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Waiting for Godalming

by Robert Rankin

(Corgi , £5.99, 285 pages, paperback; first published 2000, this edition 5 April 2001; ISBN 0-552-14742-7.)

God is dead; murdered, in fact, and his wife, as you might cover scanexpect, wants something done about it. Lazlo Woodbine might be the world's greatest private eye, so you would think he'd be the natural choice for solving this case - until you found out he had a talking Brussels sprout called Barry in his head.

Meanwhile, in an apparently unconnected plot thread, Icarus Smith, a Zen tealeaf (ie a thief), has attracted the attention of the unsavoury Ministry of Serendipity who want some of their property back. Fortunately, his attracting the attention of the Ministry of Serendipity has attracted the attention of a helpful dwarf called Johnny Boy. Not unexpectedly, mind-bending drugs become involved at this point.

I suspect I may be one of those people who, through some odd genetic twist, some neuro-chemical imbalance or through being bitten by a radioactive Terry Pratchett, will be left perennially cold by Robert Rankin's books. Like mind-bending drugs, you either love them or hate them, and, despite being more than occasionally taken aback by the sheer gale-force of Rankin's imaginative powers, Waiting For Godalming didn't make me laugh anything like as often as it should have.

Like Monty Python, which a lot of the humour distinctly resembles, it's a very scattershot affair. Rankin's writing takes unexpected (but then rather predictable) turns into irrelevant asides roughly every four or five words such that any plot just about dissolves in the flood of lunacy.

I'm struck by the fact that pretentious literary theorists might actually love Robert Rankin's work. If it was published under a serious independent imprint as, say, 'A masterwork of deconstructivist literature' by Robert de Ranquin then the lack of any underlying reality, a plot strained beyond breaking point and flat or deliberately stereotypical characters might just be mistaken for groundbreaking stuff.

Waiting For Godalming still wouldn't be very funny but it wouldn't need to be, whereas a comic novel does.

Review by Stuart Carter.

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