“Once you’re a fan of something or someone, you’re stuck to it.”
The Fandom of the Operator, as you can probably tell from the title and the cover, is one of those highly silly books, in the vein of Tom Holt and Douglas Adams, that is supposed to mock and satirise fantasy, SF, or any one of a multitude of genres, or possibly all genres at once. It’s supposed to be funny, is what I’m saying. It’s supposed to make you laugh.
Gary Cheese takes a job at a telephone exchange, and uproots a massive government conspiracy to gather secrets from the dead. So (as you do) he takes the opportunity to sneak a conversation with P.P. Penrose, detective author extraordinaire, who has recently died.
Despite the almost uncanny timeliness of this read (a book about fans, and fannishness, and the death of a revered author), it failed pretty comprehensively to reach me. This is at least in part a personal thing, I suspect: humour is very personal, and I don’t laugh easily. Your mileage may vary, as they say. And, to be fair to Rankin, the book does eventually become an objectively rather clever, rather witty play on what authorship and fannishness means.
It’s the “eventually” that gets me, though.
A good three-quarters of the book is simply dull. The dialogue is stilted; the world is deeply illogical; the surrealism is ridiculous and painful to my sensibilities. And, yes, all of these things are essentially the point. It’s meant to be cheesy and silly and surreal; that’s part of the book’s project, as it were. I recognise that. I recognise that this is well-crafted and witty and everything eventually falls together.
But I didn’t find it funny. And I didn’t enjoy wading through 200+ pages of non-funniness to get to the good bits.
Like I said, your mileage may vary.