The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse
by Robert Rankin
19 years ago, while crossing the Atlantic in the center section of a DC-10, I found myself seated next to an adorable little German boy who spent the entire flight puking. The poor Schatze used up every airsick bag in the entire row; I can't imagine where it all came from. To keep my mind off this unsettling spectacle, I fell back on the only available diversion besides an edited-for-airlines presentation of the cinematic masterpiece Stop! or My Mom Will Shoot! Which, natch, meant reading a book. All I had was a novel hurriedly grabbed at a multilingual airport gift shop in Frankfurt. Its title, dear reader, was Armageddon II: The B-Movie. It was supposed to be the sequel to a book called Armageddon: The Musical.
If you think you can imagine how awful that book was, you are probably mistaken. Even though its awfulness was predictable, given its title; even though it evidently was awful by design; even though, like all your favorite awful books, its awfulness was mitigated by a few gratuitously explicit passages of an adult nature: it was, at last, too awful to compete with the comedic duo of Sylvester Stallone and Estelle Getty. So I surrendered to the real B-movie and let the make-believe one drift to the bottom of my Fort Made of Books until I had forgotten all about it except its title and a vague impression of its failure to compete with a nauseous neighbor for entertainment value.
I didn't connect the name of author Robert Rankin with that memory until after I had bought this book and started reading it. The title (pictured above) jumped out at me as I passed it in the stacks, and after scanning the back-cover blurb I thought it might be a fun diversion. When I realized what a weird kind of fun it was, I checked inside the front cover for a list of the author's works and was shocked to make the connection to that nightmarish flight from Frankfurt to Boston in June of 1992. Yes, Robert Rankin wrote that too.
Nevertheless, I pressed on. It didn't entirely redeem my first impression of its author, as (for example) The Scarecrow and His Servant rehabilitated my opinion of Philip Pullman after the disappointing His Dark Materials trilogy. While I can still sense a kinship between this book's irreverently quirky sense of humor and the book I found unreadable 20 years ago, I actually had a good time reading this one. Many readers may find it puzzlingly tacky, psychotically weird, and weighted down by an exaggerated estimate of its own cleverness. Vigilent parents who wonder whether this book, like Armageddon II, deserves an "adult content advisory," might be concerned to hear the answer, "Ha, ha, yes, very much so." And after all that is said, I imagine there is a small market for a hard-boiled detective novel featuring a boy named Jack and his bestest friend, a stuffed bear named Eddie, in a city where nursery-rhyme characters and toys live, move, and have their being.
This is a naughty murder mystery in which an underage boy drinks, drives, and loses his virginity, together with a toy bear who likes to stand on his head while drunk so that the alcohol trickles into his sawdust brains. It is an often gruesome and oftener gross story in which denizens of a fairy-tale universe grapple with deep questions about God and the end of the world. It is a cosmically (and comically) bizarre romp amid cannibal farmers, clockwork cars, talking door-knockers, killer spider-women, and an evil twin who leaves hollow chocolate bunnies at the scenes of his crimes. It has some of the same twisted appeal as Jasper Fforde's "Nursery Crime" series, yet it remains the work of a unique stylist with a satirical outlook all his own. If this had been the first book by Robert Rankin I laid hands on, I might not have waited 20 years to try a second...
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 15+
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