Earlier this year, someone on an online forum I frequent offered to send a mystery box of books to anyone who would be willing to pay to have them shipped. Given that I like free books, I had read enough of this person's reviews to know he had good taste in fiction, and I always like to discover new books and authors, I took him up on his offer. I received a nice selection of books in a large Flat Rate box, and this was one of the books among them.
I've heard the name Robert Rankin before, but I didn't know much about him, and now that I've finished this book, I think maybe I was thinking this guy was Rudy Rucker, or even Charles Stross (I don't know how to explain how my memory works). I mean, Rankin probably has more in common with Terry Pratchett than either of those authors, given the nature of this book. Then again, the cover of the book features what could best be described as a dominatrix teapot, so I'm not sure why I was all that surprised.
The story follows a character named Doveston, narrated by his childhood friend Edwin, who has been by his side from his days as a fast-talking street urchin to a current-day (-ish) tobacco mogul. "Story", though, might be an overly generous term, as what little plot there is is just there to keep us moving from one random encounter to another. Sure, we see what drove Doveston on his journey, but mostly this book is a collection of humorous anecdotes from his life. One of those anecdotes involves the first time Doveston grew his own tobacco (genetically modified, of course) with plans to sell them at a Woodstock-type music festival in the London borough of Brentford. Hijinks, of course, ensue, namely because Doveston and Edwin are both around fifteen at the time of this anecdote, but also because Doveston's homegrown tobacco was genetically modified.
The book made me laugh at its absurdity. Rankin has a clever, witty style, coupled with a wacky imagination that I can appreciate. Doveston has a lot of charm, but he's also rarely every up to any good for anyone else; much of his antics develop because he's trying to get what he wants at the expense of others (which usually turns out to be Edwin). In fact, much of the story is keeping up with Doveston and predicting what's going to happen to him next.
I enjoyed the book, but not enough to seek out any of Rankin's other books. With Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett already on my shelf, and with Rankin feeling more like an imitator than an original, I just don't see myself picking up the rest of his catalog.