Posts Tagged ‘The Japanese Fish Girl and Other Unnatural Attractions’

While, in broad terms, The Japanese Devil Fish Girl is much the same as any other Robert Rankin novel – a plucky but unlikely hero must save the world from the forces of darkness – it has a different feel to any of the author’s books. I put this down to two things: the Victorian setting and the presence of a strong female protagonist.

The setting is key to the story. The novel takes place in a post-War of the Worlds era where Britain has conquered Mars and has been welcomed into the solar system’s family of space-faring races – which include the jolly Burghers of Jupiter and the aloof Ecclesiastics of Venus. This is much more of a science fictional setting than many of Rankin’s other books – although the story does concern a race to find and control the ├╝ber-goddess, Sayito, also known as the Japanese Devil Fish Girl, source of all religions in the universe.

George Fox and his employer, Professor Cagliostro Coffin, display a pickled Martian at fairs around the land until George receives a prophecy that the fate of worlds hangs upon his shoulders, whereupon they formulate a much grander plan, although the details of this plan often strike George as somewhat untoward. Ada Lovelace is a stowaway on the luxurious airship, the Empress of Mars, with whom George strikes up a friendship – and who may or may not be more than she appears.

The narrative is as polished as you’d expect from a man whose stories are all variations on a theme. It moves along at a rapid pace and is full of all the quirky incidents and rewritings of history that you would expect – a series of footnotes explain that the recorded death dates of the personages appearing in the novel – Babbage and Tesla, for instance – are woefully inaccurate.

As with many of Rankin’s later novels, there were far fewer laugh-out-loud moments than I remember from his earlier books, but reading this volume was still a pleasure.

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