon change from the aliens to the United States government, who imprisons Ripper for supposed hate-crimes against the intergalactic species. We’re introduced to a plethora of mythical creatures, from the Loch Ness Monster to Bigfoot. After the incompetent president D.B. Cooper surrenders the planet to its alien invaders, Ripper assembles an all-star team of fighters, including Bigfoot and the seemingly un-killable Rasputin, to take back their home.
Given how absurd most of the events that transpire are, Aurelian/The Clown do a surprisingly good job of explaining why or how things happen the way that they do. How does an Earthling like Ripper know how to drive a UFO? How does he have the strength to lift the Loch Ness Monster off his car? How does he end up with not one, but two infamous Jack the Ripper blades? Much to my pleasure, the duo successfully covered any potential plot holes that I thought I had found.
The bizarre alien invasion, the magical powers that flow through an ancestral bloodline, and the cast of mythical creatures and characters are contrasted against the familiarity of a social media- and phone-obsessed culture. The former kept me constantly intrigued, curious how this contraption works or how that character manages to take out fifty FBI agents at once. The latter had me hooked for a different, but equally refreshing, reason as I found myself amusedly agreeing with Ripper’s mockeries of phone zombies. His exaggerated depictions of American politics and mainstream media added another hilarious and thought-provoking aspect to my reading.
One of my few complaints is the final battle between the humans and the aliens feeling too general and rushed. Entire cities are destroyed and hundreds of aliens or humans taken out in a mere sentence or two. While this last scene is arguably the main conflict of the novel, I was personally more intrigued by the book’s earlier parts, like when Ripper first gets abducted or has to bust out of Area 55. The last third of the novel was also a bit predictable. Maybe it’s because this is the third Ripper novel I’ve read—perhaps those who are less familiar with Aurelian’s works won’t have this problem—but there were unfortunately fewer moments of surprise for me.
But even at the worst, the familiarity is only a half-complaint. Nods to the other two Ripper novels added a heartwarming element to the story. Ripper’s headquarters are established at the old Fischer Theatre, and the infamous Jack the Ripper blade makes its signature appearance. In a scene where Ripper and Willow are sleeping, a second Ripper and Willow appear, warmly (and only mildly creepily) watching over them. How this is possible isn’t explained—at least not in this book—but those familiar with his previous works are sure to know. While it may seem out of place or like an unexplained plot hole, this was in fact, and by far, my favorite scene.
I’ve always loved the Ripper novels and Alien Invasion was no exception. Aurelian and Ripper the Clown perform yet another wonderful balancing act, intriguing me with foreign technologies and creatures, while also making me exclaim in agreement with certain solidly laughable aspects of our modern times. Aurelian told me in an email that he thinks Alien Invasion is a nice way to go out. For author and reviewer alike, I wholeheartedly agree.
Photo credit: Albert King, Mary Anne Lipousky-Butikas, and Jake Aurelian
Jimin Shim is a contributing writer for Smile Politely’s Arts section who smells her way through life. A Colorado native, she wishes Illinois had more mountains, but appreciates the flatness when she’s biking in a hurry. She unfortunately isn’t witty enough yet to have a Twitter but you can say hello via email.