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Knees Up Mother Earth is a well-produced insight into the sort of writing Robert Rankin is able to produce when he's on form. Continuing well with a set of characters who came to fruition seven-or-so books previously, the author manages to weave a plot not devoid of nonsensical calamity, but also ripe with good humour and clever story-telling.
Although Rankin can have a tendancy to run with an over-abundance of obvious running gags, getting lost in a tangle of crossing sub-plots and messy jokes, this is not the case with the latest addition to the Brentford Trilogy - a trilogy in four parts, in five books. Which now spans seven. This is also the second book in the Witches of Chiswick Trilogy, though don't let that confuse you.
Three major plots present themselves in the line-up that constitutes this knees-up-in-a-book: the recovery of a Victorian system of electricity transmission, resulting in what Norman Hartnell, the local shopkeeper, hopes will be his long-deserved uncovering of the Big Number (that which describes all reality); the appearance of a strange man who wishes to purchase the Brentford Bees' hallowed football stadium, who later becomes a satanic thorn in everyone's side; and the appointment of Jim Poolley as the manager of the faltering Bees.
Seemingly mindful of the folly of becoming too involved in repetitive humour, the author describes each character, scene and circumstance with a wide range of humourous description and a plethora of literary devices, to excellent effect. The participants in the story are as rich in character as ever and it's easy to empathise with those whose task it is to do what must be done.
The story revolves around the absolute necessity of preventing the darkest imaginable forces from releasing the embodiment of original temptation in a plot to destroy the Earth. How? By playing football. Brentford must win the FA Cup. And our favourite leading double act are the pair of men to do it. With a little help from Professor Slocombe and his magical warrior friend, the Campbell.
For a book so heavily weighted on the outcome of a series of football matches, there really is very little (none, in fact, for the first half) football involved in the book. Rankin manages to describe a series of far-fetched football frolics without delving into the world of soccer sensationalism. And much for the better.
Culminating in the smooth yet surprising splicing together of all the plots and sub-plots (as you'd hope), with a veritable feast of hilarious happenings along the way, Knees Up Mother Earth lodges itself firmly amongst the higher echelon of Rankin-produced humour, in this writer's opinion.
Whether you've read the rest of the series or not, this is as good a place as any to start, or just to join in again.