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The Da-Da-De-Da-Da Code
Robert Rankin
Gollancz, 322 pages

The Da-Da-De-Da-Da Code
Robert Rankin
Robert Rankin (1949- ), who describes himself as a Teller of Tall Tales, embarked upon his writing career in the late 70s, his ambition was to create an entirely new literary genre, which he named Far-Fetched Fiction. By doing this, he aimed to avoid competing with any other living author in any known genre and would be given his own special section in bookshops. However, they weren't keen on giving him his own set of shelves and his work is to be found in the Science Fiction section. While sometimes compared to Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams, Robert Rankin's unique prose style and extraordinary imagination distinguish him clearly from them, and have brought him considerable success. He is the author of The Brentford Trilogy (six books), The Armageddon Trilogy (three books), A Dog called Demolition, The Dance of the Voodoo Handbag, Snuff Fiction, Web Site Story and many other wondrous books, including his latest: The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse (2002). He has had a total of thirty-nine (39) jobs, including illustrator, off-licence manager, market-stall trader, rock singer and garden gnome salesman. Robert Rankin lives in Brighton, UK with his wife and family.

Robert Rankin Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil


'"It is always the music and always the musicians. It's all around you, Jonny. It always has been, but never so much as now. You cannot escape from music. It plays in your lifts and supermarkets, your shops and malls and pubs and clubs. It is everywhere. And behind it, unseen, the Air Loom."'
The unstoppable comedic juggernaut that is Robert Rankin rumbles onward, this time set to music. But more of that a bit later. To begin at the beginning, this is not as the title suggests a running joke at the expense of The Da Vinci Code. It's less obvious and a good deal better than that. The lead character is Jonny Hooker, a 27 year-old musician who is accompanied, in a metaphysical sense, by an imaginary monkey boy called Mr Giggles. Nobody else can see or hear Mr Giggles, but that does not mean he isn't there. Soon after the story begins, Jonny is found dead in the pond of Gunnersbury Park. Minus his head, which appears to have exploded. Our meander through the next few hundred pages gives us a retrospective on one man's alleged mental illness, murder and conspiracy most foul, more than few pints of King Billy, and a cobbled together plan to save the world. The villains of the piece are the nefarious Air Loom Gang, who are led by Count Otto Black and operate the Air Loom; an 18th Century brainwashing device targeting the movers and shakers. Chief among these are the five covert rulers of the world, including the Queen of England, and Elvis Presley. This being a Robert Rankin novel, everything is incidental to the premise, and often secondary to a well placed gag. There are holes big enough to drive a herd of elephants through, but somehow it doesn't really matter. If you want tight plotting, then you're reading the wrong author. As usual there is a smattering of distinctly British humour for those in the cultural know, and for everyone else there's more than enough amusing silliness to raise at least a smirk.

One of the more entertaining elements was a cleverly contrived sub-plot involving the legacy of blues musician Robert Johnson, who famously wrote just 29 songs before his untimely death. Rankin suggests there was a thirtieth song, 'Apocalypse Blues,' on which was accidentally recorded the Devil's own laughter, a sound that the human brain was never meant to hear. Throughout the years, select musicians have listened to this deadly recording, including Brian Jones, Johnny Kidd, Pig Pen, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. All of whom, like Robert Johnson, died suddenly when they were just 27 years-old. What grabbed me was the notion that this sub-plot is actually a pretty good idea for a light horror movie. I found myself wishing that someone would pick it up, and use it as the inspiration for an altogether darker piece of work. Perhaps ending up like something akin to Angel Heart. Rankin also drops in a few pointers toward his source of inspiration, such as the Air Loom supposedly being a real world device, which might have done what it said on the tin; the world's first mind control technology.

Details can be found on Wikipedia, and at Those interested might also like to look up James Tilly Matthews, who was possibly one of the first victims.

Much of The Da-Da-De-Da-Da Code is typical Robert Rankin, bumbling along in his inimitable, amiable fashion, playing to his strengths and not really giving two figs about his weaknesses. As might be expected from a master of Dimac. This book does see something of a resurgence in his creativity, and being a stand-alone title is great for those wanting to dip their toes. Rankin collectors, and readers keen on getting the best value, may like to know that some editions of The Da-Da-De-Da-Da Code hardback come complete with an audio CD, comprising an 11-song soundtrack to the novel. The music is as patchy as it is varied, and with a couple of exceptions features the author as lead vocalist, collaborating with musicians and making much use of the Devil's Interval. Among the auditory delights are 'Da-Da-De-Da-Da,' the theme song, 'Pelted With Stones,' a post-Punk headache set to music, and most intriguing of the lot, 'Lobster Cracking (Air on a Loom)' which carries a warning that it features the hideous pneumatic sounds of the dreaded Air Loom itself!

Copyright © 2007 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at

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