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on 26 March 2003
My love for certain Brit writers brings me to Amazon's UK site, as I don't care to wait for Americanized versions, which are often released many months later, if at all. (Gotta love the Internet for these things!) Anyway...
Being a huge fan of Noon, I had some high hopes for this book, his first apparently 'real' novel in a while. And indeed, as I kept reading, I was drawn deeply into it. The lead players in the story are united in a quest to retrieve pieces of a mirror that possesses some type of power, related in some way to a sickness that has befallen humanity. I won't even try to describe it, but to put it simply, the disease affects peoples' ability to process 'reality' - the world around them - in many ways, and to varying degrees. The disease is held in check, but only somewhat, by a drug called Lucidity.
Falling Out of Cars is, I suppose, a 'road novel' as much as any, a succession of destinations, scenes, and locales, each progressively more bizarre than the last. Some of the scenes portrayed within will remain forever etched in my mind, especially one in which the protagonist enters a theater to retrieve a piece of a mirror (the driving moitvation for the group's ongoing quest and the reason for the road trip). As any reader of his past work would expect, Noon's put some truly brilliant, original ideas to paper here, as always. I could rip out a couple of my favourite chapters and feel I'd gotten my money's worth.
Falling Out of Cars succeeds in many ways, but for this reader, it lacked the one thing that a book of this nature so desperately needs after such a long, strange quest: closure. A 'journey's end.' I understand that not all novels require a Hollywood ending, and that's fine. But this one seems to lack any at all. It seems about 4 chapters shy of being complete. Were it made into a screenplay, and what a film it could be, the ending would definitely be altered.
That being said, I'd give this book a very strong 5 stars for the ideas, dreamscapes, and wonderful prose. Noon's writing here is as terse as ever, but he still manages to paint scenes as vividly as any modern writer. He doesn't waste a word. But I just felt deeply dissatisfied and saddened by the conclusion. Along the quest, we're often treated to glimpses of a path with an ending to it. But instead, the novel itself seems to fall prey to the sickness endured by our travelers, and I, for one, was deeply disappointed by any sense of closure. Which is all that much more saddening, as it's just inches away of having 'blockbuster' status. For the story/narrative aspect, it's 3 stars, and I'm being generous.
In a scholarly sense, the book's a backlash to the information overload in modern culture and its effect on the human psyche. Someday, perhaps, it'll be cited in, or required reading, for college coursework as commentary for the era we live in....
If you're already a Noon fan, get it, and enjoy the scenery while it lasts. If you're new to Noon, opt instead for Vurt (then Pollen and Nymphomation) and don't miss Pixel Juice, a fantastic collection of Noon's shorter works.
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on 8 May 2003
If you thought that Jeff Noon couldn't possibly delve deeper into a psychological environment, think again.

I found FOOC to be the darkest of all of his novels, but unfortunately not as bold. There is a lack of concrete plot, which although is understandable given the nature of what the book is meant to bring across, it ultimately leaves the reader wandering around a little uncomfortably by themselves to make what they will of the events.

Intrigue is kept very high for the first half of the novel, but slowly fades, smililarly to the way in which the lead character undegoes her gradual psychological destruction. The book begins more or less in the physical, but blurrs and progresses into the mental, unfortunately without looking back. I ultimately felt this disconnected me with the narrative - again mirroring the downward spiral of the protagonist all too frighteningly well. This turns FOOC into one of those dark works of art that doesn't necessarily try to appeal to an audience by compromising itself for the benefit of the reader's desire for positive eventualities.

The book's more obvious strength lies in the writing itself - Jeff Noon has surpassed himself with the style and flare that is presented here. There isn't a passage in the book that doesn't make you marvel at the extraordinary wording chained together to make up something so unique. The appreciation of the book as a whole however, (to its fullest extent), will likely be limited to a smaller audience who have the capacity to willingly accept melancholy and the absence of closure.

I doubt I will every realistically put any Jeff Noon books on as high a pedastal as Vurt, Pollen, and Pixel Juice. But that isn't to say Falling Out Of Cars doesn't have it's place somewhere amongst the darkness where my intrigue of self-destruction is hidden.
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on 24 February 2015
I'm a bit of a fan of Jeff Noon's work, and have been since I first read Vurt some time back in the mid-nineties, but I really didn't find that much to like in Falling Out Of Cars.

The story follows Marlene, Bev, Peacock and Tupelo, an unlikely set of companions, as they travel around a Britain that's caught in the grip of a seemingly unstoppable sickness in search of fragments of a magic mirror. Along the way they deal with their own gradual decline as the sickness takes a hold of all of them except Tupelo (who is apparently immune), and their relationship is stretched to breaking point as each of the protagonists loses faith in the quest.

I found that the characters in this book aren't all that engaging. The only one with any real substance is Marlene, the main protagonist and the book's de-facto narrator. The others all seem superficial, and we only get to hear the back story of one of those, and then only a fragment. We're given little or no reason to sympathise with these three secondary characters, and consequently it feels as though Marlene herself doesn't even care that much about them. When they all go their separate ways at the end I was just left thinking 'oh well,' and moving on, and that's after taking into account the fact that one almost dies and another is effectively abandoned at the side of the road.

The sickness itself affects the victims' perceptions, confusing their understanding of the world around them; it also somehow messes with communications media, including photographs, telephone calls, radio and television signals, and even road signage and the written word. In this respect it seems as though Noon is trying to use the sickness as some sort of symbol of the breakdown in communication between the characters, but if so I think maybe he's trying too hard. I couldn't take the narrative seriously because of the absurdity of the sickness affecting not just the human victims but also the digital and physical manifestations of communication.

We're given the impression that the mirror fragments they're searching for are from the self-same mirror that Alice Liddell fell in and out of in Through The Looking Glass, and in this respect the book ties in with a couple of Noon's other books, in particular Automated Alice. In one of the more surreal passages there's also a brief mention of a girl holding a doll, and both the girl and the doll have the same face (another allusion to the earlier book, in which Alice and her automated counterpart, Celia, end up looking alike). This inclusion of the mythical Looking Glass gives Noon free rein to bombard us with some hefty surrealism, and while I admit that these sequences are incredibly well written, I again think that he's trying too hard.

All in all this is a bit of a shame, because Noon has written some beautifully absurd things in the past that I've absolutely loved and engaged with whole-heartedly (Vurt? Pollen? Automated Alice?) Unfortunately, that simply wasn't the case with this one, and despite how beautifully he strings words together I found myself rushing through the last few chapters just to get it over and done with.

I'm not going to say I absolutely hated this book, but I would only recommend it to completists who just have to read everything Noon has written.
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on 2 December 2002
Jeff Noon is back with a novel after a period of mixing words in "Cobralingus" and mixing ideas with Pete Beard online.
There is no shortage of the dreamlike imagery and of course the totally fluid way of writing we have come to expect from Noon.
However, the book lacks direction and it is difficult to become involved with the characters. The Wacky ideas in the "Vurt" world of Noon's previous novels were made believable by the supporting theory Noon gave both in the novels and in his short collection "pixeljuice". However he affords the reader no such luxury and we are left to try and work out for ourselves the nature of the "illness" which dominates this world.
In Noon's "Cobralingus" there is a caption stating that the cobralingus engine exists only in the strange and twisted pathways inside Jeff Noon's head. If Noon goes any deeper down those pathways he is in danger of losing his reader.
However, the book gives enough plot to keep you going until the end and Jeff Noon's delightful use of language make this worth the read.
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on 10 October 2004
I've read a couple of Noon's other works (Nymphomation, Vurt etc) and loved them, especially the way in which they work together. This is more stand-alone, simpler in its scope, yet far more complex than anything before. It's an easy read, but be prepared to have to work for the meanings behind it all.
There are some lovely passages (my favourite being an incident reading books in a library), and the style of writing gives the story some power and impetus. But there are moments when you hope for something more than the fleeting descriptions given. From beginning to end, you are always thinking: why? Perhaps this is Hoon's raison d'etre, but it fails him here, whereas in other works it has made the difference between a good book and a great one.
I'd advise reading it, but it's not a first point of call for those just starting to get interested in Hoon.
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on 15 May 2004
Britain is in the grip of a sickness that interferes with people's ability to make sense of the information they are bombarded with: even their own reflections become anathema. Marlene Moore - helped by a heavy, his girlfriend and a lonely hitchhiker - is on an expedition to find the shards of a broken mirror (possibly a very famous one), hoping thereby to restore some order.
The plot is revealed in small fragments of melancholy and beautiful writing that lead towards a strange, ambivalent ending. Many of Noon's obsessions are here: information being corrupted, confusion of reality and fantasy, Alice. There are formal tricks, but these serve the telling rather than intruding as they have done in some of his other recent books. Indeed this is something of a return to form.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 7 November 2004
The haphazard approach to writing that made all of Noon's previous books such excellent reading material is taken even further. The story is vague, the meaning unclear. It's as close a thing as you will find to impressionist painting with words. But I found it extremely compelling and surpisingly moving. It's one of those books that you will either love or hate, there isn't much room for middle-ground.
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on 16 July 2012
Brilliant author finding a new voice and new direction. The world is broken,and only a small group of explorers can fix it - so they go, and try to. The journey is in the struggle.
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on 5 October 2014
Simply incredible - an absolute must read. There's nothing I can say that would do this story justice; you just have to read it.
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on 27 August 2014
Or weirdly amazing. I'm not sure i understand it,, but maybe we are not meant to? Keep an open mirror.
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