Review of 'Automated Alice'

Automated Alice by Jeff Noon

automated_alice.jpg “Automated Alice” is the erstwhile third book in the Alice “trilogy” (following “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There”) by noted cyberpunk writer Jeff Noon though, do not be deceived, this is fantasy through and through with little in the way of cyberpunk references with Noon well and truly channelling the spirit of Lewis Carroll.

Alice is stuck in her Great Aunt's house in Didsbury, Manchester being quite bored until she follows the riddle-spouting parrot “Whippoorwill” into a grandfather clock and finds herself transported from 1860 to 1998 and struggling to make sense of the world she finds herself in. Populated by animal-human hybrids Alice is put into the middle of an investigation into a set of “jig-saw murders” where each victim's body is rearranged into hideous shapes then tagged with a jig-saw puzzle piece. The jig-saw pieces are needed by Alice to complete a puzzle she has been working on and find her way home. Assisted by her doll “Celia” who looks like her and is now a full-sized “Automated Alice” she will need to capture the errant parrot, find all the puzzle pieces and make her way back to 1860 if she is not to be late for her 2 pm writing lesson…

This is a delightful, easy to read story that really does evoke images of the original Alice books complete with amazing illustrations and incredible characters. Much like this originals the story does somewhat meander with a series of small, odd episodes that introduce unusual creatures and situations that Alice seeks to comprehend – at least, up to the point she is able to complete her journey. Those readers familiar with Manchester will find amusement in spotting references to this great northern English city which is humorously twisted.

There is only the occasional mis-step into the hideous and extreme grotesque that slightly jars us from the illusion we are reading one of Carroll's works, in particular the visceral nature of the murders and, indeed, the finale that involves the use of a gun…Otherwise Moon does an amazing job with “Automated Alice” sure to be a great hit with fans of Alice.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2019-11-01

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Corgi

Publication Date: 1996

ISBN: 0552144789