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VINE VOICEon 9 April 2005
Robert Rankins' 19th novel follows the fortunes of Doveston - snuff kingpin and all round bad egg, and the misfortunes that befall his biographer. Once again Rankin has crafted a tale where his sheer unbridled lunacy is harnessed to a rip-roaring fantasy plot, and enough jokes and tall tales (or load of old toot) to provide plenty of belly laughs along the way.
The device of the biographer relating the life story of Doveston enables Rankin to add a great deal of variety to the book, so we start with a 1950's schooldays satire, head on to a 1960's hippy festival called Brentstock (yes - Rankin has used the rock festival idea before, but it's still hilarious here, with the hero attempting to power the entire concert through his kitchen mains plug after forgetting to hire any power generators), miss out the 1970's altogether (well, the biographer hero did spend the decade in jail), before we get 1980's yuppie corporate culture and the 1990's gives way to the faked (yet still ultimately deadly) Millennium Bug. Of course, this being a Rankin novel the climax involves a deadly man-eating menace that is at least part sprout.
As well as providing Rankin with a wealth of material, it also provides him with an opportunity to revisit dozens of old characters - with Norman Hartnell getting a good solid chunk of the action, and cameos from the likes of Pooley & Omally, Professor Merlin (from The Greatest Show Off Earth), Lazlo Woodbine, Danbury Collins, Elvis and others even more obscure (remember the mythical girl who always rode on others shoulders at rock concerts from Sprout Mask Replica?), and even having fun with the history of Brentford itself, with the hilarious inclusion of many (now mysteriously vanished) ethnic quarters.
As such, while the main storyline and characters are new, and this book can be enjoyed as a standalone novel, this is one occasion when you really would get more out of this novels many throwaway references and cameos if you had actually read a good dozen or more of Rankin's previous books first.
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on 2 May 2001
Robert Rankin, the Father of Far-Fetched Fiction and ripping great comic fantasy writer, offers us "Snuff Fiction" which follows the spiral to fame of the Doveston, one of those timeless recurring Rankin characters. But in "Snuff Fiction" there is a much required twist; it is not a mere hagiography bringing the Doveston's achievements and prestige into everyone's forebrain...but because it is told from the perspective of the Doveston's long time companion-cum-foe Edwin, it is more of an inward look at how the Doveston perpetrated so numerous events and utilized Edwin as the innocent scapegoat. "Snuff Fiction" is a truly great Rankin novel, and albeit is a meagre snack for teh cerebellum, and does not put on a pretense it has an intensely complex plot, it works rather well. Towards the climax of the novel we receive much of the same sardonic Rankin surprises that have become numbingly predictable, unfortunately, and some of the satire of the book can lead to being extremely tasteless and a little unfunny, but the humour is strong and irrepressible throughout, and most of Rankin's jokes induce outbursts of chuckles rather than otherwise. "Snuff Fiction" also follows the destruction of the computing technology required for a smoothly operated planet, which sends Earth into habitual darkness, but even as the chimeras are stalking innocent actors and the flayed corpse of Michael Jackson with his amorous chimp named Bubbles, we see Edwin and Norman Hartnell (no you pillocks, the *other* one) striding through the remains strong and proud...with a cross-dressing green-lipsticked hitman gnawing at their ankles... "Snuff Fiction" is a rip-roaring, highly inventive farce at the Oliveresque years of tense school boarding which then develops into anarchic Brentfordian fantasy and science fiction, with suitable old jokes popping up every now and then. We see cameos both held by Danbury Collins and Lazlo Woodbine, and the inaugural invention of the yo-yo. Great fun, mildly surreal, following the likes of "Nostradamus Ate My Hamster" and "Apocalypso" into the memories of mice and men...
...Er...
...Snuff said.
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on 28 November 2000
Fantastic stuff! "Snuff Fiction" is one of Rankin's best, a pseudo-memoir written in 2008 about the life of the Doveston, purveyor of the world's best tobacco (and explosives).
While all Rankin's books are funny, this one's storytelling lifts it above the rest. All too often Rankin drops plot threads and writes (intentionally) dense prose. "Snuff Fiction" has his trademark hyper-kinetic writing style while, for once, admirably wrapping everything up at the end. It's a great balance of clever storytelling, some effectively disturbing passages, and overall a lot of laughs.
"Snuff Fiction" is well worth purchasing, even with the extra costs for shipping to the States. Here's hoping Rankin finds a U.S. publisher some day!
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on 16 July 2012
It always helps to have read previous Rankin books before his later ones, but Snuff Fiction takes all the usual in jokes and self referential humour and gives it a darker, much darker twist than ever before. The humour here is balanced by the horrors suffered by Edwin, the narrator, as he gets all the bad luck while his childhood friend Doveston sets him up for fall after fall and gets all the success at his expense.

Usually the person who has had all the bad times gets a reprieve sooner or later, but not here. Here the humour of the situation, whilst there and very funny, takes a back seat and the ultimate fate of Edwin is not just an example of how Rankin can avoid humour when he likes, but how he can, if he wants, write true, horrific, heart wrenching drama and do it far less pretentiously than most writers who claim to be serious.

Edwin's friendship with Doveston, even though Doveston basically just uses him all the way through, is written realistically, making Edwin a truly sympathetic character. Unlike many of Rankin's characters who only appear in one story, Edwin evokes sympathy and is written 3 dimensionally. He is not written simply for shock value and he is fleshed out as a character without the contrived emoting that other writers use as a substitute for genuine character depth.

I feel that those who do not like this book have just seen it as another Rankin book and have not tried to understand why it is different. It is hands down the most mature of his books, despite the usual madcap stuff going on, and for me the best thing Rankin has ever written, feeling like it truly comes from the heart as opposed to being fun and frenetic for the hell of it.

Go in without expectations for best results.
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on 31 August 2000
A very interesting and humorous story set over 4 decades of English life. Recommended reading for any one who wishes to read something funny and frivilous, and definately recommended for any one who has enjoyed a previous Rankin book. I have read all of this books ( quite a few, ) and I rate this one as joint tops with "The Sprouts of Wrath."
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on 18 January 2000
Every year, something, be it contractual obligation, irresistable creative urge or just the need to pay the mortgage, drives Robert Rankin to get out his writing tools, and rattles of another remarkable tome. It's fluff, of course, but side splittingly funny fluff.
This time, Rankin concerns himself (yet again) with underhand plots to take over Brentford and the World. This time it is interwoven with a life long association between one man and his best mate and antithesis. Sprinkled with snuff, and intertwined with the Y2K problem.
Classic Rankin, hilarious and compelling whilst being almost completely un-thought-provoking. Unputdownable, whilst being almost completely inconsequential. Marvelous... buy two copies, one for home and one for the car.
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on 26 March 2000
Hmmm. If this is your first Rankin book, give him another chance! Go and read the Brentford Trilogy first!
This was a fun, and like all Rankin stuff, easy read. However, it didn't strike me as being up to the usual standard. Still good, but not his best.
Unlike a previous reviewer, I liked Apocalypso better.
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on 27 June 2000
Although i have only read about five of Mr Rankins books I have to say that this is the best one to date. I could now string togather a long line of words such as captivatating and rivating but i think in said i will the simple thing of just telling you to read it.
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on 10 August 1999
Yet another work of comic genius. Robert Rankin is one of the few authors who consistently entertains me. I don't think i've ever failed to enjoy one of his books.
I can't wait for "Sex Drugs and Sausege Rolls" to come out this December.
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on 17 August 1999
Ahhhh... this is much better. Mr Rankin once again entertains as only he can.... Much of an improvement over apocalypso.... an amusing yet creepily spooky read.... not too much overplay of the running gags.... splendid!
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