The Witches of Chiswick

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The Witches of Chiswick
Robert Rankin - The Witches of Chiswick.jpg
Author Robert Rankin
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Fantasy novel
Publisher Gollancz
Publication date
2003
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 336 pp (hardcover edition)
ISBN ISBN 0-575-07314-4 (hardcover edition)
OCLC 59262596
Followed by Knees Up Mother Earth

The Witches Of Chiswick is a novel by the British author Robert Rankin, the title parodying that of The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike.

Plot summary[edit]

The start of "The Witches of Chiswick" trilogy, The Witches of Chiswick is a time travelling adventure story set in the 19th and 23rd Centuries. Working in a dystopian 23rd century, William Starling finds a painting, The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke by Richard Dadd from the 19th Century with the image of a digital watch hidden within it. When he reports these findings to his superiors, William is told the painting is to be destroyed. After saving the painting, his best friend Tim tells him about a cabal of witches who control their world.

To seek the truth, William takes a drug which confers the ability to tap into ancestral memories. After learning of events occurring in the 19th century, William and Tim are attacked by a Babbage robot sent from the past, and William escapes to the past via the robot's time machine.

Stuck in the 19th century in Victorian London, William is greeted by Hugo Rune, who explains to Will that he is his direct descendant. Will learns that 19th Century history is a lie: Charles Babbage's difference engine was a huge success, providing the growing British Empire with robots, digital watches, airships, and even the first rocket to the moon.

After returning to London, Will and Hugo take on a case for Sherlock Holmes - to discover the true identity of Jack the Ripper to learn more about the witches' cabal. Hugo becomes the Ripper's next victim. Will, bemused, finds a box in Hugo's trunk containing Barry, the Sprout Guardian. Will uses Barry to return to the future to enlist the aid of Tim.

Will and Tim return to the past, meeting an invisible H.G. Wells, the Elephant Man (Joseph Merrick), the Brentford Snail Boy, and even another Will from an alternate future. After finding Hugo's true residence in the Buttes Estate, Will and Tim set out to save the 19th Century and the future from the influence of the Witches of Chiswick.

Will and Tim finally confront the leader of the witches, Count Otto Black. At the same time a fleet of martian invade earth to prevent the British Empire expansing to the red planet. They are aided by their agent the Elephant Man (Joseph Merrick). Hugo Rune is revealed to have faked his death, not for the first time, and returns to aid Tim and Will. Will discovers that Count Otto is actually a Babbage robot, controlled by the Will from the alternate future. Driven mad, the alertnate Will has become evil and committed the Jack the Ripper killings. "Anti-Will" faces Hugo Rune, travels back in time to prevent the Babbage Difference Engine from being recognized, then returns to the circus to finish his goal of controlling the world. When Hugo Rune confesses that 'he' cannot stop the "anti-Will", William realise why he was brought here and that he can sacrifice himself to defeat his duplicate. Will lunges for "anti-Will" and the pair are destroyed due to the temporal paradox. History is changed, the Victorian era never develops the computer and in the future Will and Tim are born and lead normal lives.