It’s almost 2016 and times are changing. If an author wants to team up with a stand-up comedian-clown to write a book, the world allows it, albeit maybe with a confused look on its face. And if the world isn’t yet ready for such an avant-garde duo, said author and clown can just time jump to a future when it will be.
That is, if the clown in your author-clown duo is Ripper the Clown. Unfortunately no one else has yet learned the secret to time traveling (per request of the author, please do not contact him asking for the secret; he will not tell you!). In his and Jake Aurelian’s newest novel The Life & Mimes (& Various Times) of Ripper the Clown: The Autobiography of an Unconventional Time Traveler, Ripper the Clown suddenly acquires the knowledge to time travel (or as he likes to call it, “time jump”) after almost getting vaporized by a lightning bolt. He slowly learns the additional intricacies of the trick and ultimately uses his power to prevent vile or disastrous situations from taking place. The mysterious activities concerning Willow, Ripper’s girlfriend, add an especially intriguing aspect to the novel; I barely put it down from start to finish.
Those familiar with Aurelian/Ripper’s works know that their specialty lies in causing the reader to suspend their disbelief concerning the narrative’s implausibility. Having read The Life & Mimes (& Zombie Apocalypse) of Ripper the Clown, a sort of prequel to Various Times, I went in fully expecting to encounter their signature trait. But I also assumed that knowing a suspension of disbelief was to take place would make it less likely to happen. In the same way that you’re less likely to be scared when you’re expecting something to pop out versus not anticipating it at all. I was quickly proven wrong and was instead reminded of how skillfully Aurelian balances the implausible with the ordinary. Even the most prepared readers will be left uncertain of what is real and what is fiction. I’m an intelligent human being with a solid head on my shoulders, but while reading Various Times, I almost looked up the sinking of the Titanic and the murder of Elizabeth Short to check whether they had still happened. For a moment, I excitedly believed that Ripper the Clown had jumped back in time and successfully erased two painful pieces of history.
With that said, Aurelian’s style of writing certainly requires cooperation from the reader. You have to be willing to keep an open mind and let yourself fall into a world where seemingly impossible events go almost unquestioned. Aurelian’s frequent breaking of the fourth wall with his readers may also take some adjustment. It was initially off-putting, but later on, surprised me with how rewarding it can be: it adds a unique element of humor to the narrative and helps the story come to life even more. The latter especially happening when Ripper tells you the specific song to have playing in your mind while reading a scene — it may sound overbearing, but it makes you feel as if you’re truly a part of the action, transported from your bedroom to the basement of Jack the Ripper or the White House.
The fast-paced narrative makes it easy for readers to stay interested, with only one chapter being an exception. During this portion, Ripper lets the reader in on all his various time jumps, but it soon felt more like a list than a cohesive chapter. I don’t blame him for going a bit overboard with Ripper’s adventures – they sound fun as hell and I’m certainly guilty of writing about the things I can’t do in real life, but it ultimately felt too dragged out for my liking.
In the end, The Life & Mimes (& Various Times) of Ripper the Clown was another engrossing read from Aurelian. He artfully juxtaposes the improbable with the ordinary. Readers become deeply invested in an unlikely tale where, despite his history, D.B. Cooper is president and a clown is capable of time traveling. At the same time, the story is realistic and relatable as Ripper deals with frustratingly humorous customer service at a restaurant and at a tire shop. His character is unique but sympathetic; readers see him cope with the lingering thoughts of an abusive relationship with a manipulative ex-girlfriend. The narrative offers an expert blend of adventure, mystery, horror, and a stylistic humor that’s never cheap. Long-term enthusiasts and new readers alike are sure to enjoy this unprecedented tale offered by Aurelian and his alter-ego.
Photo credit: Jake Aurelian