By Jay Slayton-Joslin
If you’re a disgraced ninja who just wants to open a fondue shop and then shit hits the fan, this might be your memoir. If that’s not you, you loser, then you may want to find out what that’s like in Brian Asman’s latest novel, Nunchuck City.
Nunchuck “Nick” Nikolopoulis’s aforementioned summary might sound out-there but compared to the events in the book it’s one of the most normal things about it. From the beginning, the reader is thrown into a literary showdown of action, adventure and humour that doesn’t let up. It moves quickly, not afraid to cut short any sense of sluggishness and filler, which means every scene is interesting and rewarding. Because of this, we’re gifted with violence and action that works splendidly on the page and is bloody, fun and unique each time. Each kill feels different. It’s like the B-movie you always wanted to see, with the unnecessary scenes edited out.
For some a “there’s something here for everyone” description can often be insulting or half-hearted. To use it to describe Asman’s book is only to try to summarise that the humour here is impressive. Books will often cater to one type, but here it feels like you’re watching some of the best comedies from the past several decades all rolled into one. From Airplane! absurdities to Arrested Development wordplay, the jokes are frequent and never unwelcome, always landing with their ninja-like accuracy.
The story, while absurd, follows a clean and easy to follow trajectory so that the strangeness of the combat and dialogue shine bright. On top of everything else Nunchuck City is a book about love and ambition, it just features lots of violence and ninjas, which I imagine would improve any work of art, to be honest with you. It’s a book that will require your attention, though this isn’t an unwelcome demand as you wouldn’t want to look anywhere else; characters are introduced early on and develop at the beginning of the book only to become essential in the final chapter. Asman clearly understands story and development, as these secondary characters feel fully fleshed and not shoe-horned in, meaning that they can naturally help advance the novel and provide plenty of laughs along the way. While this may mean that the short book benefits from being read in quick succession so these seemingly minor characters aren’t forgotten, readers won’t have much of an urge to put the book down, either.
Nunchuck City is well-written, funny and so strange you can understand why you’ve never seen a martial arts story like this before. Asman has created the B-movie that everybody has truly wanted to see but without the so-bad-it’s-good and instead just: it’s good. Whether you’re looking for an introduction to bizarro or just another fantastic and violent entry. Fans of Bradley Sands’ Rico Slade Will Fucking Kill You will find this a worthy addition to the action aesthetic. This book should come with a warning of after-effects that you will daydream what you’d be like as a ninja.
Jay Slayton-Joslin is the author of Sequelland: A Story of Dreams and Screams (Clash Books, 2020) and Kicking Prose (KUBOA, 2014). Jay graduated with a BA in American Literature with Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and a MA in Creative Writing from the University of Surrey. He lives in Leeds, England.