First published on 15 Dec 2011. Updated on 15 Dec 2011.
The Mechanical Messiah and Other Marvels of the Modern Age is, in a word, weird. But fun. Definitely fun. Robert Rankin is widely regarded as one of Britain’s great eccentrics and after reading this madcap steampunk romp Time Out understands why. To read Rankin you'll need a healthy appreciation for the ridiculous and an energetic love for the bizarre. If you've got them in spades, then this cult writer offers a five-star ride. If not, you'll be left thinking ‘huh?’
Set in an alien-populated, Victorian-esque alternative 1895 Britain, the novel’s plot almost defies explanation. It’s an imagined comic sequel to H.G Wells’ War of the Worlds, and a kind of detective story involving a man and a monkey, and "certain others".
Rankin plays fast and loose with history, revelling in inexplicable connections and fanciful re-imaginings, and the novel is completely outlandish and delightfully tongue-in-cheek. Pop culture and literary allusions abound, referenced with playful humour that will have you giggling to yourself as you shake your head in wonder at Rankin’s strange genius.
Once you've learnt how to safely navigate Rankin's odd punctuation, you'll be rewarded with exuberant literary techniques that drip with ironic humour. At times The Mechanical Messiah's enthusiasm feels a little manic and to really enjoy it you'll need to like your fiction far-fetched and your humour wild and wacky, but for fans of such quirky madness it’ll do nicely.
The Mechanical Messiah and Other Marvels of the Modern Age Gollancz, Paperback RRP$29.99