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Kill time or die trying is an acerbic comedy by Neil T Stacey, based on real events at a South African university. It is the chronicle of a society called WARP (War-games And Role-Play) which harbours the geeks and lunatics on campus. It is notable as the first book to use the literary device of beginning each chapter with a facebook status from a main character. Stacey uses this ostensibly to solidify chronology and conveniently establish characterisation, but mostly it's just a neat way of including jokes.
The book follows a naive and nerdy freshman at the University of Witwatersrand. He is initially lost amongst the bureaucratic indifference of a large university, and finds a second home in the club-room of WARP. On his arrival at WARP, Jamie is (permanently) renamed to Brad by an older club-member, and initially acts as a passive observer to the antics of WARP, which turns out to be anything but a stereotypical group of timid nerds.
The book is written with an obvious fondness for the subject matter and the characters, which is to be expected considering that Stacey is himself a geek and a longtime member of WARP.
A prequel titled ‘‘The How and Why of Hating Everyone’’is in development.
This book contains examples of:
- A Simple Plan: Several over the course of the book. This is the fallback option when no-one can be bothered to come up with an elaborate scheme, or when things are really serious.
- Absurdly Powerful Student Council: Averted. The Student Council is mostly impotent and ineffectual. In Part II it's revealed that WARP originally got its club-room by swinging a Student Council Election in favour of a candidate who was willing to make a deal with them. That's right, at a university of 25 000 students, a small group of nerds and geeks proved more influential than the Student Council. Word of God confirms that this really did happen. Apparently this was possible because only around five percent of the university's students bother to vote, because the Student Council has no real power and doesn't really do anything.
- The Ace: Evanis a mild example, being just generally cooler and more capable than the other main characters of Part I. Interestingly, he's more of a Tagalong Kid in Part II.
- Based on a True Story: The authors estimate the book to be around 75% factual, with the remaining 25% being composite characters, condensed events, and things that should have happened. Notable also in that the authors happen to be characters in the book. A fun game for your first read is to try spot them without cheating and looking at the back material.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: Allan's go-to strategy for getting lunch. On a campus with 25 000 students, there's always a catered event somewhere.
- Berserk Button Don't mention Bernard's bald spot.
- Big Bad: The SRC (Student Representative Council) in Part I. The rival War-Games club in Part II.
- Birthday Hater: Nathan. Then again, he also hates Christmas, Easter and St. Patrick's day.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Evan. After knocking out the main character, show-boats and high-fives the other WARP members who came to watch.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Justified, since the authors were themselves present for most of the events of the book, some of which took place after they had started writing the book. As a result, later on in Part II the entire cast know that what they are doing could end up in the book. This great piece of dialogue sums it up:
Brad: Who is that?
James: A girl Evan dated for a while. We can't use her real name, or we'll get sued for what Douw's about to call her.
Evan: Hey Brad, come with me to the uh…outside. We need to uh…go there.
- Butt Monkey:
- Kyle. Ordered around and exploited by the main characters and, more so, Nathan, almost to the point of abuse.
- Also Ari, whose phone number Nathan gives out instead of his own in order to avoid people hassling him (see Running Gag below), and whose real name was used without his permission.
- Tarryn seems to be the only person to genuinely care about Nathan's well-being, and in return is treated terribly.
- Catch Phrase:
- Gregg responds to anything strange by saying 'Normal', in deadpan.
- In Part II, the group have one collectively in their war-cry: 'Bad idea? How bad?'.
- Bernard. Oh God, Bernard.
- Evan attempts to pick up women at a bar while wearing a replica Dragonball Z scouter.
- Nathan has elements of this as well, when his Comedic Sociopath tendencies are dormant. He occasionally hides in the (tiny) club-room fridge waiting for an opportunity to burst out and say something dramatic. He also has the 'Sweet Deal Eel' and the 'Free Meat Parakeet' as his equivalents to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. He also has a dog named Betamax as well as cats named Surplus and Nemesis.
- Melvyn rarely has any idea what is going on around him.
- Comedic Sociopath: Nathan in both parts, most of the main cast in Part II are somewhere between this and Vitriolic Best Buds.
- Darker and Edgier: Part II has a darker tone and less upbeat story than Part I. The fact that it's title is The How and Why of Hating Everyone should be a dead give-away that this is going to be the case.
- Deadpan Snarker: Many characters, Johann, Nathan and Yesh stand out in particular.
- Defictionalization: The authors had several great ideas for the book which hadn't actually happened in real life, and contrived to make them happen. Also, the ending, which sees the club lose its club-room, was written months in advance of any sign of it actually happening.
- Foreshadowing: Done a great deal in Part I, since many of the characters from part II make brief cameo appearances, and incidents from Part II are often mentioned in Part I. Doubles as Call Back, since, chronologically, Part II happened before Part I.
- Heroic BSOD:
- Bernard has one in Part I when when the university takes away WARP's club-room. To be fair, for Bernard this verges on losing his home.
- James has one when someone points out that he hasn't really been noticeably more successful in life than Bernard.
- Johann has one when he finds out he may get kicked out of the university.
- Melvyn allegedly has one of these out of sheer surprise whenever anything he says turns out to have been intelligent.
- Hot-Blooded: Evan. Overly competitive, hyperactive and the originator of the groups crazier schemes.
- Five-Man Band: Two separate examples from the two parts of the book.
- Limited Social Circle: And how. Most WARP members have few, if any, friends outside the club.
- Local Hangout: The WARP clubroom is pretty much a second home for most of the main characters, some of whom even sleep there occasionally.
- One of Us: One of the more extreme examples. Aside from the fact that the book is entirely about geeks, one of the two authors, Neil T Stacey, claimed in one interview that he learnt how to write by reading TV Tropes. He has a Phd in Chemical Engineering and runs his own bio-tech research unit at a major university. He has also played Magic the Gathering at the world cup. This site is also mentioned by name in the book.
- Only Sane Man: Brad in Part I. Part II has no sane man.
- Running Gag: Several, but most notable is Nathan giving people Ari's number instead of his own, which culminates when Nathan is in a potentially very messy situation after hooking up with a girl he shouldn't have. Nathan says to Brad the next day 'I think Ari is going to get some really awkward messages today'. Word of God: this really did happen, and Ari did indeed get an extremely personal message from a complete stranger.
- Also, Evan having 'a fist like a brick' is mentioned more often than Evan himself actually appears in the book.
- Shout-Out: Numerous. Being a book about geeks, there are a litany of references to movies, games, anime, tv-shows and even this very website.
- The Plan: Elaborate schemes are a pastime of WARP. Perhaps the most insane is a scheme to steal a girl's urine for a pregnancy test. Word of God says that in real life, this plan didn't work.
Nathan: Try everything you can think of. When something happens, take credit.
- Soapbox Sadie: Tarryn. In an odd twist, her favourite cause is men's rights.
James: You can help me with my right to a damn sandwich! Other than that, I think I'm good, thanks.
- Unusual Euphemism: The use of the word 'vampire' as slang for a homosexual man is carried over from Neil T Stacey's other books. Since this book is Based on a True Story, with the author himself a character in the book, this shows hilariously how Stacey tried, unsuccessfully, to force this piece of terminology in real life.
- With Friends Like These...: One of the main activities of WARP members is sniping at one another constantly.
- World of Snark: Part II offers a constant stream of sarcasm and abuse. Part I has elements of this.