Fiction Reviews


The Toyminator

(2006) Robert Rankin, Gollancz, 12.99 / 10.99,
hrdbk /trdpbk, 315 00, ISBN 0-575-07010-2 / 0-575-07774-3

 

Something very bad is going down in Toy City. (Toy City? Yes, Toy City: Toy Town simply grew.) There have been outbreaks of spontaneous toy combustion and toys are vanishing. Could this be Armageddon? Or could it be something more rational like an invasion of flying saucers from out of space. However the former (now disgraced) mayor turned private eye, Eddie Bear is on hand with his (human) friend Jack. Together they are blackmailed by Toy City's laughing police to solve the mystery. Who is behind this and can our intrepid heroes cope with an alien rectal probe? To find out you'll have to get Rankin's latest comic science fantasy.

OK. I've said this before but it is still true. Rankin has a marvellous quirky sense of humour. A truly awful British sense of play with words and themes. Take the following sentence, having opened a page at random...

'And worse was yet to come,' said Tinto to Eddie Bear, in Tinto's Bar someway away from the pandemic of pandemonium and even indeed the tuneless tornadic timpani of turbulence.

Don't worry that was the alliterative gag of the chapter, the gags that make reference to other books, films and TV series are far more common. So we come across references to Bladerunner, Alien and The Phantom of the Opera -- tell a lie, we actually meet the Phantom from The Phantom of the Opera...

Rankin's humour has its roots in The Goons (hence Python) and his ridiculous yet, for all that, logical setting and steering of the plot is a delight once you cotton on to what is going on. Usually this is after a quarter of the way through the book, but the ride up to then is entertaining if bewildering. Rankin is billed as the 2nd most humorous genre writer in the UK after Terry Pratchett. There is a lot to this claim though I suspect his sales are a lot less, but then I do not know how popular Rankin is outside the UK: Pratchett translates easier both in terms of language and transatlantic culture. Rankin is more eccentric but as weird, and certainly more British. The great British pub and bar is a strong recurring theme to Rankin's work and The Toyminatoris no exception with Tinto and his bar.

Toyminator is meant to be the sequel to Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse but, as with all Rankin's books this as a perfectly great read without having seen any of the others in his various (interlinked) series. So if you have not come across Rankin before then this is as good a place to star as any. (Having said that, or if you get and like The Toyminator then I'd go for: The Antipope, The Brentford Triangle, The Sprouts of Wrath and The Dance of the Voodoo Handbag though anything by Rankin so far will do.) Rankin's fiction is a little formulaeic, but you'll only really notice this after half a dozen or more of his books and it's a wonderful formulae so I don't knock it but revel in it.

In short Rankin is still on form with wrangled wry wit that stems from a probably certifiable mind and/or toot from the iconic British local boozer. Mine's a pint and the end of the World can go wait.

Jonathan Cowie


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