Genre Science Fiction Publisher Black Swan Year Published 2001 Review Posted on 8/19/2005 Reviewer Rating
8 out of 10
Nymphomation, by Jeff Noon
Reviewed by Edward Lunn
If you've read this book, why not
Manchester, Friday night, Nine o'clock in good old 1999.
Lady luck's twirling dance a thousand tightly held bones of chance.
It's domino time!
Jeff Noon's fourth novel, a prequel to his previous three, kicks off in game
week 40 and is set in near future Manchester and is in many ways recognisable as
normal modern day, from students, curry houses, yobs and beggars, to drugs,
underground culture and re-vamped retro music. But all is not as it seems
and escalating further from normality. The root cause appears to be the
emergence of the annodomino game run by a mysterious Mr Million.
The game is a weekly lottery which is on a trial period of a year and
confined to the residents of Manchester. The book is based around this
lottery in the weeks leading up to the end of its trial year and follows a
group of maths students aided by their tutor. A messed up, complicated bunch
themselves, they set about on a crusade to unlock and expose the secrets of
the annodomino game in a race against time. They have until the end of the
year when the game goes nationwide.
A more sober offering compared to his earlier work in so much as the
setting is less fantastical, but in true Noon style culminates with a
frantic finish and a large dollop of whacky themes. Belying his visionary
plots, Noon's novels tend to have a very down-to-earth base which lends
cohesion, in this case a lottery game and a group of maths students trying
to decipher its puzzles. Then from these roots pour forth a whole mental
institute of near possible future politics and near impossible future
technological, bizarre ideas, all mixed into the curry sauce with some hard
edged back to basics, grotty realities of life.
Here the ground works are laid for his fictional world, including early
appearances by characters who later become major players. This makes the
book a must for fans of his previous work, "Vurt" and "Pollen," but also a good
starting point for newcomers, especially as it is a prequel.
One thing I particularly like in his writing is that he doesn't preach on
about the state of the world that his characters live in. For example you
have hoboes who rent official begging holes, cops sponsored by a large
burger company, the transient link between the real and virtual worlds,
synthetic man-made creatures and corporations above, even dictating, the
laws, yet the story is not a vessel for these ideas. You are made aware of
all these aspects gradually and they are not key to the plots, rather to the
general make up and atmosphere of his world and the personalities, mind sets
of its characters. It is the people who inevitably get on with life that
make the story.
Another original, gritty masterpiece with Irvine Welsh-like twists and
addictive prose. This is a more accessible novel as he has partially curbed his
organic writing style, which in the past has threatened to spiral out of
control, and a great introduction for those new to the work of this often overlooked