Monday, 22 October 2007
‘The Toyminator’ – Robert Rankin (Gollancz Books)
The thing about fantasy and science fiction is that it’s all so serious sometimes. Everything seems to have a noble purpose whether it’s learning to live with alien neighbours or killing your way to the throne of [insert name of country here!]. Don’t get me wrong, I love this stuff but sometimes I want to read something that’s a little bit, well… daft. I want something that’s silly; knows it is but doesn’t care. Something that not only knows it’s silly but deliberately goes out of its way to be even sillier. Something that will make me laugh. When this mood has me in its grip there’s only one thing that I can do. I grab the nearest Robert Rankin book and get reading. This weekend’s reading was ‘The Toyminator’ and I loved it.
A lot of Rankin’s work is set in Britain and has a very British feel that us lot, over here in the UK, love but people elsewhere may have trouble getting into. ‘Toyminator’ (and it’s predecessor ‘The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse’) presents no such problems as it’s set in ‘Toy City’, a place inhabited by living toys and ‘Pre-Adolescent Poetic Personalities’ (nursery rhyme characters to the likes of you and me). Something’s rotten in Toy City, spontaneous toy combustion is rife and many believe that this heralds the end of the world. Only two people can save the day, Toy City private eye Eddie Bear and his loyal sidekick Jack. What they find will turn their world inside out. It will leave you feeling a little odd too as Rankin does not let the normal rules of storytelling get in the way of prose that makes you chuckle, laugh out loud and then think, “hang on, that actually makes a weird kind of sense…”
I’m a big fan of Robert Rankin (so will admit to some bias) but have to say that he has had his fair share of misses as well as hits. I’m happy to say that ‘Toyminator’ is definitely a hit as far as I’m concerned. I got a real sense that Rankin was really enjoying himself when he wrote this, it’s crammed so full of humour that you can almost see the sparks going off in his head while it was being put to paper. There’s a real flow to the story that drags you in and pulls you along with it, I absolutely had to read as much as I could in one sitting and totally begrudged time spent away from the book. For a book that appears to be full of events that don’t really connect with one another, you get to the end and think, “wow, it all makes sense now…”
Rankin does overcrowd the book with a plethora of catchphrases from earlier books (it’s a tradition, or an old charter, or something) but if you’re a fan you won’t care and if you’ve only just started reading his books then you probably won’t notice anyway. Sometimes the ‘joke gun’ does fire a few duds but the funny stuff wins out through sheer weight of numbers so you’ll forgive the odd bad joke here and there.
If you’re already a fan then ‘The Toyminator’ is a worthy addition to the series. If you’re thinking of picking up a Robert Rankin book for the first time don’t start here; pick up ‘Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse’ first and enjoy it in the knowledge that it’s sequel is even better.
Eight out of Ten