Jeff Noon has always been influenced by the work of Lewis Carroll, especially the two Alice books. In Automated Alice he brings Carroll's vision thoroughly up to date. Not so much a sequel to Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, more of a trequel, the third book in a series of misadventures even wierder than your dreams.
Jeff Noon's previous novels, Vurt and Pollen, have attracted a cult following with their psychedelic science fiction creation of the realm of "Vurt"--a region defined by illusion, dream and drug-induced fantasy. Noon has now decided to link up with an imaginative precursor by introducing Lewis Carroll's Alice as the protagonist in a new adventure that draws on Carroll's through-the-looking-glass inversions of reality, and adds a Jeff Noon menace and edginess absent from Carroll's Wonderland. Alice finds herself in 1998 Manchester when she enters an old grandfather clock, and soon becomes the prime suspect in the puzzling "Jigsaw Murders." Noon emulates Carroll's crazy wordplay throughout, and even adds his own illustrations inspired by those of John Tenniel, the famous interpreter of Alice.
If Lewis Carroll had sent Alice off on an adventure into the future, what might it have been like? Noon (Pollen, 1995) answers this question in his wild and farcical third novel. Puns, riddles, numerical puzzles and cockeyed literary references abound in this tale of Alice's trip through her Great Aunt Ermintrude's clock into an unlikely alternate-universe version of Manchester, England, circa 1998. Among the many strange characters Alice meets are her termite-driven, robot "twin twister," the Automated Alice of the title; Captain Ramshackle, a Badgerman and Randomologist; and a Crow-woman/scientist named Professor Gladys Chrowdingler who puts cats in boxes that may or may not render them invisible. Alice soon finds herself involved in the investigation of a series of murders. The victims are discovered with their body parts carefully rearranged and pieces from a jigsaw puzzle on their persons. Because the pieces come from her own jigsaw of the London Zoo, Alice soon finds herself under suspicion and on the run from the Civil Serpents, who themselves may be trying to cover up an even darker crime. Lewis Carroll's odd sense of humor doesn't appeal to all readers and neither will Noon's, but Noon does a fine job of imitating Carroll while adding more than a dash of his own postmodernist sensibility. Will Alice find all of her missing jigsaw pieces and return to the 19th century? Only the Radishes of Time will tell. Line drawings by Harry Trumbore.