The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse

Reviewer: Diane Christoforo

Author: Robert Rankin

Published: 2002

Reviewed: 2008-03-26

Publisher: Orion Books Limited

I chose to read this book solely because of the cover. For a long
time, MITSFS's hardcover copy was sitting face out on the crowded
shelf. Every time I'd walk over to the Pratchetts, I'd notice these
angry demon-biker-bunnies staring at me. And the title was
delightfully ridiculous. Ragnarok, with bunnies? How could I resist?

When I actually took the book *out*, I saw the back cover. It
features Robert Rankin, dressed like a man-in-black, holding an
electric drill.


It turns out there isn't actually a Ride of the Valkyrbunnies, but the
book is very entertaining anyway. It's actually a film-noir-ish
detective story, but with, um, well, nursery rhyme characters.

Our brave and youthful hero, Jack[1], goes to the big city to make his
fortune. But when he gets there, he finds out it's Toy City, where
magical living toys live in cheerfully-painted houses made of alphabet
blocks, and all is well under the benevolent eye of the kindly old
toymaker. Except that everything went to hell a long time ago.

The city's dark, gritty, and falling apart. Jack makes it
approximately five seconds before being mugged. The cops are brutish
jerks. The women are gold-diggers. The friendly old ladies will
probably beat you up and steal your lunch money. The actual nursery
rhyme characters[2] rule the city with fat, jewel-bedecked fists[3].
Nobody's seen the toymaker in years.

It also turns out there's a serial killer on the loose, knocking off
the nursery rhyme characters in ironic and variably disgusting ways.
Jack teams up with Eddie Bear, whose recently-missing owner, Bill
Winkie, was the city's only private eye. But Eddie was the brains of
the operation, anyway.

It gets weirder from there.

The book is full of mayhem, and action which I can only describe as
"madcap." It's sort of like the Island of Misfit Toys meets "Who
Framed Roger Rabbit?" The book features, in no particular order: car
chases, guns, murder, explosions, murder via explosions, drinking,
secret societies, prostitution, more murder, fire, drinking, drinking
AND driving, a sinister chocolate factory nobody's come out of in
years, death by fryolator, underage prostitution, hangovers, cults,
kidnapping, and murder. Oh, and hollow chocolate bunnies.

Nothing is sacred. Everything's up for being mocked in one way or
another, especially the genre. There's a certain amount of
meta-awareness, in that Jack has *read* the Bill Winkie detective
novels and has mostly figured out that he's fallen into one (although
that's an oversimplification of what's going on). In the first
chapter, Jack runs into a farmer who tells him Not To Go To the City
Lest He Find His Doom. Both characters seem a little bored. "Yes,
yes, conventions dictate that an old man warn the young boy, but can
we get on with the plot?" I both found this amusing and was very
surprised when the next seventeen things that happened *didn't*
conform to genre.

Rankin's use of language is pretty creative. Eddie has an analogy
problem: he can say someone's "as clever as" but never manages to
finish off the sentence. The characters have a tendency to repeat
phrases used in the narration, as though they're hearing it, too.
When Jack has an experience he can't appropriately describe, Rankin
breaks out the made-up words (and "Rapantaderely phnargacious" is a
great phrase, even if it doesn't mean anything). At one point, the
characters have a very large meal in which every element is
alliterative. I also suspect I'm missing a lot of puns (although I'm
probably happier that way).

Some of the violence is kind of gruesome. You may squick out more
easily than I do. Some of the "a 13-year-old is doing what now?" is
kind of creepy. You may squick out less easily than I do[4].

Overall, I enjoyed the book a lot. It was a relatively quick read.
It's funny and fast-paced, with a lot of "I cannot believe that just
happened" moments. I've already checked out "Eddie Bear, Private
Detective," which contains both "Hollow Chocolate Bunnies ..." and its
sequel, "The Toyminator."

And if anyone can recommend some 30s detective novels, let me know.

[1] Not Jack-the-Giant-Killer, Jack Sprat,
Jack-who-jumped-over-the-candlestick, or Jack of Jack & Jill.
Just Jack.

[2] Or Preadolescent Poetic Personalities, as they prefer to be called.

[3] There was this movie called "The Aristocrats," about a very dirty
joke. These are the people the joke was about.

[4] After reading the book, I found myself saying, "Why was I bothered
by a thirteen-year-old visiting a prostitute, if I wasn't going to
be bothered by a man being boiled alive in his own swimming pool?"
I've concluded, in retrospect, that either a) Rankin was trying to
make sure that everyone reading his book went "Ew" at least once,
and that's just what did it for me, b) in the world of nursery
rhymes, 13 *is* an adult, or c) Jack is every bit as much of a
cartoon character as anybody else in the book, and should be
viewed about as seriously. Can I take "d)"---all of the above?