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The Witches of Chiswick Hardcover – August 1, 2003

3.5 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Attention-deficit SF humor: like Douglas Adams on a sugar high. -- Kirkus Reviews

From the Publisher

We have all been lied to. A great and sinister conspiracy exists to keep us from uncovering the truth about our past. Have you ever wondered how Victorians like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells dreamed up all that fantastic futuristic fiction? Did it ever occur to you that it might have been based upon fact? That War of The Worlds was a true account of real events? That Captain Nemo’s Nautilus even now lies rusting at the bottom of the North Sea? And what about the other stuff? Did you know, for instance, that Jack the Ripper was a terminator robot sent from the future? Read on: Learn how a cabal of Victorian Witches from the Chiswick Townswomen’s Guild, working with advanced Babbage super computers, rewrote 19th–century history, and how a 21st–century boy called Billy Starling uncovered the truth about everything. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (August 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575073144
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575073142
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,833,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Rankin describes himself as a teller of tall tales. The Morning Star describes him as 'The Master of Silliness', and his publisher describes him as The Master of Far Fetched Fiction. He is the author of more than thirty novels, of which he has sold millions of copies, and he is published - and making people laugh - around the world.

Despite his remarkable publishing success, Robert has never taken himself too seriously. He loves going on tour, signing books for readers, and his appearances at signings and conventions are legendary, often including a stand-up routine, a song (accompanied by his 'air-ukulele'), and an always-entertaining question-and-answer session. Robert Rankin is a great entertainer, whether in person or through his novels, with wit, humour and an incredible personal warmth.

But that's not all! In addition to being a talented writer, comedian and musician, he's also an incredible artist . . . so incredible, that he creates his own stunning book covers.

Reading his books can and will inspire you, scare you, thrill you and, above all, entertain you. His novels are an outlet for the soul, and food for the imagination.

The Brentford Trilogy:

The Antipope
The Brentford Triangle
East of Ealing
The Sprouts of Wrath
The Brentford Chainstore Massacre
Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls
Knees Up Mother Earth
The Brightonomicon

The Armageddon Trilogy:

Armageddon: The Musical
They Came and Ate Us
The Suburban Book of the Dead

Cornelius Murphy Novels:

The Book of Ultimate Truths
Raiders of the Lost Car Park
The Most Amazing Man Who Ever Lived

The Trilogy That Dare Not Speak Its Name:

Sprout Mask Replica
The Dance of the Voodoo Handbag
Waiting for Godalming

The Witches Trilogy:

The Witches of Chiswick
Knees Up Mother Earth
The Brightonomicon

Eddie Bear Novels:

The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse
The Toyminator

Standalone Novels:

The Greatest Show Off Earth
The Garden of Unearthly Delights
A Dog Called Demolition
Nostradamus Ate My Hamster
Snuff Fiction
Web Site Story
The Fandom of the Operator
The Da-da-de-da-da Code

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
You know some books are like a roller-coaster ride (or at least they're described that way on the blurb.) This book is like a roller-coaster ride that has sections of track missing (intentionally) so that you unexpectedly plummet to new portions of track. It's dizzying in the best sense of the world.
It begins in a future (note: not THE future) with museum-worker Will discovering an odd discrepancy in a Victorian painting. I dare go no further in describing the plot, but it's hilarious, exciting, inventive, unexpected, and fresher than a new coat of apple-green paint. I loved it.
Warning: I was very distressed early on over a plotpoint (you'll know what I mean), but don't let it stop you--in this book, plotpoints are made to be broken ... it is about time travel, after all.
This is a sparkling, marvellous book. It's only my second Rankin (I read Hollow Chocolate Bunnies first) so I come to him with a neophyte's enthusiasm that will hopefully remain undimmed with time.
Note: a 3 star ranking from me is actually pretty good; I reserve 4 stars for tremendously good works, and 5 only for the rare few that are or ought to be classic; unfortunately most books published are 2 or less.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If anyone reads my reviews, they will realize that I only bother with either outstanding works or, conversely, those that are ridiculously over-praised about which the reader must be warned. Every once in a while, however, I write to correct a grievous wrong. Robert Rankin is the British author of over 20 novels few of which have even made it to this country; none of which have been given the credit they deserve. This is a crime against nature that makes global warming appear no more than a pin-prick. Most, if not all, of Rankin's work could fall under the rubric of "Science-Fiction". But that genre isn't nearly large enough to hold the mind of Robert Rankin. It is impossible, in so limited a space, to even begin to describe the plot of "Witches of Chiswick". Suffice to say it is about time-travel. But that's not the point. As Roger Ebert has noted about films (and by extension any work of art) it's not "what they are about, but how they are about it." And, oh, how this is "about it". There has rarely been as funny, as inventive, as complex, as clever, as... well, you get the idea... as this. In fact, with the exception of the (later-in-time) works of Jasper Fforde, I can only think of a slew of books bearing the name "Rankin" that even come close. Will you like it? Simple test; here are some other Rankin titles: "The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse", "Nostradamus Ate My Hamster", "The Raiders of the Lost Carpark", "Armageddon the Musical". If these titles alone do NOT make you an instant fan who wants IMMEDIATELY to read the books, then, no, you will not like them. You will also be marked a wrong-thinker who should be drummed out of the literary establishment, but, hey! it's up to you.
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Format: Paperback
At one point in The Witches of Chiswick our protagonist (one of numerous William Starlings in the novel) says "If this were a book or a movie, the critics would tear it to pieces, saying the hero was two dimensional and the entire sorry business unconvincing and totally plot-led."

The author makes a number of references like this (characters refer to things that `happened in earlier chapters' or point out continuity problems in the story). The author is essentially winking at the reader, as if to say "We both know this is all pretty silly."

The plot here is absurd, convoluted, and seems not to have been entirely thought out. The pleasure in the novel comes, not from a plot that really doesn't make much sense, but rather from the writing itself. Rankin has a writing style that demands to be read out loud (if not actually spoken, at least read out loud in one's own head.)

The entire novel has an amusing tone but I can't say that anyone ever caught me laughing out loud while I read it. It did have me smiling most of the way though. This is a novel that features a boy who was raised by snails (they call him Snail Boy of course), talking vegetables that you insert in your ear, and a cabal of pinch-faced witches who fancy quilting and world domination. The novel portrays John Merrick (the Elephant Man) as an oversexed alien human hybrid spy, Queen Victoria (God Bless Her) as a party girl who parades around in diaphanous outfits wearing nothing else but high heeled clogs, Oscar Wilde as a `ladies man', and HG Wells as an invisible (literally), obnoxious and frustrated scientist.

The Witches of Chiswick is amusing enough* but lacks the big laughs needed to inspire a `four star' rating.
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Format: Paperback
Well, what to say about this rather strange novel. It has the most ludicrous, unbelievable and strange story of anything I have ever read but, bizarrely, it was a rather enjoyable and compelling read. It should have been very hard to follow, what with everyone time travelling all over the place and meeting other versions of themselves from different futures and pasts but it actually flowed very well and even my simple mind managed to keep all the characters (and multiples thereof) in some 'semblence of order.

One of my sayings is "that history is written by the victors" and this book, in some ways, adds fuel to my fire of conspiracy theories that do we really know the truth from history or just one persons account of it!

The jokes peppered throughout this book were groaningly corny at all times but did make me chuckle out loud on several occasions. The author managed to fit a lot of literary quotes, historical events, historical characters and the corny jokes quite well into the story. Not a book for everyone but I am finding it difficult to suggest who would like it or not. One to read if you already have it but I wouldn't suggest that you rush out to acquire it especially. A good book to read between heavier tomes if you want something that gives you some thought but is very tongue in cheek.

I was hooked in trying to see where it ended as there were so many loose ends to tie up and I was keen to see how the author handled it. I was slightly disappointed in the ending but it seems, by his own words, that the author may be writing more books linking on from this story and I suppose they will tie up the loose ends. This left me rather frustrated and I really was not wanting to read another story like this one in the near future but feel I should seek it out now to finish the story - clever marketing ploy!!!

Anyway, 3 out of 5, although nearly a 4.
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