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The Witches of Chiswick

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  1,672 Ratings  ·  95 Reviews
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 dreamed up all that fantastic futuristic fiction? Did it ever occur to you that it might just have been based upon fact? That THE WAR OF THE WORLDS was a true account of real events? That Captain Nemo' s Nautilus even no
Paperback, 400 pages
Published December 15th 2010 by Gollancz (first published 2003)
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Petula Darling
Feb 28, 2010 Petula Darling rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was kind of like a many-hours-long episode of Monty Python. There were moments of pure brilliance, moments of pure silliness, and a few too many moments where I wished the story would just move along and start making sense.

I don't know that I'll read more Robert Rankin, but I felt this book deserved four stars for the many times that it made me laugh out loud.
May 13, 2008 Anne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I really liked The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse, so I decided to give a few other Rankin books a try. This was the first I've read since Bunnies, and because of this, I think I'll read The Toyminator (the sequel to Bunnies) and then stick with Terry Pratchett, Jasper Fforde, Tom Holt, and Christopher Moore when I want to read weird/funny fantasy fiction. So why didn't I like this book? It was an interesting story, if quite convoluted, and the characters were pretty well-written, to ...more
Feb 27, 2012 Nicole rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction

On paper this sounds like something I would love - comedy, conspiracy, magic, and a fantastic steam punk version of the past. What a combo! And maybe that's the problem; the author is trying to cram too many fabulous things in to one little book.

The story contains loads of rapid fire dialogue. So rapid, in fact, that it becomes difficult to determine who is saying what without revisiting the whole conversation and carefully noting each interjection. This is made more cumbersome by the layout, wh

Almost as funny as Terry Pratchett. Rankin's style is different than Pratchett. Pratchett has humor and points. His characters are real people. Rankin is funny, his characters aren't real people. What drives the book is the humor and the playing on ideas. This playing is very clever and very real. Rankin mocks society but gently. He mocks convention.
Danger Kallisti
Feb 12, 2008 Danger Kallisti rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like kooky BBC sci-fi shows
Shelves: sci-fi
Robert Rankin's all the best things about English satirical Sci-Fi writers, and he's new (to me, at least). I haven't read anything that was purely fun like this was in a very long time. Now I want to find the other dozen or so books he's written. I learned a lot of Victorian weirdness along the way, so I guess even then, it didn't completely break my rule of never reading anything that didn't teach me something or expand my mind.
Dec 30, 2010 Kate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, humour
I wanted to like this book.

I really did.

But damn, did Rankin ever make it difficult.

It's not the self-referential humour or the constant breaking of the fourth wall - I love Jasper Fforde, after all. It's not the continual typos, pulling me out of the novel. It's not the fact that a large portion of the book is clearly aimed squarely at people who've read every last book in Rankin's oeuvre, and damn the masses.

Nope, it's simply the fact that it has a crappy plot, and revels annoyingly in that f
Susan Kelley
Nov 15, 2007 Susan Kelley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: humor lovers, those who enjoy fantasy.
Are we all living a lie? Is it possible that our advanced technology is primitive compared to what Victorians were using? What if?

Young Will Starling is living a normal, if boring, life in the 23rd century. He works at the former Tate Museum, proofing the scans of artwork that it onced housed. It's a dull and thankless job, but not for Will. He loves art and culture, something that has died out in his time. He particularly enjoys the art of the 19th century. Will is complacent with his lot in li
Katie Mercer
Apr 10, 2012 Katie Mercer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
You can't even imagine how much I wanted to like this book. The awkward thing is I say that EVERY time I pick up a new Rankin Book. The thing is when Rankin is good, he's really shut the front door good. Funny, strange, ridiculous break the fourth wall hilarious, mildly eccentric blah blah. When he's bad though (and please please cult following don't hurt me) he's basically unreadable. This one oddly fell smack dab in the middle for me. I was almost embarrassingly apathetic about this book. I st ...more
Isabel (kittiwake)
Gammon viewed the screen.
It was covered in little icons, in the shape of bats and pumpkins, cauldrons and black cats, and broomsticks. Below each of these were little titles: My incantations. Mu book of shadows. My favourite curses. My wart charms. And so on and so forth, and not very funny at all.
'Cool,' said Tim. 'What shall we go for?'
'If I might make a suggestion,' said Gammon. 'Select My World Domination Proposal.'
'Good choice that,' said Tim and he moved the silver star-shaped mouse.

Not pa
Perhaps my favorite Rankin yet (though every one is a favorite when I am reading it.) So improbably probable; so outrageously quirky. Rankin has that slightly skewed view of the world which I adore.

This particular tale involves bad guys (or gals, as they are witches) mucking about with history to hide the real Victorian era from us. You know, the time when computers were commonplace, when Tesla towers gave us electricity, when handsome cabs flew and so forth. Or then there's the view of "curren
Brian Clegg
I am a big Robert Rankin fan, and Witches of Chiswick has lots of great elements - a dystopian future, a steampunk Victorian England which features a mixture of the real - Jack the Ripper, the Elephant man (who is working for the Martians and H. G. Wells) and the fictional such as Sherlock Holmes. And there are plenty of old friends like the Flying Swan (and Neville), Hugo Rune and Barry the time sprout. The book also has some of Rankin's trademark delights - for instance, the decor in a future ...more
Jun 16, 2011 Jennie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
I enjoyed this book very much. It was light-hearted, silly, and engaging.

There are, however, some reasons why you might not like this book.

1. You hate puns. Or preposterous things. Or both. (I happen to enjoy both very much, as long as they confine themselves to the realm of fiction.)

2. You are a huge fan of Rothko. Or Schwarzenegger. Or both. (Frankly, I would not mind if I never saw a work from the bodies of work of either of these fellows again. Yes, that includes Hercules in New York. Sorry,
Nov 07, 2010 Beth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book. I'm a big fan of Jasper Fforde (whimsy) and Connie Willis (time travel) and when I read the other reviews of this book it seemed it combined the two.

It didn't.

Yes, time travel was there. But as for whimsy ... no. The author obviously thought he was being funny and quirky, and just to make sure the reader knew he was being funny and quirky he made the various characters comment on that fact. His writing style was so overdrawn and unnatural it took me two weeks t
This book tried really REALLY hard to be funny. There was a pun pretty much in every paragraph. And why at times this did raise a few smiles, most of the times i was groaning inwardly. It all felt a bit panto. I do love a good panto but it doesn't quite work in a book.

Rankin's writing reminded me of Terry Pratchett and Jasper Fforde mashed together, these are both authors I really wanted to like but can only drum up some warm enthusiasm for. And it was the same with Rankin, I thought I would
Oct 16, 2011 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This started out harmless enough with a little sci-fi and some humor, and then added witches, and time travel, and then more time travel, and then HG Wells, and Mary Poppins and the Elephant Man, and then it started getting strange!

I certainly like my humor goofy, but this got downright silly, with verbal slap-stick and absurd scenarios. I really felt that large sections of the book did nothing to advance the story, and by the end I am not sure I was even following exactly what was going on
Jo Woolfardis
[Quick review from memory before I re-read and re-review at a later date]

(Don't recall the plot, but it's Rankin so it's bound to be good. Intrigued to know why I thought this one was SO good, though.)
Scott Holstad
Jul 18, 2015 Scott Holstad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the absolute craziest books I've ever read in my life! The author is clearly insane. Or British. He's British and has that British sense of humor, sort of a Terry Pratchett meets Monty Python on acid. This book is nuts.

Will Starling lives in a London suburb with his parents in the 23rd century. Everyone except him is fat, and his is teased mercilessly for being slim. He lives in a 300 story high rise and it's a dystopia now, with acid rain, non-existent technology, synthetic foods
Brian Malbon
The thing about Robert Rankin is that when he's good, he's absolutely amazing - funny, bizarre, and skewed this side of Douglas Adams that it's worth reading. When he's bad, however, he's unreadable, although I would bet that the members of his cult following would disagree. Unluckily for a casual reader like me, who has difficulty finding his books on this side of the Atlantic, most of the Rankin novels I have managed to find are in the bad category. Luckily for me, however, the ones I have fou ...more
Okay, I just can’t resist including one more wacky, off the wall, wierd and supernatural story that also happens to be laugh-out-loud funny. If you’re like most Americans, you’ve probably never heard of Robert Rankin. And that’s all right. I was like you once too. But, now I know who he is and why his books are great fun, and my life is so much better for it. Rankin (not to be confused with Ian Rankin, the British Mystery writer) is a British author who writes what he calls “far-fetched fiction” ...more
Mar 10, 2012 Hazel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 'sembl ...more
M.G. Mason
Aug 09, 2011 M.G. Mason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a dystopian future where people live in giant towers, religions have been replaced by the worship of commerce and the rain really is acidic, Will Starling is cataloguing Victorian art when he discovers that one of the figures in one scan has a digital watch. When he brings this to the attention of his manager he is ordered to destroy it. Instead he chooses to hide it within the archives.

When he is hunted by a clockwork killer robot from 1899, he finds himself trapped in a centuries-old conspi
What a strange book. If you are into time travel, conspiracy theories and weirdness, this is a book for you. Having read another of Rankin's books, I was pretty aware of how twisted his mind is. This is not a sequel in any way related to the Chocolate Bunnies, but a completely different alternate universe.

Basically, the plot revolves around Will, who is way too interested in the 19th century for his own good. He lives in the 22nd century, in a world that doesn't seem to fit him at all. As a resu
James Barnard
It’s hard to quantify exactly what it is that keeps me coming back to Robert Rankin’s work, except to say there’s a broad, occasionally filthy sense of humour there that’s very hard to resist. However strong the plot of each book may be – and ‘The Witches of Chiswick’ does indeed have a strong plot – it’s that ability to amuse that shines through. Here, whole passages are devoted to a knowing wink to the audience that everything is getting a bit clichéd.

Rankin’s formula is a winning one – misfit
May 02, 2007 Ravi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People with a high tolerance for puns, far fetched plots and downright silly humour
Robert Rankin is the sort of author that people talk about when they speak of something being an 'acquired' taste. The Witches of Chiswick is one of the best in what I, avid fan as I am, consider a decidedly uneven bibliography. The book is set in a future where the thin are the victims of jibes and slights from a predominantly fat populace; but it doesn't stay there for very long. It's intrepid hero William, on discovering a digital watch in a 19th century painting, is quickly shunted into an a ...more
Matti Uusitalo
Jan 27, 2015 Matti Uusitalo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up recommended by Goodreads. It was the first novel that I've ever read from Robert Rankin.

Although I was expecting a good amount of humour, the amount of over the top wackiness was dismaying. The fourth wall is constantly broken and poorly executed pop culture references are aplenty. The author all but confesses the low amount of effort put into the work at one point in the novel and it is quite easy to believe.

Comparisons to Terry Pratchett come naturally as it seems that some of
Mar 09, 2014 Thecraft rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't like this type of book. I don't like Terry Pratchett or Tom Holt, I can see why people would but I don't. I have however read every book that Robert Rankin has written :) He is the exception, I have never read a bad book by him, some are better than others, some make more sense than others - but it doesn't matter. None are funnier. This is one of my favourites and really set the tone for much of his later books with the whole victorian/steampunk thing. The only other two authors broadly ...more
All the other reviews are right - this book is quite a fun roller coaster ride, taking the reader back and forth through time and different pasts and futures as Will and Tim get tangled up in an evil plot.

My only problem with this book is the ending. It really seemed to me that after such a wonderfully-written book, Rankin gave up about 10 pages before the end, and left way too many questions in my mind (most of which I won't spoil for you now) and wrote what I felt was a cop-out ending (which,
I don't exactly remember when or why I bought this book, but I'm glad I finally read it because after a failed attempt to get into Terry Pratchett I was wondering whether I had lost the ability to laugh at books. While the jokes in Witches of Chiswick are distinctly hit and miss, the hits both outnumber the misses and are genuinely funny. Rankin tries to be funny instead of trying to be clever and he benefits for it. They would probably be even funnier if I had understood half the British refere ...more
Feb 16, 2012 wrench rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dystopias
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 18, 2010 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This had the potential to be a great book rather than a passable book. Time travel, alternative histories and futures, robots and aliens and witches promise an intriguing read. But my frustration with Rankin, the author, is that he never fails to cheapen his work by throwing out every bit of purposeless jargon he can think of, in addition to unnecessarily crude and/or lame humor. The quality level, and the intelligence level of the story suffer as a result. We are cheated once again, from what c ...more
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"When Robert Rankin embarked upon his writing career in the late 1970s, his ambition was to create an entirely new literary genre, which he named Far-Fetched Fiction. He reasoned that by doing this he could avoid competing with any other living author in any known genre and would be given his own special section in WH Smith."
(from Web Site Story)

Robert Rankin describes himself as a teller of tall
More about Robert Rankin...

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