SELECT * FROM uv_BookReviewRollup WHERE recordnum = 640 Pollen, by Jeff Noon Book Review |

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Pollen, by Jeff Noon
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Published: 1996
Review Posted: 8/7/2005
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 9 out of 10

Pollen, by Jeff Noon

Book Review by Edward Lunn

Have you read this book?

Manchester, May the first and the start of spring, traditionally a bad time for sufferers of hay fever, (this year a bad time to have a nose). Coyote has a snout as he is half human half dog (preferably 'Alsatian' in his opinion) and is waiting besides his old-fashioned black cab out in limbo on the outskirts of Manchester. Waiting for an illegal and unorthodox fare and the start of a journey whose consequences will later be known as an early skirmish in the looking-glass wars.

A mysterious sequence of events is about to unravel bound inexorably to a pollination phenomena which threatens to engulf the precariously poised city of Manchester in a carpet of pollen. Jeff Noon's second novel, after his defining "Vurt," is set sometime after his first book again in his native Manchester. Here we get an insight into the preceding history that culminates in the chaotically rich imagination fuelled and often disturbing state of life,where necrophilia brings about an evolutionary step, dog-men clash with humans, who despise shadow people, who all loathe the un-dead and above them all in an increasingly porous parallel world the virtual powers crave dominion over the Earth.

Fast paced from the word go this novel unveils complex plots which merge and distill in the brain effortlessly. Noon's talent for planting ideas like seeds into our minds with raw imagery and then nurturing them into a multi-faceted, extremely screwed up Eden that makes you want to sneeze as it ripens into a climatic finale is un-putdownably compelling.

The author invites you into and then locks the door on a messed up future where pures, dogs, robos, vurts, NVL's (non-viable life forms), shadows and every conceivable mongrel of the above wrestle to rise above the detritus of social stigma and circumstance. Add megalomaniacs, virtual beings and telepathy with a spot of necrophilia, floraphillia and sex-crazed fecundity 10 victims and the outcome is chaotic surrealism to say the least. Despite the absurdity and magnitude of all these crazy ideas the characters and this Manchester retain something very real in them. The X-cab company led by Columbus smacks of corporation and communism, while mind reading and thought police crop up along with there moralistic dilemmas.

The mash of species lends to social divisions and class "wars" that can be found in real life Manchester and anywhere in the world today. Despite the fact that in this world very few of the people are actually human "pures", their problems certainly are. There is also buried amongst the undergrowth a lot of compassion and inner-strife in the characters amid the harsh climate of the unreality were they reside, and even time for an unlikely love affair between Coyote (dog-man) and Boda (shadow-girl, one of the X-caber hive) that takes a further twist that could only happen in one of Noon's twisted worlds.

The story is told through the narrative of Sibyl Jones, a shadow cop but jumps between the other main characters as their stories converge. His style is truly original and highly experimental, while being easily understandable and thoroughly enjoyable. Ingeniously you are introduced to all the major "sci-fi" elements very subtly, rarely affecting the flow of the story, yet alluded to often enough that you arrive at the explanations just as you were developing the questions.

At times the text borders on contemporary poetry when minds are being delved into and the tension builds but it works, trust me. A class alone whose radical ideas, writing style and grotesque imagery (check out the Persephone sex scene) are hard to attribute to any particular outside influence.

The dismembered lucid flow from one obscure scenario to the next is obviously reminiscent of the dream state and is littered with references to Lewis Carols Alice, quoted as one of his literary luminaries. Pollen is a must for fans of high action (and I don't mean lasers and spaceships) and messed up futures that despite being inconceivable, are horrifyingly, humanly possible. Followers of Gibson, Sterling, K Dick and Burgess (Clockwork Orange), enjoy.
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