Time for another entry in the infamous Robert Rankin Re-read-athon
, and for the first time we move away from Brentford and begin a new trilogy. This was first published in 1990, and my paperback dates back to 1991 (though I may have acquired it after then, can’t remember at this point).
We join the story in the devastated Earth of 2050, still recovering from the Nuclear Holocaust Event (NHE) of 1999 when American President Wormwood pressed The Button.
The world is essentially run by three rival TV networks, each under the control of a religious figure. Passing swiftly over the Jesuits and the mob run by a descendant of L Ron Hubbard, we’ll be focusing on the most powerful and influential of the networks, which is run by the latest incarnation of the Dalai Lama.
People are pretty much confined to bunkers and earn credits by watching TV, with the most popular show being Dalai Dan’s Nemesis, which tends not to be too good for the health of its contestants..
Our hero, such as he is, is one Rex Mundi, who repeatedly avoids being killed thanks to interventions from a mysterious woman who he completely forgets about until she appears again.
But wait! It’s more complicated than that! Everything that happens on Earth is in fact a reality TV show run by a bunch of vegetable-descended aliens called Phnaargs. Concerned about failing ratings for Earthers, a cunning plan is formed to change the last century of Earth’s history. This involves sending an agent back to 1958 to persuade Elvis Presley to not join the army, on the grounds that this was the key turning point that led to President Wormwood’s fun and games. This all goes a bit wrong when the agent’s Time Sprout (who adopts the name Barry) defects and helps Elvis Presley.
As you might expect, much silliness follows, outrageous running gags are not just run but pointed at and marked as such. And it ends with characters pointing out the apparent plot holes, and suggesting that they’ll be sorted out in the sequel…
 Bit of a hint in the name, there
 So, plenty to offend lots of people…
 And if you think that’s a bit obvious, wait till you meet his sister Gloria
 No, Doctor Who fans, she’s not a Silent