Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Witches of Chiswick - Robert Rankin

2003; 400 pages.  Genre : Humor; Fiction.  New Author? : No.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    Holy anomaly, Will Starling!  Is that a digital wrist-watch you see in that 19th-century painting by Richard Dadd?  But they weren't invented for another 100 years!

    Or so we've been told.  Hmmm.  Maybe that explains why those Terminator-type automotons are killing everyone who answers to the name "Will Starling".  Perhaps you should chrono-hop to Victorian England to straighten things out.

What's To Like...
    There are conspiracy theories galore.  There is lots of time-travel.  And none of that "Prime Directive" crap where you're not supposed to change anything while visiting the past.  The whole point here is to change things.  The events of the future affect the past.

    There are some kewl characters to get to know; some historical; some fictional.  Among them are Queen Victoria; her secret lover, Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes, Tesla (his kewl inventions anyway); Hugo Rune; Count Otto Black; The Elephant Man; that talented novelist, Lazlo Woodbine; and last but not least, Barry the Guardian Sprout.

    You have the typical Rankin zaniness, witty dialogue, and running gags.  The Witches kinda get short-shrifted, but that's okay.  People die, but they don't stay dead.  The "4th Wall" comes into play at times.

Kewlest New Word...
Athame : a double-edged witch's ceremonial knife, usually with a black handle.

    The interior of the Shrunken Head was rough: it was dire, it was ill-kempt and wretched.  The management was surly, the bouncers were brutal.  The beer, a pallid lager called Little, was overpriced and underpowered.  It was everything that a great live-music pub should be.  (pg. 56-57)

    "I have been programmed to destroy you," said the evil automoton.  "And I have also been programmed with the entire Dimac manual.  And those of Karate, Ninjitsu, Kung Fu and Baritso."
    Will spun once more upon his heel and kicked it once more in the face, and the black-eyed monster once more repositioned his jaw.
    "And macramé," it added.
    "That's not a martial art," said Will.
    "It's a hobby," the thing replied.  "I will knit a plant pot holder from your beard, as soon as I have torn your head from your shoulders."  (pg. 343)

"It doesn't blow the snits out of your gab-trammel, if that's what you mean."  (pg. 58)
    At times, it feels like Rober Rankin loses control of the dizzying, convoluted plot twists, chrono-hopping, and historical alterations.  At times there's a bit too much talking and not enough doing.

    But the plotlines all come together nicely in the end, and witty dialogue is a major reason there is a devoted following of Rankin readers, including me.  If you've read other books by this author, The Witches of Chiswick will not disappoint.  If you haven't read anything by Rankin yet, this is as good of a place to start as any.  8½ Stars.

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