Twentieth Century Monkey

The Educated Ape and Other Wonders of the Worlds, by Robert Rankin – The follow-up to The Mechanical Messiah gives us more adventures of Darwin the talking monkey and consulting detective Cameron Bell in a steampunk version of Victorian London. Well, Victorian London and Mars, actually. As is common in Rankin’s books, there’s an apocalyptic plot involved, with an antichrist who happens to be the Queen’s twin sister who lives in a pink palace on Mars. I have to say I didn’t find this one to be as inventive or engaging as its predecessor. It was nice to see the characters again, but in many ways it felt like a rehash. Even the idea of the year 1900 heralding a massive upheaval in civilization already appeared in The Witches of Chiswick. I’ve noted before that this series doesn’t appear to be directly linked to any of Rankin’s other books, despite using some of the same themes. In this book, however, the young Winston Churchill’s assistant is named Pooley, so there might be some connection there. I still haven’t read the first book in the series, but I’ve heard there are some more recurring characters in that one. A lot of Educated Ape is clearly paving the way for a sequel, as Darwin’s travels in the time ship and the recurring gag about humans being descended from chickens are never really addressed. Since the next book is called The Chickens of Atlantis and is written from Darwin’s perspective, I have to suspect these elements come into play there.

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