`Automated Alice' is simultaneously a `trequel' [sic] to Lewis Carroll's two `Alice' books and Jeff Noons earlier `Vurt' novels, following the adventures of Alice as she climbs through a clock's workings and gets transported into fantastic adventures in modern day Manchester. Taken purely as an adult sequel to `Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' and `Through The Looking-Glass' this is a fantastic achievement, with Noon brilliantly aping Lewis Carroll's style and sharing a love of puns, wordplay and nonsense with Harry Trumbore's internal illustrations matching the style of Tenniel's original pictures. Noon has great fun introducing Alice to such modern day concepts as computers and quantum mechanics while skewing things in typically nonsensical fashion (so civil servants become Civil Serpents while the Cheshire Cat is transformed into a chameleonic Quark) while the device of Alice hunting down missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle drives the story in much the same way as the chess game drives `Through the Looking-Glass'.
When read as a sequel to Noon's earlier shared-world novels `Vurt' and `Pollen' however the book takes on an additional resonance, with Alice's earlier appearance in `Pollen' given additional background while the plotline takes in the `disease' responsible for the merging of humans and animals in the Noon's future world, with plenty of sly winks towards the feather-accessed Vurt.
Read either way this is a fantastic novel, filled with bizarre imagery, wordplay and metafiction, but to really get the most from it you should read both Noon and Carroll's earlier works first.
on 6 December 2013
Tried very hard to get into this book. I suppose I had Alice in Wonderland at the back of my mind but I just couldn't relate to this 'story'. It was too confusing and I gave up about a third of the way through. Perhaps I am just not clever enough!!!!
on 21 July 2009
Jeff Noon's future-set reworking of Alice starts off well, quick, inventive, unusual. It seems like a good companion to Carrol's Alice. But then Alice finds herself in a future manchester, a future manchester that, disappointingly, isn't that interesting. It's populated with people who are half men and half animals, and the fun Noon has with this goes on for far too long. The second half of the book is far to logically plotted, losing the dream-like logic that started it off so well. We end up with Alice investigating a series of murders, which drags on until the ending comes as a relief. A great idea (wonderland via manchester) never really bears fruit, as the future world just doesn't have any character, much like Automated Alice (alice's underused twin sister) herself.
As for Noon inserting himself into the novel as "Zenith O'Clock," this episode seems just jarring and pointless. Too many attempts are made to deconstruct Alice's character, and too little time is spent making her likeable in the first place.
Well written, well illustrated, and certainly worth a look, but it should have been so much better...
on 22 June 2000
Automated Alice is a fantastical journey into the issues theatening contemporary society; genetic modification, virtual reality, artifitial inteligence and the abuse of power to name but a few. Wonderland thust into the future at a dizzying pace, keeps you reading with humour, suspense and hyperreal resonance. The continuity of theme within the book mirrors the original adventures to produce a highly intelegent novel to complete with the philosophical complexity of works like 'Matrix' and Boudrillard's 'Simulations'. This book is a must to any one wishing to educate themselves in the problems facing humanity from technoscientific development. Using Lewis Carrol's style, with a demanding injection of his own poetic prose, Jeff Noon leads you through the adventure, as if floatig like a character in the book, thus allowing your mind to ebb and flow with the devilishly intricate issues delt with.
This is a triumph for Noon which makes me want search out more of his work.
on 8 January 2001
I love Noon's stuff, it's as simple as that, but then his novels work in a similar way to my brain. As a great fan of his work, I've tried to pass on his books to many of my friends, only to have the books returned to me with accompanying quizical looks. Automated Alice on the other hand is a book that I have passed around and had returned by smiley faced friends. For those that want the full experience, I'd suggest starting with Vurt and work your way up to Alice..., for those of you seeking instant gratification, go for it, you won't regret it!
on 23 December 1998
J. Noon has once again managed to produce one of the most imaginative ( and bizarre!) sf novels of the year. Essentially a sequal to the original two Alice novels, Automated Alice is written in a style reminiscent of Lewis Carol - the issues are, however, those typically dealt with by Jeff Noon : the idea of identity, individuality and ofcourse humanity. Well worth a read.
on 20 March 2009
I haven't read any of this author's other works, and only read this because of my passion for anything Carrollian. So, I can't judge this against anything else by Noon, and I never judge Carroll inspired works against the originals themselves, but only as what it supposes to be; a third book in the Alice stories.
For me, it largely doesn't work; the ideas are too mashed together to be overly effective. I could appreciate rendering 20th century ideas, objects, and even people, into Wonderland counterparts... but Carroll would introduce each in its turn, play with it, and then discard for another before bringing them all to an anarchic conlusion. Noon tries to construct a plot around the ideas rather then letting them loose in a dream narrative, and I feel they suffer for it.
So, I could not really recommend this to anyone who is not a Noon fan, because it didn't excite me... or to Noon's fans because I can not make a comparison with his other works.
on 1 October 2000
(to properly describe this novel I will have to use 'surreal' twice in the first sentence) it for This surreal, oh so very surreal novel from that crazy nutter that brought us the book 'Vurt', comes an effective, interesting novel. Noon captures Carrol's opiate vision and expands upon it for the LSD generation. Less dark and sinister than I expected, and don't let the blurbs description of 1998 Manchester make you think this is a modern version of Alice in Wonderland, as its talking zebra's and saxaphone playing slugs all round. Sometimes Noon looses it slightly and turns to inane, Beetle video imagery to convey feelings of a trip, but hey, they were all completely stoned weren't they?
on 24 July 2008
It's sounds bizarre... and it is. Alice Liddle of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass is back. Whether you choose to believe Lewis Carroll was a reputedly paedophilic pervert or not, you can't deny that his literature for children is original, vivid, some may say unsurpassed. Or is it? Jeff Noon's giving him a run for his money, that much I know. Only this time Alice finds herself in a world of automated horses and whacky technology.
It's the future, 1996 to be precise*, and Alice finds herself trapped in a termite mound after chasing a parrot into a grandfather clock. Sounding familiar? She soon finds herself in a psychedelic Manchester that isn't quite like the one she left behind. She has until two o'clock to get back to 18-- for her writing lesson; but first she must catch Aunt Ermintrude's pesky parrot and find all of her missing jigsaw pieces, which isn't easy when she's the prime suspect in a string of grizzly murders that seem to crop up wherever she goes. On top of which there are speeding horseless carriages stampeding along every road, she hasn't done her homework and she has no idea which direction Dewsbury is in. Luckily her doll, Celia, is on hand to give her a leg up.
Noon effortlessly captures Carroll's style in this quirky trequal to the original classics. Unlike Carroll, however, Noon takes a slightly more menacing approach to recreating Alice's tale of adventure: the encounter with a doped-up snail can easily be associated with the caterpillar in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; however unlike the hookah smoking caterpillar this snail invites Alice to pop a "wurm", which takes her on a trip she'll certainly never forget. It is a tongue-in-cheek, absurdist romp, sometimes slipping from wry wit to sheer silliness in the form of completely pointless and juvenile toilet humour, which knocked it right down in my estimations. These lapses diminished the poignancy of the more satirical moments, of which there are plenty, and devalue the sheer aptitude of the puns, riddles and rhymes.
That said, it's an easy, fun read, intelligently devised and with authentic pictures in true Alice in Wonderland stylee, often with discreet references to Noon's other books tucked away in the milieu. A worth while venture for Carroll and Noon fans alike.
* OK, it's the future for a Victorian character
This is a great book, I think it fairer to say the use of language is in the style of "alice" books rather than the plot, characters etc. The plot itself is as the style of early Noon books, by which I meen it's disjointed. You have to have a cirtain type of mind to read this book, if you like drugs, hate the establishment or your friends think you're a little odd then read this, you must it's for you. Otherwise don't bother beacuse you'll end up confused, angry & dissapointed.
The characters are well defined within Noons own Vurtesque world but those new to the author must be open minded and may wish to read Vurt or Pollen first to help them get the feel of this.
As I said I love this, but It's not to everyones taste, I think its worth the effort - if you like a book that requires effort.