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Good, but is Noon losing it a little?
on 23 May 2008
See, here's the problem I have with Jeff Noon. Vurt and Falling Out of Cars are two of the best science fiction novels I've ever read. They changed my view of the contemporary novel and provided me ample fuel for critical study at university.
But Nymphomation somehow doesn't match up. The bursts of purple prose, whilst entertaining in places, lack the raw energy of his two masterpieces. There's much of Vurt's style and panache here, but it feels overdone, half-baked and inconsistent. Sometimes, after a writer has had particular success with a certain type of novel, he begins suffers from a lack of objectivity and, occasionally, a lack of originality. It's too easy to become safe and write the kind of fiction we're comfortable with. That's the real flaw with Nymphomation.
I feel that Noon should have pushed himself further. The promise of nymphomation (information which is reproductive, hybridising, sincretic and promiscuous) could go much wider. I almost expected the house at the end to be a place of constantly bifurcating realities. I anticipated a place where characters encountered multiple versions of themselves and wandered through different versions of the past. I expected books with constantly changing and mutating stories, and DNA strands spiralling into chaos.
Instead we got a poorly conceived maths lesson with yet *more* Lewis Carroll allusion. In Falling Out of Cars and Vurt, the allusions were fine. In this, I really felt Noon should read more. There are many things more appropriate at this juncture in his writing career. The Book of Sand is an obvious one. The Master & Margarita is another one. Even these would be better than another Alice allusion.
The idea, though, as always, was great. It was just the development which needed further guidance. I wanted him to push in newer, stranger directions. This almost wasn't strange enough.
I'm anxiously waiting for Noon's next novel, but after Falling Out of Cars, his prose writing seems to have taken second fiddle to scriptwriting. Let's hope we see more from him soon.