by Jeff Noon
"'Do you really think that life is a game, Alice? Well, let me tell you: life is a lesson to be hard-earned! I don't suppose you've finished you're latest lesson, about the correct usage of an ellipsis?'
'An ellipsis, Great Aunt Ermintrude,' began Alice quite confidently, 'is a series of three dots at the end of an unfinished sentence, which implies a certain omittance of words, a certain lingering doubt . . .'" (p 219)
As someone who has loved Lewis Carroll's Alice stories since he was a very young boy I must say that I found Jeff Noon's amusing novel, Automated Alice both clever and funny, very funny. The whimsy begins with computermites and seems to be infinite before the book is over.
Poor Alice is alone, bored, and sleepy in her Great Aunt Ermintrude's house in rainy Manchester, but she is quickly swept away into another world as she follows Whippoorwill, "a green-and-yellow-plumed parrot with a bright orange beak", up and away into the mechanism of an old grandfather clock. The reader, along with Alice, never has a chance to look back.
If I have any complaint with the novel, it is that like a Viennese chocolate torte it was too sweet and before the end of the book my head began to feel like it does when I have overdosed on sugar. Curiously the capriciousness speeds along at a pace which is fast and faster, to the point where I began to feel my mind spinning. It reminded me of the Red Queen's admonition to Alice : “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” (Through the Looking Glass).
It is all tremendously amusing when you find yourself laughing out loud on almost every page and you are mystified by the circumlocutions and wordplay that is positively preternatural. This is a book for all who love puns, riddles, titillating moments filled with uncommon literary references that lend the text a postmodern sheen. Some call this novel an instance of cyberpunk fiction, but I merely suggest that all who dare explore the world of speculative fiction will find this a delightful novel.
Automated Alice by Jeff Noon. Crown Publishers, New York. 1996