Sprout Mask Replica is a humorous book by Robert Rankin first published in 1997. It follows a very unusual chronology, starting by telling several short stories, which are seemingly unconnected apart from the presence of a demonic Sporran.

After this the story of the narrator's (Robert Rankin himself) revelation truly begins. Firstly there is a long, rambling series of stories about Rankin's brother and his inventions, culminating in the creation of a super dense proto hippy. After this we get down to the story proper, proper and this concerns his new role in Britain as a private detective in the Lazlo Woodbine mould, following the October Revolution in the previous year. However (and here we get into the meat of the novel) we soon discover that the narrator is behaving extremely strangely.

My left eyebrow had been dyed lime green and I had two paperclips attached to the lobe of my right ear. Looking down I spied for the first time the blue nail varnish on my left thumbnail and the purple on my right. About my neck I wore two school ties. A number of watch springs had been sewn to the lapels of my writing jacket. My shoes were odd and I wasn't wearing any socks. A dress code thing?

After this he meets the super dense proto hippy again. The hippy asks him some questions about why he is doing these bizarre things. He can only answer every second question, but we learn that he is behaving as the opposite of the chaos butterfly; every time some large event such as a war happens, he has to compensate by, say, wearing a red bobble hat. Macroscopic events causing microscopic consequences. At the end of the conversation although we are enlightened the narrator has forgotten everything he has said and is as bemused as before. However, as he liked to think of himself as a private detective he recorded his conversation and played it to himself later. He discovered the truth about himself in a REVELATION.

After this he goes and visits his uncle Brian who explains all. He uses his powers to enter showbiz as Carlos The Chaos Cockroach. After this the plot gets a bit hectic, involving Uncle Brain's attempts to exploit the narrator's power. Suffice to say that we meet popular Rankin characters such as Barry The Sprout (now part of an alien race), Litany and Sir John Rimmer (with crew); we discover that brussels sprouts are an evil alien race and the book ends in a huge and confusing fight on the ruins of the John Doveston Memorial Gym in an attempt to recover the Demon Sporran. The book ends in a typically Rankin Deus Ex Machina style with all the loose ends being tied up in the last few pages.

Although not one of Rankin's best this is a well written book and extremely amusing in places. If you like other Rankin books you'll probably like this although it would not be a good book to start with if you've never read him before.

A final, and vital, point is that the book is named after Trout Mask Replica, a Captain Beefheart double album. But, of course, you knew that.

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