Matt Forney
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Richard Nixon’s Guide to the Multiverse by Marty Andrade

richard-nixons-guide-to-the-multiverseThe problem with doing an homage to another book or fictional property is that your work is inherently constrained by the limits of whatever you’re riffing off of. Even if you’re a creative person, you are hemmed in by the restrictions of those who came before you.

And then there’s the matter of the actual quality of whatever you’re paying homage to.

Richard Nixon’s Guide to the Multiverse is a pretty obvious homage to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, that massively overrated, unfunny pastiche of goonisms and moldy 70’s era BBC humor. The story, if you can call it that, revolves around a band of adventurers traveling between different dimensions, like Planescape: Torment in a contemporary setting. While I wouldn’t claim that the book is mindblowing, Multiverse is an amusing, lighthearted romp and worth a read.

And when I dismiss the book’s plot, I’m not just being snobby; there really isn’t one. The novel begins with mild, unassuming Minnesotan Elof Malmgren (now there’s a stereotypical Minnesota name if there ever was one) getting pulled into a web of intrigue involving a war between the Prussians and the Tee’say, pissed-off Mormons, a trans-universal coffee monopoly, and more:

Turning onto Otter Avenue, Elof saw his quarry running north, now a quarter mile ahead of him. The horse wasn’t swift, but he was faster than the skinny man trying to run with four very large bags of coffee beans. Half a mile outside of town, Elof had closed the gap to just over twenty yards or so when the man suddenly stopped and started firing his gun. Instead of bullets, intense rays of blue light streamed by Elof, who instantly returned fire with his Colt Peacemaker. Two seconds into the firefight the horse panicked and threw Elof to the ground.

Marty Andrade’s prose is rather basic but conveys the wackiness and implausibility of his world pretty well. Freed from the restrictions of Newtonian physics, he paints a world of ridiculous and amusing contrasts, from the universe that consists of a casino built atop an infinite spire of turtles (vaguely reminding me of Sigil from Planescape) to the concepts of “meta-cars” and “meta-traveling” to the main characters’ obsession with coffee:

“Like what? Gold? There was enough gold and silver in the asteroid belt of your former solar system to make every house, car, building and road on Earth out of the stuff. Diamonds? Shiny pebbles. Fiat currency? Don’t make me laugh. Utility is what creates value for the meta-traveler. Food, meta-vehicles, water, or at least whatever fluid solvent is necessary for continuing your biochemical reactions. Of these, the scarcest is good coffee. It rarely evolves, and only naturally evolved coffee has the right flavor. Only coffee grown in its native environment will please the palate. Few universes have the right cosmological constants and physical laws to even create good coffee. Good coffee only grows in narrow bands of subtropical climates and only at high elevations that aren’t cold. Coffee is portable, dividable, consistent in mass, and quality can be tested with common olfactory senses. Every brew is a little different; the permutations of the coffee experience are endless. For most meta-traveling humanoid species, coffee is consistently satisfying. It is the only true currency.”

The book kicks into high gear when Tricky Dick himself enters the plot. Many of the chapters are also bookended with excerpts from the “real” Richard Nixon’s Guide to the Multiverse, adding context to the nonstop action of the book. Andrade’s dry humor is also a hoot and will sail over your head if you aren’t paying attention.

In fact, I’d argue that in many ways, Andrade’s book is superior to Douglas Adams’, mainly because Andrade deftly avoids annoying geek humor and quips that only make sense to nerdy shut-ins.

Where I’d fault Multiverse is that the pace is too fast. Andrade constantly throws scenarios and events at you, rushing you through the book so quickly that you can’t keep things straight. Despite the length of the book, I managed to breeze through it in a couple days… or at least I would have if I hadn’t felt the need to double back on some of the chapters to make sure I understood everything. Additionally, Andrade would have benefited from developing a more coherent plot instead of imitating Adams’ disconnected storytelling structure.

Still, these issues don’t distract too much from the book. If you’re looking for an amusing, satirical sci-fi novel, Richard Nixon’s Guide to the Multiverse is a pretty good read.

Click here to buy Richard Nixon’s Guide to the Multiverse.

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