Automated Alice – Jeff Noon

Automated AliceWhen you see a slightly deranged image of Alice in Wonderland, it’s tough not to be seduced. Thus it was that I snapped up my copy of Automated Alice back in 1998, not really knowing what to expect.

Basically Automated Alice is a sequel to Lewis Carroll’s two Alice novels, set in modern-day Manchester, where Alice Liddell finds herself at the centre of the ‘Jigsaw Murders’.

Jeff Noon manages to recreate the writing style of Carroll, full of wordplay, puns, nonsense and a general lightness of touch, but give it a 20-century twist.

In fact, my initial take on the book was to be slightly disconcerted. What was this? A homage? A sci-fi novel? A comedy played purely for laughs? In fact, it’s probably all those and more.

At that time, I’d never heard of Noon, the author of cult novel Vurt, which I have since read. Now I realise that Noon was also writing a sequel to this novel as well, referencing the infamous feathers.

But Automated Alice doesn’t need to be read as one of a series – it stands up on its own merits like all good books should and doesn’t lose any of its joy if read as a standalone book.

It is, in fact, a book I have passed onto or bought for other friends and, although I have been met by quizzical looks from some, most have been bowled over by something they would never have bought for themselves.

By all means check out Vurt and Pollen, Noon’s earlier two novels, first but for an instant hit of feelgood fantasy give Automated Alice a go. I hope you won’t regret it.

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