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The Fandom of the Operator

by Robert Rankin

(Doubleday, 16.99, 288 pages, hardback; published 8 November 2001; received 3 October 2001. Mass market paperback published by Corgi, 5.99, 367 pages; published 4 April 2002.)

Rankin is an acquired taste; his stories evolve around twists and turns, and do not take prisoners in their surreal absurdity. I relish cover scaneach opportunity to read one of his novels, and unfortunately, I found this particular offering a slight disappointment.

Gary Cheese has the unenviable ability to reanimate the dead via his skills in voodoo ... and ends up working for a telecommunications company. There his role in life is to switch off a light bulb whenever it lights. In no time at all, he discovers that the company has a direct line with the other side, and is also part of a huge governmental conspiracy which is hidden deep under the feet of the residents of Mornington Crescent.

There's enjoyment to be had in reading this, for Rankin litters the proceedings with his usual witticisms and tremendous turns of phrases, but it made me barely lift a smile. A typical Rankin novel would give me guffaws of laughter, and I would need to stop reading and compose myself before continuing.

Perhaps it's only fair to allow Rankin at least one or two below par novels, for he is usually a consistently funny writer.

On the whole, if you're already a fan then you've probably already purchased this book, but if you're on the fringes or new to his work, then I'd personally go for his far better Armageddon Trilogy, or his latest The Chocolate Coloured Bunnies of the Apocalypse.

Review by Christopher Teague.

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