A Lord wants to unite several worlds through a Grand Exposition, a scientist hopes to create a working time ship, a femme fatale is looking to destroy the world by inducing the End Of Days and, amid all this, a detective and his monkey associate are trying unsuccessfully to stay out of trouble.
This is part of Rankin’s meta-Victorian series and, as always, you don’t necessarily have to read all of the other books but it certainly helps. I came into the book with a blank slate as regards the series and it certainly didn’t put me off.
As I’ve said in my other reviews of Rankin’s books, I’m not firmly in the fan camp of the author. However, I’m not too proud to admit when I’m wrong. This may be the book that changes my opinion on Rankin. I really enjoyed this book and found it to be more accessible than Rankin’s others.
From the ridiculousness of air travel safety procedures – why would someone blow up a suspicious device? Surely that’s the point of them – to an awards ceremony that ends in a monkey dung flinging debacle, Rankin manages to find the humour in most situations. Even the notion of the Circle Line being a large hadron collider at night is fantastically silly, especially if you’ve ever travelled on it in rush hour.
There is also excellent pacing in this novel and Rankin manages to weave a lot of strands together expertly without them ever getting muddled or staying too long away from one plotline before it all comes together in the last act.
What I enjoyed most about this book was the level of respect between Cameron Bell and his monkey assistant, Darwin. They’re the best of friends even when they don’t exactly know who they are and the latter is more than simple comic relief. To counter-balance the silliness that exudes from the novel, the two have some very touching scenes, especially close to end of the book when their ultimate fate is revealed.
As stated earlier, this may be the book that changes my mind on Rankin. Perhaps that’s something to put long-time fans off but I would highly recommend this novel.
(pub: Gollancz. 483 page enlarged paperback. Price: £16.99. ISBN: 978-0-575-08641-8)