Literature: Kill Time or Die Trying

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.

The book follows Jodi, a naive and nerdy freshman at the University of Witwatersrand, who 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, Jodi 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.

A prequel titled ‘‘The How and Why of Hating Everyone’’is in development. It follows the far more cynical Johann through the early years of WARP. Whereas the cast of characters in the first book mostly conform to the stereotype of shy and reserved geeks, most of the cast of ‘‘The How and Why of Hating Everyone’’ straddle the line between Deadpan Snarker and Comedic Sociopath.

Both books are written with an obvious fondness for the subject matter and the characters, which is to be expected considering the authors were members of WARP and were themselves present for some of the events of the book.

The print version is currently not available outside of South Africa, but an e-book release is pending.

This book contains examples of:

  • A Simple Plan: Several over the course of the book. Elaborate schemes are WARP's mainstay, but straightforward plans are employed when things are really serious, and they very rarely go over as planned.
    Brad: When in doubt, escalate.
  • Apathetic Teacher: Professor Proust instructs his class to read one hundred pages of any textbook for homework, and then dismisses them.
  • 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 do much of anything.
  • The Ace: Douw is a mild example, being just generally cooler and more capable than the other main characters in the first book. He's also one of very few central characters to make it through university without failing at least one year. Interestingly, he's the Tag Along Kid in the prequel.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: While there's an elected executive committee that should theoretically run WARP, there's also a self-proclaimed 'Shadow Council' of older members that makes the actual decisions, including who gets put on the executive. While this group call themselves this mostly as a joke, they actually do fit the trope surprisingly well, since many people spend their entire university careers as members of WARP without ever being aware of them.
  • Based on a True Story: The authors estimate the book to be around 60% factual, with the remaining 40% 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 Dylan's bald spot.
  • Big Bad: The SRC (Student Representative Council) in the first book.
  • Big Man on Campus:
    • By the end of teh first book, Brad is gradually turning into this. He's president of WARP, he's gotten into good shape, he got the girl and he's one of the few WARP members to be legitimately likable to outsiders. He even brings up his academic performance quite considerably.
    • Douw is this to some degree; not only is he the coolest guy in WARP, he has some degree of mainstream popularity
  • Birthday Hater: Nathan. Then again, he also hates Christmas, Easter and St. Patrick's day.
  • 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 Douw dated for a while. We can't use her real name, or we'll get sued for what Douw's about to call her.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Dylan's data-capture job in Senate House
    • Nathan's pants
    • Ari often shows up to events that Nathan was invited to. This is because Nathan gave out Ari's number instead of his own, to avoid people hassling him.
  • Buffy Speak
    Douw: Hey Brad, come with me to the uh…outside. We need to uh…go there.
  • Butt Monkey:
    • 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.
    • Kerry seems to take a genuine interest in Nathan's well-being; if anything, this seems to offend and in return he treats her terribly.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • Gregg responds to anything strange by saying 'Normal', in deadpan.
    • In the prequel the group have one in their collective war-cry: 'Bad idea? How bad?'.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander:
    • Dylan. Oh God, Dylan.
      Nathan: Dylan's only interaction with reality is gravitational in nature.
    • Douw attempts to pick up women at a bar while wearing a replica Dragon Ball Z scouter. He succeeds.
    • 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.
    • Melvyn
  • Comedic Sociopath: Most of the main cast in the prequel are somewhere between this and Vitriolic Best Buds.
    • Nathan stands out for his treatment of Kerry, his treatment of first-years, and any number of cruel comments.
      Nathan: "I punch above my weight. Which is to say, my wife is fat."
  • Darker and Edgier: The prequel has a darker tone and less upbeat story than the first book. With a title like The How and Why of Hating Everyone, no-one should be surprised.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Many characters across both books; Johann, Nathan and Yesh stand out in particular.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Ari. Despite being a minor side character who is typically only present by accident, he is possibly the most popular character.
  • Five-Man Band: Two separate examples from the two parts of the book.
  • Fore Shadowing: 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.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • Steve spending a whole scene assembling a triple-beam balance to count signup sheets by weighing them. Kevin counted the sheets in a few seconds while Steve was still busy.
    • After a night's heavy drinking, Douw and Brad accidentally leave Ari locked inside Brad's house while they go to the university.
  • Hero of Another Story: Although normally only seen in the form of Funny Background Event, Matt seems to have experiences paralleling Brad's, with Nathan acting as the Cynical Mentor, much as James does for Brad. This is often used to show that James isn't so bad after all by offering the contrast of Nathan's far harsher treatment of Matt.
  • Heroic BSOD:
    • Dylan has one in Part I when the university takes away WARP's club-room. To be fair, for Dylan 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 Dylan.
    • Johann has one when he finds out he may get kicked out of the university.
  • Hot-Blooded: Douw. Overly competitive, hyperactive and the originator of the groups crazier schemes.
  • In-Series Nickname: The main character of Part I, Jodi, is called Brad by everyone at WARP. The name was chosen arbitrarily when he walked into the door. Kevin's real name is rarely mentioned in the book, it's implied that it's a typical Indian name. There are also instances of characters nicknamed for characteristics, such as Indy, which is short for indecisive.
  • 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.
  • MacGuffin: Steve's lost character sheet.
  • Noodle Incident: The time James called the cops on Nathan. And the time Steve called the cops on Nathan.
  • Once a Season: Each new academic year is heralded by someone asking 'Who failed what, and how bad?'
  • 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 is also doing a Phd in Chemical Engineering and has played Magic the Gathering at a highly competitive level. This site is also mentioned by name in the book.
  • Only Sane Man: Brad in the first book. The prequel has no sane man.
  • Precision F-Strike: The book generally uses clean language, but there is one instance where an otherwise congenial character shouts one of the most descriptive and shocking new slurs. the phrase is 'Three-prong cock-socket'.
  • Running Gag:
    • Nathan gives people Ari's number instead of his own to avoid getting hassled.
    • "Wait, who;s Melvyn?"
  • 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 get off the ground.
    Ari: Try everything you can think of. Take credit for whatever works.
  • 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.
    Douw: A man's stomach knows no limits!
    Dylan: A true Necron never dies, even when he is killed!
  • Slasher Smile:
    • The entire club-room will try this to freak out new members when they turn up for the first time.
    • Nathan, inadvertently. It's just how he naturally smiles.
    • James tries this, but fails to look anything but adorable.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Kerry. 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.
  • Snowball Lie: When a cute girl confuses WARP with the totally separate War-Games club, Brad doesn't correct her since it didn't seem to matter at the time. When it turns out that she's in another club that's right next to the actual War-Games club, Brad is driven to greater and greater lengths to cover up the lie.
  • With Friends Like These...: One of the main activities of WARP members is sniping at one another constantly.
  • World of Snark: The prequel offers a constant stream of sarcasm and abuse. The first book has elements of this.
  • Zany Scheme: Examples include a scheme to steal urine for a pregnancy test and a campaign to swing a student council election in favour of the candidate willing to give WARP a club-room. The war-cry of WARP lampshades this trope: 'Bad idea?' *dramatic pose* 'How bad?'.