Tag Archives: robert rankin

Robert Rankin – The Most Amazing Man Who Ever Lived

Once again, I have taken great risks with the last remaining traces of what, for the sake of this post, I will allege to be my sanity, and re-engaged with that long slow project I call the Great Robert Rankin Re-read-athon.

You might have thought you were safe after The Greatest Show Off Earth, but no. Here we are with the third in the Cornelius Murphy trilogy. Cornelius, you may recall, is not only the Stuff of Epics, but also the natural son of the notorious Hugo Rune, who is, as I’m sure you’ll have guessed, the Most Amazing Man of the title.

And in this book, Rune is of great significance, mainly because there’s more than one of him. Lots of him. Far too many of him, and most of them have an Evil Plan, which is far too convoluted to go into here. It involves Death and Destruction, Deceit and Deviousness, and probably some things beginning with letters other than D.

Fortunately for the world, Cornelius and his old friend Tuppe are on hand, aided only by two young ladies called, err, Thelma and Louise, a sheep alien being from somewhere else which I won’t reveal to keep things interesting and a recently deceased boy called Norman.

The story proceeds in a more confusing than usual manner, as the scene switches from one place to another so rapidly that you really have to pay attention to work out who just replied to whom, who’s doing what and where.

Can the Runes evil plan be foiled? Will you ever trust a car again after reading this? Will I think of any more questions? You’ll have to read the book to find out…

Robert Rankin – The Greatest Show Off Earth

Sorry[1], but it has to be done. It’s time for another entry in the carefully spread-out Great Robert Rankin Re-read-athon. Spread out because it’s necessary to take breaks to avoid my brain pouring out of my ears[2].

The fun starts when Raymond (nice enough chap) is kidnapped by aliens. Well, he thinks he’s been selected for ambassadorial duties, but in reality there’s a quite different role planned for him. He manages to escape one Dreadful Fate only to find himself involved in a series of adventures involving Deadly Peril and imprisoned football fans. Oh, and a slightly odd circus.

Meanwhile, Raymond’s best friend Simon (not such a nice chap), having witnessed Raymond’s disappearance, finds himself involved in his own Deadly Peril involving Men in Grey (like Men in Black only less human), Mad Cultists and, err, a slightly modified chicken.

Their stories alternate throughout the book in the usual Rankin way of cutting from one scene to another without actually telling you that’s what’s been done – this is generally done to increase confusion and for the occasional gag.

All the usual ingredients are present and correct: running gags that characters comment on, and things like this. Raymond is being held captive and is being discussed by Dreadful Aliens who don’t have his best interests at whatever they use for hearts:

“So, if all the Earth males are called George,” said Mrs Dumpty, “what are all the females called?” “Mildred,” came the reply.

Well, obviously.

All good fun, and I should probably mention that this one isn’t part of a trilogy. So far, anyway…

[1] Not
[2] Or is that wax?

Robert Rankin – Raiders of the Lost Car Park

Having taken a quick sanity break, it’s time to return to the world of the Great Robert Rankin Re-read-athon. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.

First published in 1994, this is a direct sequel to The Book of Ultimate Truths, as we find Cornelius Murphy and his friend Tuppe[1] following up their Epic Quest.

A new ocarina is forged. Well, adapted from a not entirely paid-for one. An ice cream van is obtained, all the better to play the unique notes of Hugo Rune’s invention through its loudspeaker.

And the Forbidden Zones are revealed, leading to the freeing of Cornelius’s real father, the notorious Hugo Rune, not to mention assorted other things, mostly servants of the real ruler of the world, who these days can’t be bothered to do the old traditional thing of delivering presents to all the children of the world, and is generally a bit grumpy and not at all nice to know.

We have more fun with Inspectre[2] Hovis of the Yard, stuck in Brentford, about to be made redundant and forced into what you might call an uneasy alliance with Rune if you were the sort of person who said things like that, which I hope you aren’t.

Rune has a Cunning Plan, of course. One that even Baldrick might think was a bit dodgy.

It’s all very, very silly, with more ridiculous set-ups, gags that are not so much telegraphed as semaphored, illuminated in flashing neon and err, well, look, I’ve no idea where this sentence is trying to go, so let’s just say you can see some of the gags coming and they still work. If only because you keep telling yourself that he couldn’t possibly get away with that one…

Loads of fun. And some guest appearances from well-known residents of Brentford. What more could you ask for?

[1] Which we learn is short for Tupperware

Robert Rankin – The Book of Ultimate Truths

Yes, it’s back to the sanity-endangering Great Robert Rankin Re-read-athon, with the first in the Cornelius Murphy Trilogy. And in what may be a shock to some readers, I should point out that this is a trilogy that contains just three books! Can you believe it?

First, I think it’s wise to point out that The Book of Ultimate Truths is not the actual Book of Ultimate Truths – that is the lost work of the master Hugo Rune. But it does concern the Book of Ultimate Truths, so the title is not altogether misleading.

Our hero is Cornelius Murphy, who is, we are assured, the stuff of epics, which is just as well, as he runs into some remarkable challenges. After successfully avoiding actual work for a while, he is recruited for a Mission: to collect all the missing parts of Hugo Rune’s masterpiece so they can be gathered together and published. This results in a sequence of adventures involving Cornelius and his friend Tuppe.

These are far too bizarre and bonkers to relate here, but they do involve a shape-changing entity from somewhere else, the truth about the London A-Z, some odd monks, a karaoke machine with remarkable powers, the reinvented ocarina, and a shocking revelation for Cornelius.

And there’s more! There are numerous extracts from the writings of Hugo Rune himself, which reveal much of his unique wisdom[1].

And as if that wasn’t enough, it sets things up nicely for a sequel, which I’ll come to moderately soon. Though I do have something else to read first.

[1] I think that’s what it is…

Robert Rankin – The Suburban book of the Dead – Armageddon III: The Remake

Yes, it’s another entry in the Great Robert Rankin Re-read-athon already. But for reasons of needing a (relative) sanity break and having some other things I need to read, it’ll be the last for a little while[1].

First published in 1992, this takes the Armageddon Trilogy to its end – yes a trilogy with only three books in it, which seems a bit odd, but there you go.

It’s 2061 in Paradise, and our hero Rex Mundi is digging a hole for reasons that I won’t go into. When he digs up a statue of Elvis Presley, he’s a little surprised. He’s even more surprised when it’s stolen by a couple of collectors in a Volvo. His surprise level reaches even greater heights, when, having stowed away in the unexpectedly large rear of the Volvo, he finds himself in Presley City, where not wearing blue suede shoes is a serious offence, and indeed, Elvis is the one true deity.

While Rex is being surprised, we switch to first person narration for a word from Lazlo Woodbine (some call me Laz), down at heel private eye in the 1950s mould, despite being from a different century altogether.

And we have the happy return of Barry the Time Sprout.

And the less happy return of some other, less pleasant to know characters.

Can Rex, Lax and Barry prevent the destruction of the city? Will the other Rex get his way? Will you get confused as the action shifts without warning from one place to another? Will there be a final roof-top confrontation? And will everything be tied up and explained properly at the end?

The answers to at least some of these questions may be found in this book. Along with the usual quota of running gags, characters arguing about needing a better part in it, and more twists than a very twisty thing.

All very, very silly, and loads of fun.

[1] Exact duration dependent on this and that

Robert Rankin – They Came and Ate Us – Armageddon II: The B-Movie

Moving along with the Great Robert Rankin Re-read-athon, we come to the second in the Armageddon Trilogy. This was first published by Bloomsbury in 1991, and my trade paperback is well, yes, an actual first edition. If my memory is accurate (and be fair, it’s been a while, I’ve been asleep since then, etc, etc), I got it from a strange thing called a “book club”, which was how we used to buy books by something called “mail order” in those pre-Amazonian days. The club in question did softcover versions of books otherwise available only in more expensive hardbacks. This one must have appealed it me at the time when I saw its description in the quaintly printed monthly (or thereabouts) newsletter thingy. Either that, or it was the monthly (or thereabouts) selection which they’d send to you if you didn’t get around to telling them not to. I suspect the former rather than the latter, but I could be wrong (it’s happened at least once before, I think it was on a Tuesday). But I, as is so often the case, digress. Though it wouldn’t be Losing it without a digression or six, would it?

So, this follows on, more or less, give or take, from Armageddon: The Musical. Following the quite literal deus ex machina ending of that one, the revived earth is a paradise. Our hero Rex Mundi is married to Christeen (twin sister of Jesus christ, edited out of the Bible, best not to ask) and living in profound happiness, so that’s not going to last, is it?

Meanwhile (err, no, not really, but once you start messing around with time travel, the grammar goes to pot, as Douglas Adams pointed out), in 1977, Elvis Presley has faked his death and headed off with Barry the Time Sprout.

And then there’s some fun with Jack Doveston, working on a project to digitise all the more interesting books, who accidentally manages to summon Rex Mundi through time.

And some nicely demonic entities.

And hackers.

And more nonsense than you could shake a shaky thing at.

And chapter headings relating more nonsense about Hugo Rune than anyone would wish to know.

And something approximating to the truth about the Nuclear Holocaust Event of 1999 that led to the mangled future world of the first book.

And a guest appearance from Pooley and Omally, heroes of the Brentford Trilogy!

And more characters complaining about not getting better parts!

Indeed, it’s pretty much at this point that Robert settles down (well, more doesn’t settle down, really) into the deranged self-referential style that we all know and love. Great and very silly fun, which made my journey to Birmingham much more enjoyable.

Robert Rankin – Armageddon: The Musical

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[1] 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[2].

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[3], who repeatedly avoids being killed thanks to interventions from a mysterious woman who he completely forgets about until she appears again[4].

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…

[1] Bit of a hint in the name, there
[2] So, plenty to offend lots of people…
[3] And if you think that’s a bit obvious, wait till you meet his sister Gloria
[4] No, Doctor Who fans, she’s not a Silent

Robert Rankin – The Sprouts of Wrath

It’s time for another episode in my sanity-challenging Robert Rankin Re-read-athon in which our Brentford heroes once again come up against a seemingly unstoppable horror bent on world domination and destruction: the Olympic Games. Oh, wait. Sorry, that’s not strictly accurate. I may be letting my personal wossnames take over. Anyway, following a mysterious disaster which utterly destroys the newly built Olympic Stadium in Birmingham, everyone is surprised to find that the games will now take place in Brentford, following the traditional level of financial incentives[1]. Well, not exactly in Brentford, more over Brentford, courtesy of some highly advanced, not to mention unlikely technology.

But it wouldn’t be the fourth book in the Brentford Trilogy[2] if it was as simple as that, would it? Dark Forces are working behind the scenes, there’s an appearance of the famous[3] Brentford Griffin[4], a guest role for the notorious Hugo Rune, and the unconventional policeman Inspectre[5] Hovis is in the borough, which can only mean more trouble, mostly for the rest of the police force.

Worst of all, the brewery plan to sell of the Flying Swan and get rid of Neville the part-time barman!

Can Pooley and Omally save the world, and more importantly, the Swan? Will the games go ahead? Will Pooley finally win a bet and keep the money? All these questions might be answered.

This book was first published in 1988, and apparently didn’t sell very well at the time, but we republished by Corgi in 1993, when it must have done moderately well, as it was reprinted the same year.  In case you’re wondering, yes indeed, the title and that of its predecessor are indeed inspired by John Steinbeck, and yes, sprouts are a recurring theme, as we will soon see. Like the first three, it’s nicely silly and well worth a read.

[1] Though a more cynical person might suggest that in this instance the incentives flow in the opposite direction to the traditional method of getting  such events to be staged in a particular place. (Allegedly, etc)
[2] There’s no use complaining about the size of the trilogy now. It’ll only get bigger later…
[3] It’s on the internet, even!
[4] Absolutely not a hoax that Robert Rankin had any involvement in. Probably.
[5] He insists on the spelling

April 2016 Round-up

Well, a whole third of 2016 is over, it’s the end of a month and it has to be time for the essential monthly summary that tells you all you need to know. Though you might want to look at the photos in the rest of the posts.

Weight

What’s this? Some actual progress this month?.

April 1: 229.2 pounds (16 stone 5.2 pounds, 104 kg)
April 30: 226.9 pounds (16 stone 2.9 pounds, 102.9 kg)

That’s an actual drop of 2.3 pounds or 1kg. And I have a Cunning Plan that may improve things further.

Eating

Yes, I’ve done some of that, especially when I was away for a few days in various parts of the country. More of that next month, too.

Exercise

The shoulder still has days when it does its best to make me unhappy, and the heel is joining in. Apparently this sort of thing starts to happen as people get older. I’ll just have to lie about my age and hope it fools my body. But while I’m waiting for it to be fooled, there’s not a lot of moving around going on.

Posting

I’ve done a bit more posting this month, with this report bringing the total to 43.

Stuff

I’ve been playing with cameras a bit, though not as much as I’d like, and of course there’s the Robert Rankin Re-read-athon going on. More on that soon.

Robert Rankin – East of Ealing

And here we are with the third book in the legendary[1] Brentford Trilogy, as my great Robert Rankin Re-read-athon creaks along. First published in 1984, this involves yet more apocalyptic goings-on in the famous[2] London borough. Readers who survived the experience of The Brentford Triangle may be either relieved or confused to find that there are no signs of the devastation and destruction[3] that occurred in that book. Well, confusion s part of the Rankin package, so you’ll just have to get used to it. Has some cosmic reset button been pressed, or is it, as Douglas Adams might have said, just life[4]? It’s probably best not to think about such matters and just get on with the story. Oh, and you’d better get used to pun-loaded titles. There will be more…

Everything appears to be being taken over by a company calling itself Latienos & Romiith. They appear to be behind the scheme to abolish actual cash and label everyone with barcodes, which as is correctly pointed out, have eighteen bars split into three groups of six. Six Six Six, even. And yes, these marks are indeed placed on either the right hand or the forehead, which comes as a Revelation[5] to our heroes Pooley and Omally, especially after Pooley manages to win an almost incalculable fortune from his six-horse accumulator bet, and when he’s taken the huge amount of money to the bank, finds the only way he can get at it is via his new barcode.

Now that might be bad enough, but there’s also the little matter of the enormous Latienos and Romiith building springing up in Brentford. And the forcefield thingy separating the borough from the outside world. And people being replaced by evil robotic replicas. And, as they say, much more, not least Sherlock Holmes, who’s prematurely, if usefully, revived from suspended animation.

Much madness follows, with the inventive Norman coming up with his own replica and a time machine of the H G Wells variety, which might come in handy…

The whole thing is utterly bonkers, as you might expect. And if the ending has you saying “eh? what? how? when? whither? whence?”, you won’t be alone.

According to I, Robert, after this book, both he and his editor were shown the door by the then publisher on grounds of low sales. Shocking.

[1] Must be, it says so on the cover
[2] It’s got all these books written about it!
[3] Decimation optional
[4] Don’t talk to me about life, etc
[5] Sorry[6], had to be done
[6] Not.