Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Japanese Devil Fish Girl And Other Unnatural Attractions

A novel by Robert Rankin

At King's we are having a bit of a 'thing' with Steampunk.  The guys are borrowing all the books from the Steampunk display, to the point where I'm having to just keep photocopies of the covers in the display and the reserves on some of the books are impressive.  I decided we obviously needed more choice in the Steampunk area and so purchased a couple of Robert Rankin's books.  The Japanese Devil Fish Girl (etc) is the first one I've read of Robert Rankin and it isn't like any other book I've read.

It is set in the year 1895, but Mr Rankin plays with history, bringing people into the story who didn't arrive in history until much much later.  Mars invaded the Earth ten years before the story is set, Earth retaliated and now controls Mars as part of her territory.  Missionaries from Venus are looking for converts on Earth but they are slippery characters, there are other assorted aliens hobnobbing with the Earthlings and it is all very unusual.  George Fox is an unassuming young man who has a job assisting Professor Coffin, owner of a pickled Martian which they travel the country exhibiting, it's days are numbered with the tentacles beginning to fray and Prof. Coffin needs a new attraction to pull the crowds. George is informed that it is his destiny to help Prof. Coffin find the famous Japanese Devil Fish Girl - the most wonderful being in the universe - who would be great as an attraction obviously.  They up sticks and set off to the USA to begin their search. George has however fallen for the charms of the lovely young woman he met at the fair, she turns up on the airship they are travelling on, much to the displeasure of Prof. Coffin and the two are caught up in high adventure dodging the forces of evil and keeping ahead of the dastardly professor.

It is all very outrageous, Nicholas Tesla and Charles Babbage (inventors from a much later age) appear in the story having back-engineered  Martian spacecraft so that they could be used against the Martians, and I particularly loved the scenes with 'young' Churchill in the bunker ordering people around.

It is so funny, lots to laugh at, easy to read and a very enjoyable romp through space, time and Victoriana. You won't read anything like this - unless you read another Robert Rankin of course.   If you are a Steampunk kind of guy head on in and have a look at this book and the rest of the Steampunk books.

Fordormatic image by Flickr user Dan Jones

What is Steampunk?  Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction and speculative fiction, frequently featuring elements of fantasy, that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain—that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; in other words, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne or real technologies like the computer but developed earlier in an alternate history.
Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of "the path not taken" for such technology as lighter-than-air airships, analog computers, or such digital mechanical computers as Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace's Analytical engine.  Source Wikipedia


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