Saturday, 5 November 2011

Why You Should Read | Robert Rankin

Comic fantasy is a tricky art - either that, or my tastes are oddly specific. Whichever it is, Robert Rankin is one of those few authors who really hit the mark for me: he's not consistent, but when Rankin gets good, it's hilarious. Really. Side effects will include uncontrollable laughter, irrestrainable real-life use of running jokes, and a conviction that your best friends are being controlled via Air Loom...

So, why should you read him?

- The obvious: he's amusing. Rankin's humour is rarely the careful Satire of Pratchett (which I also enjoy): it's a madcap, eclectic mix of running jokes, plot holes, and pure absurdity. (Plus a healthy dose of steampunk). Zodiac made of the streets of Brighton? A real 'genre detective' who refuses to work outside three locations? Accidentically murdering the 'cockney work ethic' zeitgeist of the 60s? Okay, they're funnier in context...

- They're inventive. I've picked a number of novels out as subverting my reviewer-hardened expectations (I have special plotanium senses!), but Rankin takes this to a whole new level. Characters who know they're in a novel - and use that to their advantage? It's in there. And whenever things threaten to get predictable, Rankin throws a new spanner/Air Loom/General Electric minigun into the mix.

- They're cumulative. A lot of Rankin's humour is based on references to previous novels, and of course, the old running gag, and whatever you think of them... They have their moments. You might not love your first Rankin, but your second? That's a different matter.

- They're short. In a genre where, as I've mentioned before (and will do so again), most novels can be used for primitive masonry, 'short' is a refreshing addition. Though I love my long novels, Rankin's works will fill up an afternoon much more readily than a day - or a week.

Rankin isn't for everybody. After all, who is? His odd, absurdist sense of humour, love of the running gag, and affectionate twists on every trope in the genre make him a taste best acquired in moderation. And for the reasons I've listed, he's still well worth a go.

Read Rankin, or plan to? Comment and tell me below!

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