Who Censored Roger Rabbit

Upon recommendation from our leader Mr Gogal after posting my first book review of the summer, I delved head-first into another interesting tale. He knows I’m mostly into mystery, action/adventure, and fantasy stories, and handed me something I came to realize sat squarely in my wheelhouse.

roger rabbit

I’m talking this week about Who Censored Roger Rabbit, by Gary Wolf. It features a world where cartoon characters exist in three dimensions alongside human society. Well, not quite alongside – segregation is a heavy theme that’s touched on at nearly every opportunity, and is even integral to the mystery’s resolution. The narrative is told from the perspective of the private investigator, Eddie Valiant, who is approached by Roger at the beginning of the story to look into his employment contract. Roger claims he was promised to be made the lead character of his own comic strip, which was never fulfilled. Eddie is reluctant to take on a Toon client, but does so anyway with the offer of a considerable sum of money as payment. When Roger and his boss later turn up dead, he decides to finish working the case anyway, to satisfy his particular brand of integrity and curiosity.

In the grand scheme of things, there were really only three aspects of the story I struggled with. One was the constant mention of segregation. I started to wonder pretty early on if this book was allegory for the ongoing civil rights struggle, despite its otherwise off-the-wall nature. The second thing was how long it took me to wrap my brain around the concept that the Toons didn’t actually talk audibly. Except for those few who actively suppressed it, most non-humans spoke using comic strip speech bubbles. It was interesting because it introduced the added aspect of another way to express how a character was feeling, but it made for very tortuous “he said, she said”. Third, there was an awful lot of alcohol and cigarettes. I figure this is more due to the genre and era, but it still bothered me how much emphasis was given to them.

I was told before starting, that Mr Wolf kept the culprit a secret until the very end. I didn’t believe it, because usually there are hints at it all along the way of the plot, but it really is true. There’s a tiny bit of foreshadowing in a couple places, but there’s no actual indication of who the culprit is until Eddie comes to the conclusion himself. It’s refreshing, in light of how most mysteries are written nowadays. I was also told that it doesn’t have much in common with the movie version, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but since I only watched that once many years ago, I’ll need to see it again before being able to comment properly on it.

Paper copies of this book are in limited supply, and even the mass market version is more expensive than anything on the shelves that happens to be more recent. I recommend that if you decide to pick this one up, grab a digital copy to your favorite reading device.

Rating: 4th gear

[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]