Saturday, 17 February 2001

Robert Rankin: The Sprouts of Wrath (1988)

Edition: Sphere, 1988
Review number: 757

The fourth of Rankin's Brentford series is written along much the same lines as the first three. Following accidents and sabotage, Birmingham has to cancel its Olympics bid at the last minute, and a mysterious sponsor allows Brentford borough council to step in and take over. A stadium appears overnight, in the form of a pentagram made from a revolutionary new anti-gravitational substance, tethered in the air over the buildings of the London suburb.

The Sprouts of Wrath is not as funny as its predecessors, and this means that the chaotic nature of the plot is more exposed to view. There are some good ideas - perpetual layabouts Jim Pooley and John O'Malley having to find paid work; the attempt by the brewery to turn traditional pub The Flying Swan into an Olympic theme bar; the town councillors who believe themselves to be reincarnations of American Indian chiefs - but Rankin's heart doesn't really seem to be in it this time around.

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