Stimulus: Andy Schoepp – Time Ninja
Andy Schoepp’s first novel, The Martial Arts Murders, will always have a special place in my heart. Having spent long periods of my life as a ninja film nerd, the blend of frantic martial arts action, frenzied screw scenes, and unapologetic machismo featured in this debut was right up my alley. That said, while The Martial Arts Murders is my favorite of Schoepp’s work, I’d have to say that Time Ninja is his best work.
The trilogy that Murders commenced was hyperactive and occasionally flirted with science fiction, but it was also grounded in the geography and circumstances of the modern world. Beyond the action, these books were essentially mysteries. In Time Ninja, Schoepp finally leaps into the deep end of the sci-fi pool and gets his hands dirty with world-building. The story begins with a ninja feud, a few decades from now, which propels the titular ninja, Ryu Kendo, into a future dystopia and the real focus of the plot. It’s still Earth, but not the Earth as we know it, and it’s fascinating to see how he tweaks the planet.
I’m going to throw this out there, not as a specific criticism of this book but of the gimmick as a whole: no matter the medium, time travel usually doesn’t work well in fiction. Loose ends and paradoxes tend to pop out and distract the audience from the narrative, and inevitably it becomes a cheap way to erase some awful thing that happened earlier (a step up from those catastrophes being a dream). Time Ninja sometimes falls victim to these issues, but it’s to Schoepp’s great credit that he shows restraint and doesn’t get tangled up in gimmick. Time Ninja is noticeably more Ninja than Time, to its benefit.
With that in mind, the catastrophe erase which happens in this book actually leads to something I ended up liking a great deal. In his Murders trilogy, Schoepp’s hero, Detective Michael Darts, was an unfailingly stand-up guy, the sort who held doors for ladies, helped grannies cross the street, and rescued kittens stuck in trees. Yet in his quest to make everything right, Time Ninja’s hero flips out in a rather irrational manner, and he quickly descends into the moral crossroads of Dickhead Ave. and Monster Blvd. Things get sorted out, of course, but I really enjoyed the temporary gray area where it wasn’t quite clear if Ryu had become the villain.
Beyond all this, Time Ninja is everything I’ve come to expect from an Andy Schoepp book: supersonic action, verbose dialogue, and, of course, the banging of hot babes. But the new elements are equally intriguing. I’d really like to see more science fiction out of Andy Schoepp.
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