Elliptic Blue's Reviews > Automated Alice
by Jeff Noon
by Jeff Noon
Make no mistake people either love or hate this book. Before picking this up, I would highly suggest reading some of Noon's other work ('Vurt' if nothing else) to get an idea of what type of writer Noon is. [return][return]I acknowledge that this is probably not Noon's strongest work; but then again, one of the really interesting things about Noon that each one of his novels is really unique in it's structure and execution. Even though many of Noon's works take place in his Vurt/Manchester universe, each book is distintinctly different. Here is the quick and dirty of some of his works: 'Vurt' is written in the cyberpunk genre; 'Pollen' the biopunk police thriller; 'Nymphomation' is frenetic story of students vs. coroporation and moves into abstraction/surrealism ala Borges; 'Pixel Juice' is a collection of short stories with entries touching all of Noon's earlier works, 'Automated Alice' is emulation of Lewis Carrol work's and is written in a steampunk genre. The idea is that each book in the Vurt/Manchester universe is written distinctly style and genre from one another. Noon will never is not a serial novelist; indeed, every time he writes, he challenges himself in either the genre he chooses, his writing style, type layout, plot, characters, etc. [return][return]People who read 'Automated Alice' are quick to criticism the characters and plot for being overly simplistic. Noon said he wished to write a 'Trequel' to Lewis Carrol's works of 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Through the Looking Glass'. This doesn't mean that Noon just uses Lewis Carrol's characters and slaps them into his own stories. It's a genuine attempt at a Trequel: it is written in the style of Carrol and it's written like a children's story. Yes, there were deeper ideas in 'Alice in Wonderland' but that story was delivered as a children's tale. So criticizing Noon for writing 'Automated Alice' for having simple characters or plot doesn't make sense to me. Like Carrol, he wrote this as a children's story; and having a complex plot/characters was never the point of such a writing. [return][return]In the spirit of Lewis Carrol, Noon writes in plenty or word play and surreal absurdities into his little story. Yes, some of the little word plays are really explicit; but again, I advise looking at this in the context of a children's tale. It was written that way intentionally. Noon chooses a neo-victorian setting for most of this book that also holds truer to the original styles of Lewis Carrol. What is really impressive is that Noon even illustrates 'Automated Alice' in the same style that Carrol illustrated 'Alice in Wonderland'. [return][return]I thought this book was actually a brilliant execution as a genuine trequel to the works of Lewis Carol. Noon does an excellent job of writing this as a genuine children's adventure while still tying into his own Vurt/Manchester universe. Indeed, most of this story takes place in the Vurt and the events in this story tie back into the background history of 'Vurt', 'Pollen', 'Nymphomation', etc. Again, don't read this expecting to read another novel; it is intentionally written as a children's story. Lastly, I would read a few other books in the 'Vurt' universe before reading this one, just so that the relevance of certain events is clear in the overall history of the 'Vurt'.
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