The Chickens of Atlantis – Robert Rankin

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The Chickens of Atlantis – Robert Rankin

Post by Graham on Tue Feb 13, 2018 7:54 pm

I first encountered Robert Rankin when I read The Brentford Triangle. It was irreverent, inventive, absurd, and hugely entertaining. To call it science fiction would be to do both Rankin and science fiction a disservice. It was book two of the Brentford Trilogy, comprising eight volumes at the latest count. At that time, I drank in Brentford occasionally, and the characters I knew there were straight out of his books. Some of his expressions should have entered the language, ‘he had it away on his toes’, for instance but there is something otherworldly about Brentford. I once heard a barely proficient country and western band in the Red Lion announce, towards the end of their set, with tongues firmly in their normal place, ‘and now we’d like to do our version of Whole Lotta Love’.

Rankin’s novels are usually described as comic fantasy. Compared to Terry Pratchett’s they are without nuance and the language unsophisticated. Rankin disdains writerly concepts and even has the characters refer to plot holes and other absurdities in the stories. Chickens is often written in the first monkey, the hero being Darwin a thoroughly civilised Victorian ape. But this is one of the delights in his writing and takes nothing away from the fact that his books are rattling good stories. To describe the plot in 500 words would be beyond me. Suffice to say it involves time travel, Martians, sky whales, plots to dominate the universe, the destruction of large parts of London and the eponymous chickens. Darwin’s companion is Sir Cameron Bell, the model for Sherlock Holmes in this alternate universe and together they must foil the plans of his arch-nemesis Arthur Knapton necessitating the use of much dynamite and the help of H G Wells. Now you know where he got his ideas from.

Should you read it? Suspend your critical faculties and give it a go. It’s the only way to find out. Oh, and having just read his wikipedia page I should mention the genre is Victorian Steampunk.

Graham
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