Retromancer by Robert Rankin – 4 out of 5.
Retromancer is a direct sequel to The Brightonomicon. It sees Hugo Rune & his acolyte Rizla (played by Jim Pooley) up against arch nemesis Otto Black in a struggle for the future (& the past) of the human race. We are set mainly in the first person & looking at things through Rizla's bleary eyes. One morning breakfast consists of Bratwurst rather than bangers & things have clearly gone wrong somewhere along the way, the Germans won the war & this is just the thin edge of the Cambozola.
As well as the obvious humour Retromancer sees some quite grim passages, notable the torture scenes near the beginning, it's clear that Rankin isn't just in this for the laughs. Though most of it is kept fairly light hearted & funny, I wonder what a Rankin novel concentrating on the darker side of things would be like? Damn good I should expect.
Anyway back to the novel, as per the Brightonomicon this is split up into 12 cosmic conundrum's (conundra) – cases. Themselves perhaps a little to obviously written to be adapted into individual episodes of a radio play along the lines of “The Brightonomicon”. Each is essentially a self contained short story within the framework of the overall arc & each is a accompanied by a tarot card, brilliantly illustrated by Robert himself.
Of the stories themselves; I don't want to give to much away, but my favourites were: “The Hanged Man”, with King Arthur reborn into the heart of a machine & “The Fool” with a haunted Purple Princess. Other highlights were: McMurdo's misfortunes, forbidden zones, pans in the singularity, Jim's dad, werewolf's on a ship, pirates, the Future as seen in classic SF, time travel, the Tunguska event & many more.
Some random thoughts: The obligatory footnotes don't seem to have quite the kapow factor of some previous novels, often centring themselves on The Brightonomicon. I would like to have seen a bit more of Otto Black. It's a pity, having gone to America, that we didn't spent a bit more time there. Not too sure of the use of ***** in place of swear words. There are some loose ends / stuff that goes unexplained.
The over all structure of the book (self contained short stories, with some connection, within an over all arc) perhaps isn't my favourite over all style, I was often left feeling I'd like to see more of each section, many of them could really have been made into novels themselves. This is an excellent novel, though not quite the laugh-fest that many of Robert's previous books have been, but perhaps that was deliberate. I wonder if we'll see more of this in future? I hope so.