Arthur Chappell

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BOOK REVIEW – ROBERT RANKIN – THE WITCHES OF CHISWICK 2003

A complex comedy science fiction tale with a deliberate highly far fetched premise, and even its heroes coming to be called the Far-Fetched Four. 

Taking in Time-travel, Victorian Steam-punk, a 1984 / Brazil style dystopia, real historic personages ranging from H G Wells, to The Elephant Man, and characters from other Rankin stories, including Hugo Rune, Barry The Time Sprout and eville the part time barman, the story tells of Will, an art-historian in a Totalitarian future who finds a digital wrist-watch on a figure in a Victorian painting, and discovers that his future is created by a coven of witches in the Eastwick Women’s Guild.

When a series of Victorian steampunk Terminator robots try to kill him, Tim ends up going to the 1808’s to stop them, and learns that he might cancel out his own existence in the process. Worse, he learns that he must also catch Jack Te Ripper and stop the Victorians launching a space ship.

Many Hellzapopin style running gags bound, and some are overstretched, breaking the narrative, but it’s a great fun read overall, with constant skits on Wells, & a sex-crazed Elephant Man.

The real star is Hugo Rune, a magnificent larger than life magician of the Alistair Crowley kind, who has never paid for anything in his life.  

The parody gets shameless, with some very inventive footnotes and daring breaches of political correctness. The Man On The Clapham Omnibus literally exists here, as does Mary Pippins.

The barrage of jokes caused me to laugh out loud on a bus ride much to the irritation of other passengers but I didn’t care.

Link – Rankin on Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Rankin

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