Saturday, October 02, 2004

The Greatest Show Off Earth

By Robert Rankin

When I was back there in high school, Robert Rankin was one of my favorite authors. He wrote roughly in the style of Terry Pratchett, but without the serious insight-into-human-nature side of it.

I decided to reread one or two of them, to see if they still held up ten years later. The first one I read was 'Armaggeddon: The Musical', but I found it not all that funny, and thought it was trying a little too hard to be 'Brazil'. But I decided to give him another chance and read the sequel, 'Armaggeddon II: The B-Movie'. Subtitled 'They Came And Ate Us'. It wasn't very good either, but it was a bit better than the first one. So I decided to give him one more shot, and read what was once my favorite book of his, 'The Greatest Show Off Earth'.

TGSOE follows the stories of two friends Raymond and Simon. Raymond is kidnapped by Abdullah, the Flying Starfish from Uranus, and taken to Venus, where human flesh is a delicacy. Meanwhile on Earth, Simon battles a satanic conspiracy, with the help of a book from the future that tells the story of his and Raymond's lives. The two stories have almost nothing to do with each other in the end, but they build up to dual climaxes at the same time, and there is lots of jump cutting between them.

Unfortunately, this book was not very good either. Sure, there were a few funny jokes in it, for example:

'I have often wondered,' Andy said, 'why is it that members of the opposition party always waste half of the Prime Minister's question time asking the PM what his appointments are for the day.'

'Ah.' Simon bought his teeth into play. 'I have a theory about that. I reckon they think that if they keep on asking him again and again, then one day he'll simply crack and say something like, "This morning I had meetings with Cabinet colleagues and others and at lunchtime I had a naked Filipino lass lowered onto my honourable member in a rotating split-cane basket. Oh damn, now what have I said? I resign."'

But most of it's not that good. One joke which gets it's payoff towards the end of the book revolves around the fact that one of the characters surnames is Bum-Poo. Ha ha, he said poo.

Plus, every now and again he still seems to think he's Terry Gilliam, and tries to evoke some sort of romantic, mythical atmosphere. It doesn't work.

So anyway, I think that's the last Rankin book I'll read. I sure thought they were pretty funny when I was 14, but unfortunately they just didn't age that well.

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